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Now Hurricane Michael takes a swing

For the second time in less than a month, Stanly County is again bracing for the effects of a hurricane.

Wednesday afternoon Michael came ashore in Florida’s Panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds. Churning over the warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Michael quickly amassed in size and fury as it took aim at the Sunshine State.

Michael is forecast to travel north to northeast, across parts of Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia before heading back into the Atlantic. It is projected to move across central North Carolina while swooping eastward.

Michael is expected to arrive in Stanly County early Thursday as a tropical storm with winds at about 45 mph with as much as 4-7 inches of rain.

Parts of North Carolina that have yet to recover from Florence’s wrath are projected to get more rain from Michael.

On Wednesday Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency.

“I’m taking action to get North Carolina ready for Hurricane Michael, and I encourage people across our state to get ready as well,” Cooper said in a statewide press release. “Make no mistake — Hurricane Michael is a dreadful storm, and it poses serious risks to North Carolina.”

Stanly County Schools decided to cancel classes for Thursday due to the forecasted wind and rain. After school activities were cancelled as well.

Just last month Hurricane Florence hit landfall along the southern coast of North Carolina before stalling and dumping historic amounts of rain and flooding in the eastern parts of the Carolinas.

Michael is more powerful and faster moving than Florence.

Its forecast impact on Stanly could be similar to Florence’s punch here, only Michael should move out much more quickly as Friday is projected to be clear and sunny.

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for six North Carolina counties: Brunswick, New Hanover, Pender, Bladen, Columbus and Robeson. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for several coastal, eastern and Sandhills counties.

Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, echoed Cooper’s concerns for his state.

“This is a dangerous, life-threatening Category 4 hurricane,” Long said Wednesday. “Its impact will be felt far beyond just the Florida coast. Do not underestimate it. People in Georgia and the Carolinas need to prepare for high winds, heavy rain and possible tornadoes today.”

Parts of North Carolina still reeling from Hurricane Florence could see sustained tropical storm force winds from Michael. Winds will be strong enough to bring down trees weakened by Florence and to rip tarps from roofs of Florence-damaged homes.

“The last thing people cleaning up from Florence need right now is more wind and rain. But this storm is coming, and we will be ready for it,” Cooper said.

Preliminary estimates show Florence caused nearly $13 billion in damages. When adjusted for inflation, Florence did as much damage as hurricanes Matthew and Floyd combined.

Cooper recommends state legislators use next week’s special session to allocate $1.5 billion toward recovery needs.

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or ritchie.starnes@stanlynewspress.com.