Issued Wednesday 9AM September 2018. Major Hurricane Florence is now likely to make a U.S landfall on Friday over North Carolina as a very powerful and catastrophic, life-threatening system. Above image via RAMMB / CIRA.
The last 24-36 hours for Florence has quickly shaped up into a worst case scenario situation for North Carolina and to a degree, South Carolina and the Virginia’s as well. Florence has undergone RAPID intensification after entering a near-perfect environment and quickly went from a Category 1 system to a strong Category 4 major hurricane in a matter of hours. Since then, Florence has remained in a favourable environment and is likely to do so until it makes landfall on Friday over North Carolina as either a Category 4 or 5 hurricane. Furthermore with the addition of EXTREME flooding and a life-threatening storm surge both being LIKELY, Florence is showing every sign of being an unprecedented, catastrophic and potentially even deadly disaster.
Models have been juggling the landfall time around a little bit, but most are in agreement now for a Friday morning or early afternoon landfall over the Southern / Central Coastal North Carolina or extreme Northern Coastal parts of South Carolina (between Myrtle Beach and Morehead City). One of the big underlying problems with Florence which will only exacerbate the risk potential, is a building of the ridge to the West This build will mean Florence is LIKELY to slow down or even stall right on the Coast as its making landfall. This has lead to a dramatic increase in rainfall potential with all models going for 500mm+ over the North Carolina Coast and many going for isolated falls of 800-1000mm. This rainfall is expected to fall on an already saturated ground after heavy rain in recent weeks leading to catastrophic, life threatening flooding. This flooding not only has the potential to cause a massive risk to human life but could isolate communities for weeks and cause further problems once food and fresh water begin to run out.
Outside of the rainfall, a life threatening storm surge is LIKELY across Coastal parts of North Carolina and through the Outer Banks. One promising sign is if the system does slow down on the Coast, then land interaction will quickly weaken it and limit the surge potential, regardless… models are going for a 12-15ft storm surge in some areas which would be second all-time to Hurricane Hazel in 1954 for the area and could change the geographic landscape of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The wind threat is likely to be catastrophic too, with Florence LIKELY to become the strongest hurricane to make landfall over North Carolina. Winds in excess of 250km/h are likely to significantly damage or destroy buildings, uproot large trees and down powerlines which could severely limit assistance in the aftermath of the system as emergency crews battle debris, lack of communications and flooding to assist people.
Historically, systems even half the strength of Florence have been deadly to the region. Historically systems with half the rainfall of Florence have caused issues for up to a week anyway… History is screaming this won’t be pretty. People NEED to adhere to the evacuation alerts and seek safe ground NOW!