Hurricane Ian makes landfall along SC coast as wind, rain pound NC coast

THE LATEST:Live updates as Hurricane Ian passes over the NC Coast

Hurricane Ian has made landfall on the South Carolina coast as a Category 1 storm.

The hurricane's center made landfall around 2:05 p.m. on Friday near Georgetown, S.C., an area about 35 miles south of Myrtle Beach. The storm had maximum wind speeds of 85 miles per hour when it hit the coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is expected to weaken as it moves inland, said Mark Bacon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Wilmington office. Wind speeds are expected to decrease to 60 miles per hour Friday night and 30 miles per hour Saturday morning.

The weather service had predicted the storm could cause "life-threatening" storm surge and "damaging" winds as it moves inland. The track of the storm has shifted eastward in recent days, bringing the Category 1 storm closer to Southeastern North Carolina than initially anticipated. That track has stabilized in recent hours, Bacon said.

As outer bands of the storm moved over the Cape Fear region, early Friday afternoon, the weather service issued a Tornado Watch for the area, predicting the chance for tornadoes and isolated wind gusts up to 70 miles per hour. Issuing a watch means conditions are right for a tornado to happen in the area. A tornado warning, in comparison, means a tornado has been spotted or indicated by weather radar.

In a news conference from the state's Emergency Operations Center, Gov. Roy Cooper said he expects the entire state to see impacts from Hurricane Ian.

“Hurricane Ian is at our door,” he said. “We expect drenching wind and sustained winds over much of our state.”

Cooper said recent shifts in the storm's track could mean central North Carolina could be impacted more than initially expected. Some parts of the state are expecting up to eight inches of rain, Cooper said, posing the potential for flash flooding and coastal flooding.

State emergency management officials are monitoring power outages, which are "increasing as the storm bears down," Cooper said. He estimated there were approximately 29,000 outages statewide, as of 2 p.m. Friday.

An updated forecast from the National Hurricane Center on Friday showed severe weather warnings and watches remained in effect for all of the Cape Fear region. A hurricane warning extends from the Savannah River to the Cape Fear, which mean residents should expect hurricane conditions. A storm surge warning is also in effect from the Flagler/Volusia line to the Cape Fear.

According to the National Weather Service, the bulk of the impacts to the Wilmington region will continue into Friday night with threats including wind damage, downed trees and possible scattered power outages. The area can also expect heavy rain, flash flooding, and a storm surge especially at the time of Friday's high tide. Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency ahead of the anticipated impacts.

Roads in coastal communities throughout New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties saw flooded roadways early Friday afternoon. In Sunset Beach, officials closed the Mannon C. Gore Bridge as water started to breach the causeway to the island. Several streets in Southport, Carolina Beach and other coastal towns were closed to traffic Friday due to flooding.

Once a strong Category 4 storm with wind speeds up to 155 mph, Ian weakened once it moved over Florida, where wind speeds decreased for a time to 60 mph. Now the storm is now moving toward South Carolina at around 15miles per hour with sustained winds of 85 mph, making it a Category 1 hurricane. Ian is a large storm and tropical-storm-force-winds extend up to 415 miles from the center.

More:TRACK HURRICANE IAN HERE

Ian's path: Impact felt on Friday

The Wilmington area is now seeing the impacts of Hurricane Ian with gusty winds and steady rainfall, said Jordan Baker, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.

“We’ve got quite a bit of wind out there,” Baker said. “We’ve been in the envelope of the tropical storm force winds for a while now and they’re starting to increase.”

As the storm’s outer bands track into Southeastern North Carolina, the region can expect high winds and between four to six inches of rain. Flash flooding and coastal flooding remains a concern Friday. The area is seeing rain pooling on some local rains and reports of wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour in southern New Hanover County, according to Steve Still, New Hanover County’s Emergency Management director.

As coastal areas reach high tide around Friday, Still said beach communities can expect to see high water impacts. “When we have that storm surge push mid-afternoon into late evening, we’re going to start to see some water over the roadways in those areas,” he said.

Meteorologists are closely monitoring conditions along the coast in southern Brunswick County since the area will be the closest to Hurricane Ian and its impacts.

Both coastal Brunswick County and downtown Wilmington are expected to see flooding at high tide today. The Cape Fear River in downtown Wilmington could see more than 7 feet of water rise at high tide.

Related:Cape Fear Red Cross works to rebuild volunteer pool, anticipates rough hurricane season

Ian expected to bring inches of rain

Wilmington can expect to see substantial rainfall with the heaviest rain starting Friday. Coastal areas are expected to get between 4 to 6 inches, but some areas could get more. The updated advisory now said the heaviest rainfall is expected during Friday and Friday night. Drier conditions are expected to develop during the weekend

The weather service notes this rainfall could lead to flash flooding, especially in low-lying areas.

Other impacts in the Cape Fear region

The Cape Fear region can also expect to see minor coastal flooding with each high tide. The risk for flooding and beach erosion will last from Thursday through Saturday. A storm surge inundation of 1-3 feet is expected from Surf City to Little River, S.C.

Boaters can expect to see hazardous marine conditions with rough surf and rip currents from Thursday through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

How to weather the storm

In preparation for the impacts of Hurricane Ian, Boatman suggested residents bring loose items on porches or in backyards inside or tie them down to protect the items from being blown away in the gusty wind. He also recommended people know the flood zone they’re in to prepare for potential flooding.

Local emergency management officials are urging Wilmington area residents plan make a plan for the storm and have access to an emergency supply kit and reliable weather updates. The National Weather Service office in Wilmington will give regular updates as the storm progresses.

Still urged residents to stay home, if possible, and to avoid driving on flooded roads.

“Now’s not the time for joy riding or to go drive around to see what’s happening,” Still said. “If you don’t have a reason to be on the road, please don’t.”

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Hurricane Ian update: Wind, rain expected in Wilmington