Columbia got its first swing from Florence on Friday night, as the storm’s powerful bands of rain and wind crept into the Midlands.
The Category 1 hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday afternoon.
It’s expected to dump 3-7 inches of rain on the Midlands, with wind gusts of up to 50 mph, said Mike Fries, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia. “The outermost bands are just starting to get into Columbia,” Fries said.
Wind speeds should increase late Friday, reaching 30 mph sustained winds overnight and about 40 mph early Saturday, Fries said.
“It’s going to be a real slow ramp up,” Fries said. “The winds will taper off before the rain does.”
The real threat for Columbia is flooding, Fries said. The following counties are under a flash flood watch until 8 p.m. Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
Florence officially made landfall off the North Carolina coast at 7:15 Friday morning. Although it was downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane before making landfall, Florence has already proven to be dangerous, claiming the lives of at least five in North Carolina.
Emergency officials have warned against downplaying the storm based on its category.
Categories are defined by wind speed, not size or a predicted amount of rainfall, according to the National Hurricane Center.