As Hurricane Florence continues to get closer to South Carolina, more watches and warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service office in Columbia.
A tropical storm watch was already in effect for Chesterfield, Lee, Sumter and Clarendon counties. As of 5:30 p.m. those watches have been upgraded to tropical storm warnings, according to NWS Columbia.
In addition to that, a tropical storm watch was issued for Lancaster and Kershaw counties, NWS Columbia reported.
Also, a flash flood watch is in effect for Lancaster, Chesterfield, Newberry, Fairfield, Kershaw, Saluda, Lexington, Richland, Lee, Sumter, Orangeburg, Calhoun, and Clarendon counties.
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the difference between a watch and a warning and is “sustained winds of 74 mph or higher” are possible in a watch, they are expected with a warning.
Based on the current track of Hurricane Florence, the central Midlands are expected to get 3-5” of rainfall, and 25 to 35 mph winds with gusts up to 45 mph, according to NWS Columbia.
Although Hurricane Florence has weakened, it still has winds in the 100 mph range, the NHC reported. At 5 p.m., it was about 155 miles from Myrtle Beach.
“The strong wind gusts may down trees and power lines. The heavy rainfall will increase the risk of trees uprooting and toppling,” according to a NWS Columbia news release. “The strong winds will also blow around any loose objects, lawn furniture and trash cans.”
The tropical storm force, or strong winds are expected in the central Midlands Friday night or Saturday morning, and the strong winds will slowly reduce through Sunday, NWS Columbia reported, adding “this will likely be a long duration event (Friday through Sunday).”
The Columbia area specifically can expect to feel the effects of the hurricane Friday night, NWS meteorologist Jeff Linton said, but will begin to bear the brunt Sunday mid-day. Specifically in Columbia, winds are forecast to hover between 25 and 35 mph, with gusts hitting 45 mph, Linton said.
The heavy rainfall will “produce flash flooding and river flooding across the Midlands,” and even though weather conditions are expected to improve Monday, “flooding on the area rivers will increase as the runoff from heavy rains moves through the river basins,” per NWS Columbia.
Linton warned that water traveling from North Carolina and northern regions of the state will make its way into the Columbia area. The increase in water volume should be expected Monday or Tuesday.
In addition to the threat of flooding, residents should keep an eye out for tornadoes, which commonly spin off of hurricanes, Linton said.
NWS Columbia reported that there is the possibility for more changes in the track and intensity in the coming days.
“The worst conditions across central South Carolina ... are expected Friday night into at least Sunday, although impacts could linger longer depending on the uncertain evolution and track of Florence beyond this weekend,” the National Weather Service said.