National Park Service Say No Ocean Swimming as Hurricane Ian Takes Aim at Carolina Coast

by Taylor Cunningham
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The National Park Service is asking swimmers to keep away from Cape Hatteras National Seashore this weekend as Hurricane Ian heads towards North Carolina.

Large portions of the state’s coast are currently under a hurricane warning with threats of 50 mph winds and flooding, which leaves the park under a red flag warning as officials expect strong rip currents and floating debris from damaged homes along the coastline.

The service also asks that visitors refrain from walking along Rodanthe Beach, which is a two-mile stretch within the protected seashore on Hatteras Island.

The National Weather Service says heavy rains began hitting North Carolina this morning (Sept. 30). And the weather will continue to worsen throughout the day.

“Regardless of the exact track of Ian, there is the potential for extensive impacts to eastern North Carolina,” the National Weather Service wrote.

“Heavy rain bands will bring rainfall amounts up to 5 to 8 inches, which will bring the threat of localized flooding, especially in low-lying, urban, and poor drainage areas. Life-threatening storm surge inundation of 2 to 4 feet above ground is possible along much of the coast.”

Meteorologists also warn of possible tornadoes and downed trees and powerlines.

Hurricane Ian Affecting the Carolinas Throughout the Weekend

Hurricane Ian made landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday bringing 155 mph winds to some areas—ranking it as one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States. By that afternoon, it downgraded to a tropical storm and hovered over the state into Thursday.

In its wake, the storm left widespread destruction to homes, businesses, and infrastructure. Three people have also been confirmed dead.

As Ian moved into the Atlantic Ocean, it regained Category 1 strength. After hitting North Carolina, meteorologists expect winds to ramp up to 75 mph.

Charleston County officials issued a state of emergency on Thursday afternoon while anticipating Ian’s impact.

“Charleston County has moved operations to OPCON 1 meaning a disaster or emergency is imminent,” the county council announced.

Council members also shared that buses would continue transporting people to shelters unit 6 p.m. that evening or until winds hit a sustained speed of 30 mph. The shelters will remain open until the storm passes.

While the area did not issue mandatory evacuation warnings, Charles County Emergency Management Director, Joe Coates, is urging people living along the coast to head to the shelters or homes on higher ground.

“There is a potential for major flooding tomorrow,” he warned. “If you live on a barrier island or a low-lying area that historically floods, and you haven’t moved to higher ground, I recommend you relocate now.”