Hurricane Florence to Cause “catastrophic” Damage in Carolinas

by Andrew Freedman

Hurricane Florence continues to churn menacingly toward the Carolina coastline — about two days away from landfall somewhere between northern South Carolina and southeastern Virginia. The storm will be capable of causing extreme damage and is likely to be a deadly one-two punch of an extremely intense storm that will slowly approach the coast, then stall just inland or off the coast and drift with time.

The big picture: Faint hopes that the storm would curve harmlessly out to sea or lose its punch are dimming. Nothing stands in Florence’s way as it makes its approach to the coast. If it makes landfall as a Category 4 or 5 storm along the central or northern North Carolina coast or points northward, it would be the strongest storm on record to do so that far north since records began in 1851.

What to expect

Computer models are still showing considerable uncertainty about what will happen right as the storm makes its final approach to the North Carolina coast on Thursday and thereafter, with the possibility that it just barely makes landfall and then drifts west-southwest, bringing significant impacts to South Carolina and Georgia.

Hurricane and storm surge warnings have been issued for the Carolinas,

Surge: Depending on the landfall location, Hurricane Florence is likely to bring a devastating storm surge to the Carolinas, possibly exceeding 15 to 20 feet.

  • Such a surge, depending on whether it hits at high tide, could result in more than nine feet of water above ground in some coastal areas, according to the National Weather Service.
  • Weather Service forecast offices in North and South Carolina are warning residents to expect “dangerous to catastrophic” storm surge impacts, which will render coastal areas “uninhabitable” for extended periods of time.
  • The North Carolina coast, in particular, is extremely vulnerable to towering storm surges, since the continental shelf extends 50 miles off the coast there.
  • This creates a long expanse of shallow waters that allows an incoming storm to pile up a huge volume of water, pushing it toward the coast as it arrives.

Wind: A relatively small area of the coastline will experience the worst of the storm’s winds, but a large area will still see a long duration of damaging winds from Florence.

  • In the landfall area, the Weather Service is warning of “life-threatening” winds that could cause complete destruction of sturdy buildings.
  • “Locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months,” according to the NWS’ Wilmington office.
  • Depending how far inland the storm pushes before stalling, it could cut power to tens of millions across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic.
  • The latest models are hinting at the possibility that the center of Florence could stall just off the North Carolina coast on Thursday night, pounding the shoreline with damaging winds and storm surge flooding for an extended duration.

Inland flooding: The greatest risk from Hurricane Florence is its rainfall potential far from the coast. This is due to the storm’s slow forward speed. The official forecast calls for the center of the storm to remain over North Carolina from Friday through Sunday, drawing huge amounts of Atlantic moisture inland.

  • Computer models have been consistent in showing the potential for a widespread area of 15 to 25 inches of rain, with some areas picking up close to 35 inches of rain over the weekend.
  • Such rainfall amounts could lead to disastrous flooding.
  • Residents of inland areas in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland are in the threat area for this hazard.
  • Florence will be carrying a huge amount of water vapor, lapped up from unusually mild Atlantic waters.
  • As with Hurricane Harvey last year, stalled hurricanes and tropical storms can turn entire cities into inland oceans. Climate change has raised the odds of such torrential rainstorms as well.

The bottom line: The Carolinas have never experienced a hurricane as powerful as Florence is expected to be at landfall. The combination of hazards is likely to paralyze a large region of the country for days — if not weeks — with time to prepare rapidly running out.

Originally published at Axios.

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Posted by on September 11, 2018. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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2 Responses to Hurricane Florence to Cause “catastrophic” Damage in Carolinas

  1. Caroline Taylor Reply

    September 11, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    CNN interviewed some residents who were staying because it was “their house.” Dangerous thinking.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      September 12, 2018 at 7:48 am

      That is dangerous thinking especially when you live on the coast.

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