On the present forecast track, Hurricane Sandy should be staying well off the North Carolina coast as it passes from south to north, but bear in mind that there is still some uncertainty about that exact track.
You should remain alert to the possibility that the track may come closer to Eastern North Carolina, and that if that happens conditions could become worse than what we are presently forecasting. The storm will be closest to NC from midday Sunday through the middle of the day on Monday but effects from the storm are already arriving and could linger through Tuesday.
The clouds are already over us, and the rain showers are blowing in off the ocean are from Sandy's outermost bands. Clouds will continue to roll in and thicken this evening and overnight and the rain bands will become more numerous as we move through the night.
Most of the showers are moving fairly quickly and should put down modest rainfall, but heavier rain showers will be developing and rain will fall likely across all areas east of I-95 from late Friday along the coast and moving inland past Kenansville, Kinston, Greenville and Williamston by Saturday morning.
By the time the rain tapers off late Sunday inland areas (west of US 17) should be between 2 and 4 inches with 4-6 likely along the coast. Isolated amounts of 8 inches are possible.
Winds are not so bad now but they are increasing. The highest winds will develop along the outer banks beaches during Saturday afternoon with steady winds building to 30 mph and wind gusts getting to 45mph. As winds increase during the weekend there could be some 60-80 mph gusts along Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. The high winds don't really begin to build inland until Saturday evening. Inland winds should max out at 20-30 mph gusting to 35 mainly Saturday night, Sunday and Monday and maybe even in to Tuesday.
Moderate coastal flooding is expected especially Saturday night through Monday. Expect water levels to rise to 3 to 5 maybe even 6 feet above ground level along the southern Pamlico sound and lower Neuse River, including southeastern Beaufort, eastern Pamlico, eastern Craven and north central and eastern Carteret counties.
Some of the worst flooding would likely come late Sunday and Monday as the strong winds turn to the north. That will push water south out of the Neuse River into the Trent River producing 4-6 feet of storm surge in RiverBend, Slocum Creek, Adams and Clubfoot creeks and the north side of downeast Carteret County.
The sound side of Ocracoke Island and Hatteras Island would be prone to some serious flooding as well. Most of these places need to get to 9 feet of water before catastrophic flooding begins to occur but these are still very high water levels. Expect highway 12 in downeast Carteret County to have water on it, and there is a chance Highway 12 on Hatteras Island will be breached and probably closed.
Now is the time to stow away trash cans, recycle bins, lawn furniture and outdoor ornaments in anticipation of high winds, especially along the coast east of US 17.