UPDATE: Hurricane Florence to Cause “unbelievable destruction” in Carolinas

by Andrew Freedman

Hurricane Florence is taking aim squarely at the Carolinas — with North Carolina in the crosshairs first on Thursday through early Saturday, followed by South Carolina and possibly Georgia. The storm has weakened slightly and is now expected to approach coast as a strong Category 3 storm.

The bottom line: An unusual mix of weather systems across the U.S. will force Florence to hit the brakes as it nears the coast, somewhere close to the border of the Carolinas. It is likely to be the strongest hurricane to hit the coast in at least 25 years, possibly since records began in 1851.

The big picture: There are no historical analogs to Florence. Its forecast track is unprecedented, and its array and magnitude of threats are as well.

Here’s how events are likely to play out:

  • The massive hurricane is likely to slow down as it approaches the North Carolina coast on Thursday and Friday, coming to a virtual standstill either just on top of or off the coast of Wilmington.
  • This is a dire scenario for the North Carolina coast because it would expose them to a prolonged battering from damaging winds, torrential rain and one of the worst storm surge flood events on record there.
  • Then on Friday and Saturday, Florence may be drawn to the southwest, moving in the opposite direction compared to most tropical storms and hurricanes in this region. This could cause a nearly unheard of southward propagating storm surge, dissected here by surge expert Hal Needham.
  • Both South Carolina and Georgia may see a damaging storm surge, high winds and heavy rains from Florence through the weekend.
  • Fluctuations in intensity still possible, including some strengthening.
Computer model projection for Hurricane Florence's track, sea level pressure and winds, as of Sept. 12, 2018.Computer model projection for Hurricane Florence’s track, sea level pressure and winds, as of Sept. 12, 2018. This shows the stall near Wilmington, N.C., and southwest drift. Photo: Tropicaltidbits.com

Storm surge: With hurricane-force winds extending for 140 miles across, and tropical storm force winds reaching far beyond that, Florence is moving an extraordinary amount of water toward the shore.

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, as 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.
Graphic showing the evolution of National Hurricane Center storm track forecasts for Hurricane Florence.Data: National Hurricane Center; Chart: Chris Canipe and Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Wind: A relatively small area of the coastline will experience the worst of the storm’s winds, but due to its slow forward speed near landfall, a large area will experience them for a long duration.

  • However, the NHC explains, “while the hurricane hasn’t strengthened in terms of peak winds, the inner-core and outer wind fields have continued to expand, resulting in an increase the cyclone’s total energy, which will create a significant storm surge event.”

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 and its size, as well as the warm water temperatures of the Atlantic from which it will draw moisture.

Electricity: “People could be without power for a very long time. Not days. But weeks,” David Fountain, president of Duke Energy North Carolina, told reporters Wednesday.

Go deeper:

Editor’s note: This is a developing story and will continue to be updated.

Originally published at Axios.

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Posted by on September 12, 2018. Filed under NEWS I FIND INTERESTING. 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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