As we move into the final days before Hurricane Florence wreaks havoc on the Carolinas and surrounding states, we’re beginning to get a much clearer image of what the final result and impact will be.
Surprise. It’s not very good.
Overnight and during the first half of today Florence went through an eye-wall replacement cycle, which allowed for a smaller eye to become enlarged and expand the storm out several hundreds miles. This means that upon impact Florence will cause destruction to a very large area, ranging between Charleston SC to Wilmington NC.
The other aspect to this hurricane that has become more obvious over the last 24 hours is the inevitable stalling that will take place. Rather than making landfall and dying out like most hurricanes do (this generally keeps the damage to a confined area), Florence will likely slow down significantly both upon landfall and post landfall. There are a number of consequences that will result from this. One, Florence may be able to maintain its strength and sit just off of Wilmington while battering the whole coast with major hurricane conditions. And two, Florence will meander around aimlessly for several days (Friday through Sunday), impacting a large swath of the coastline with major hurricane conditions from Charleston to Wilmington. This is just about as bad a scenario as it can get, and that’s only “the first part” of the storm.
The second part of Florence will likely be just as dangerous as the first part. This second part begins once Florence starts moving further inland as the storm continues to stall out. We’re looking at a massive flooding situation for the areas that get hit by the “remnants” of this monster. This tends to be the most overlooked part of the storm. When the public hears that a hurricane has weakened to a category one or even a tropical storm, they tend to think it won’t have as much of an impact simply because of this change in verbiage. This is a dangerous trend. Florence will continue to drop significant amounts of rainfall, even reaching into early next week. The other issue here is that this will easily be the hardest part of the storm to forecast and prepare for. Models do not handle the exact track of stalling/trapped storms well at all. We saw the same thing with Harvey last year, where models were generally off by 100+ miles of where the heaviest rainfall occurred. We expect a similar situation to occur here. What that means is that everyone inside of the orange zone we highlighted (look for the map below) and directly outside that should be preparing for what could be historic-type flooding.
Here’s a full and easy to understand breakdown of exactly what we’re expecting, and who we think will get hit the hardest by Hurricane Florence.
Timing & Impact:
Hurricane Florence will continue to move in a general northwesterly direction over the next 48-72 hours, with the first impacts from the storm being felt as early as Thursday morning. At this time we expect our powerful hurricane to be situated several hundred miles from the coastline, with the first outer rain bands beginning to work their way towards the immediate shore. By mid-day Thursday and Thursday night, things will begin to go downhill fast, from Myrtle Beach to Wilmington and on north towards the outer banks of North Carolina.
Friday morning is when we expect the worst of Florence to begin coming onshore. This is when the first hurricane force and major hurricane force winds will start impacting the coastline. We’re talking about sustained winds of 100+ mph and gusts possibly surpassing 125-130 mph in localized spots. This will cause extreme damage to structures. The storm surge will begin to do its damage during this time as well, with many coastal areas across North Carolina seeing 10-15+ feet of surge. The water and flood damage will be immense, completely immersing many homes along the coastline. Rotating bands of extremely heavy rain will also come at this time, dropping 10-20+ inches of rainfall for the areas highlighted in purple on Friday and through the weekend.
This is where forecasting Florence becomes a real headache. We see the storm begin to stall later on Friday upon its approach to the coastline. There’s no telling exactly where Florence will move once it’s trapped under this massive ridge. Our best guess is a slight landfall of some sort near Wilmington, NC later on Friday and then slow movement along or just offshore Saturday and Sunday southward. It’s possible Florence moves in direct parallel with the Carolina coastline, which would be the worst case, as it would maintain much of its strength as it slowly slams coastal towns and areas 100-200 miles inland. Again, we’re talking about the potential for total devastation along a very long stretch of the coast from North Carolina to South Carolina. It doesn’t get much worse than this.
Then sometime on Sunday and Monday we expect another final push inland or possibly a second landfall depending on exactly what happens on Friday. This secondary impact area will be near or just north of Charleston, SC. Much of the same that was experienced near Wilmington can be expected south into Charleston, essentially extreme conditions and serious damage. As the storm moves inland on Monday, continued strong winds and heavy rain will move along with it. We’ve highlighted a large area in orange to show where we’re most concerned about “secondary” additional flooding. We could be talking widespread 10-20 inches over the course of a few days. Do not underestimate this part of the storm. We’re likely to see millions of people in many towns and cities flooded from this.
Details on Impact:
Our team has worked hard overnight and this morning to bring you our thoughts on the exact impacts we’re expecting. This can all be found below in a series of detailed maps below highlighting rainfall, wind gusts, storm surge, and more.
Expected Storm Surge:
Expected Rainfall (may shift south in next update):
Expected Max Wind Gusts (may shift south in next update):
As always, we’ll keep you updated with the latest information on Hurricane Florence over the next week. You can always check our website here, as well as our social media outlets on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Expect a special video update from our team tonight. Stay safe, and share this information with those in the path of what could be one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the US mainland.