RALEIGH, NC - A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for 45 counties in eastern and central North Carolina and a high wind warning is in effect for three counties as the state braces for incoming Hurricane Michael.
In general, the heaviest rain will fall west of the storm’s track and the strongest winds southeast of the track. The heaviest rains are expected Thursday and Thursday night. Rain will fall statewide, with central North Carolina and the Foothills expecting as much as 7 inches of rain. Eastern North Carolina expects to see the strongest winds, with 24-45 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 50 mph.
Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 155 mph Wednesday, splintering homes and submerging neighborhoods. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years.
"Hurricane Michael hit Florida with brutal force and is quickly heading for North Carolina,” said Gov. Cooper. “Michael will lose some of its punch before it reaches us but will still pack damaging wind and flooding rain and we need to take it seriously.”
High winds plus wet ground are likely to cause downed trees and power lines during the storm. Duke Energy today announced it is projecting 300,000-500,000 power outages in the Carolinas. The company has 6,000 workers ready to restore power once the storm has passed.
Forecasts show coastal areas can expect storm surge and coastal flooding. A Storm Surge Watch (2-4 feet of inundation possible) is in effect for the sound-side of the Outer Banks from Ocracoke Inlet to Duck with 2 to 4 feet of inundation possible.
Heavy rain could cause flash flooding and river flooding.
Not even in the Tar Heel yet, and the massive storm has already delayed the start of the North Carolina State Fair. Officials said the event will open Friday morning instead and run 10 days instead of 11.
Across the state, 26 school systems have closed for tomorrow and four will dismiss early to keep students safe. The State Fair also delayed its opening from Thursday to Friday due to the storm.
LINK: School Closings & Delays
Download the Ready NC app or follow NC Emergency Management on Facebook and Twitter for weather updates and to learn how you can prepare for the storm.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.