Post time 3:30 p.m.
Although Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to bring little more than some wind and rain here, emergency officials are double-checking equipment and keeping a close eye on developments.
Elsa is expected to come ashore on the west coast of Florida today, according to the National Weather Service. The storm held together and strengthened after encountering some shear over Cuba. Elsa is expected to follow a path roughly paralleling Interstate 95. Tropical rain bands and winds may be experienced in Columbus County by Wednesday afternoon.
Kay Worley of Columbus County Emergency Management said her department is sending updates to fire, EMS and law enforcement agencies in the county, as well as fueling up vehicles and getting ready.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it won’t be anything but a rainstorm,” she said.
The sheriff’s office was doing final checks on its high clearance vehicles, generators and other emergency equipment today. The military surplus vehicles are designed to drive through water several feet deep, and can be used for rescue work and distributing relief supplies.
Whiteville Emergency Management Director Hal Lowder Jr. said the city is also monitoring conditions and making sure all needed resources are ready if the storm impacts here.
No closures have been announced in Columbus County as of 1 p.m. today (Tuesday).
Heavy rains, high wind and tornadoes are possible in Columbus County Wednesday night into Thursday. The NWS warns that heavy rain across the coastal Carolinas may produce isolated flash and urban flooding Wednesday night through Thursday evening. Wind gusts of 35 to 45 mph are possible late Wednesday night through Thursday afternoon, mainly near the coast and offshore.
State officials opened the emergency operations center in Raleigh today (Tuesday). Lessons learned from past storms, including Matthew, Florence and last year’s “surprise”, Isaias, are being put to good use.
One to three inches of rain, with isolated totals up to five inches across the eastern half of the state Wednesday evening – Thursday night could lead to areas of flash flooding. Elsa is expected to quickly progress through North Carolina with a forward speed of around 20 mph, which should limit the threat of prolonged heavy rainfall.
“Small changes in the forecast track of a tropical system can mean big changes in storm impacts and rainfall amounts,” said state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “That’s why close attention to the forecast for your area is important.”
WTXY and Columbuscountynews.com will begin expanded coverage of the storm at 10 a.m. Wednesday as conditions warrant. Follow us on Facebook and tune in to FM 103.9/1540 AM.