Increasingly Dangerous Hurricane Florence Eyes Carolinas

Hurricane Florence Viewed from the Space Station. Photo by NASA.

As of this afternoon, Hurricane Florence was maintaining a trajectory that could bring it ashore somewhere along the South Carolina or North Carolina coastlines. The National Hurricane Center continued to warn that Florence would be a damaging major hurricane at landfall.

In its 11 am discussion, the National Hurricane Center made four key points:

1. A life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the coastlines of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, and a Storm Surge Watch will likely be issued for some of these areas by Tuesday morning. All interests from South Carolina into the mid-Atlantic region should ensure they have their hurricane plan in place and follow any advice given by local officials.

2. Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from a prolonged and exceptionally heavy rainfall event, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic for hundreds of miles as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.

3. Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina, and a Hurricane Watch will likely be issued by Tuesday morning. Damaging winds could also spread well inland into portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.

4. Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast will continue this week, resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents.

Even as the Carolinas have experienced numerous hurricanes, the region’s historical climatology shows that Florence will likely be no ordinary storm. Since 1851, 6 major hurricanes (Category 3 or above) made landfall in South Carolina or North Carolina according to the National Hurricane Center’s re-analysis data. Two additional storms (Helene in September 1958 and Emily in August 1993) brought Category 3 winds to a portion of North Carolina, even as their eyes never made landfall. The list of the major hurricanes that made landfall is below.

North Carolina-South Carolina Major Hurricanes (1851-2017):

  • August 1879 Hurricane #2 (North Carolina: Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph)
  • August 1893 Hurricane #6 (South Carolina: Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph)
  • August 1899 Hurricane #4 (North Carolina: Category 3 with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph)
  • October 1954 Hazel (North Carolina: Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph)
  • September 1959 Gracie (South Carolina: Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph)
  • September 1989 Hugo (South Carolina: Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph)

Courtesy of regional National Weather Service offices, short summaries of the above Category 4 hurricanes can be found online: Hazel (1954), Gracie (1959), and Hugo (1989)

This relatively short list of major hurricanes that made landfall in the Carolinas argues strongly that, should Florence come ashore as currently forecast, it would be no ordinary hurricane for the region. Instead, it could be among the most powerful and damaging storms ever to impact the Carolinas. Therefore, people need to take Florence very seriously and, if called upon, to heed evacuation requests or orders. Safeguarding one’s life is vastly more important than any of the inconveniences evacuation might cause.

For reference, below are some resources from the National Hurricane Center:

Forecast Storm Track (updated at 5 am, 11 am, 5 pm, and 11 pm)

Hurricane Preparedness Page

Public Advisory (updated at 5 am, 11 am, 5 pm, and 11 pm, then more frequently as storms approach landfall)

Both the National Hurricane Center’s forecast track and public advisory links will be updated periodically.

For those who lie in the possible path taken by Florence or who may be affected by its winds, rains, coastal flooding or other effects, stay safe.

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About Don Sutherland 72 Articles
Husband. Dad. American. Believes in America on account of its Constitution, ideals, and people. Character, principle, truth, and empirical evidence matter greatly everywhere, including politics and public policy.