Hurricane Florence: What storm surge could look like on East Coast

Christopher Davidson
September 16, 2018

Sea water was already surging ashore along the Outer Banks, washing over roads.

A storm surge watch is in effect for Edisto Beach South Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border and Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. On top of that, a disastrous amount of rain - 500mm, possibly even as much as 1m - is expected to fall. The NHS warned of "catastrophic" flash flooding from rainfall totals as high as 40 inches. Wind gusts from Florence could reach tropical storm force (39+ mph), while sustained winds are expected to be in the 20-30 miles per hour range.

In less than 24 hours, Florence has dropped from category 4 to category 2.

To put things in perspective, any storm surge taller than 12 feet is "life-threatening", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

Reports from North Carolina noted that Florence's winds have started to lash the coastline on September 13. We probably will be getting heavy winds and rain for the next few days.

Florence could threaten the largest rainfall event in USA history, Hurricane Harvey, the 2017 whirlwind that settled over Texas and dropped more than 60 inches of rain, turning roadways into rivers, destroying homes and buildings and killing almost 90 people.

The storm's forward motion has slowed 11km/h since Wednesday (local time), which was predicted as the storm nears the coast.

Hurricanes are categorized on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the strongest. Storm surge warnings, hurricane warnings, and tropical storm warnings are in effect along the coast of the Carolinas.

The full force of Hurricane Florence is expected to hit on Friday.

This is bigger than both of the Carolinas and THIS is why rain is the biggest issue. Officials in Onslow County, North Carolina reported major damage to homes and businesses in the county, where the Triangle Motor Inn in the city of Jacksonville had to be evacuated when it started to crumble, The Jacksonville Daily News reported.

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Life-threatening storm surge and rainfall are expected.

"The time to prepare is nearly over", North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told a morning news conference. Only one storm scared them enough to leave the island.

"This will have a storm surge in the 20-foot range", Myers said.

How many people will it affect?

Nearly 800,000 people are reported to be without power already in North Carolina, and officials have warned restoring electricity could take days or even weeks.

Outside this zone of destructive winds, damaging winds are still likely, even some distance inland from the coast, which would lead to minor structural damage, downed trees and widespread power outages.

Up to 75 percent of the utility's customers could be without power, and it may take "weeks" to fully restore it, he said.

"We can't get a bucket truck out there when tropical storm winds are still blowing", she said.

Runways at South Carolina's Charleston International Airport closed late Wednesday night and may not reopen until early Saturday morning, according to an update on the airport's web site. But then they gradually diverge.

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