A Category 1 Hurricane Florence continued its slow move inland over southeastern North Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, according to the 2 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.
"A slow westward to west-southwestward motion is expected today through Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Florence will move farther inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina today, and across extreme eastern South Carolina tonight and Saturday," the center said. "Florence will then move generally northward across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week."
The National Weather Service Office in Blacksburg, Va., which covers an area including Ashe and Watauga counties, on Friday issued a flash flood watch for the area in effect from Saturday morning through Monday evening.
National Weather Service Blacksburg Science and Operations Officer Steve Keighton said in a Friday morning update that rains could start as soon as late Saturday.
Keighton noted they're "extremely concerned" about potential flooding in the New River, among others in northwest North Carolina "possibly approaching record levels."
"Heavy rain from Florence will lead to flash flooding across the area, especially by Saturday afternoon and evening into Monday," the NWS said. "Five to 10 inches of rain are expected, with locally higher amounts of a foot or more possible along the Blue Ridge. Life-threatening flash flooding may develop as heavy rain bands occur this weekend into Monday. Streams and creeks may rise quickly during heavy rain and flood. Larger rivers eventually may rise to flood stage as well.
"Rainfall of more than five inches in similar storms has been associated with an increased risk of landslides and rock slides," the NWS warned. "If you live on a mountainside or in a cove at the base of a mountain, especially near a stream, be ready to leave in advance of the storm or as quickly as possible should rising water, moving earth or rocks threaten. Consider postponing travel along mountain roads during the period of heavy rainfall."
A state of emergency is in effect in Watauga County; however, no curfews or sale restrictions have been put in place as of Friday morning, Watauga County Fire Marshal Taylor Marsh said.