RALEIGH – Late last week it became apparent that the so far quiet Atlantic hurricane season would not remain so. Tropical waves spilling off the west coast of Africa started to line up and develop rotation, and now North Carolina is in the cross-hairs of another ‘F’ storm – Hurricane Florence.
Our history with ‘F’ storms is a sore subject, with Hurricanes Fran and Floyd both wreaking havoc on the state. More than just the wind, the rain totals and storm surges have been the most damaging. Some on the coast are still well aware of that hurricane flooding risk having been through Hurricane Matthew two years ago (and still waiting on the Cooper administration to distribute disaster aid).
Florence, now a Category 2 storm with winds of 105 mph, is projected to rapidly intensify over the next couple of days and could take aim at the Carolinas Thursday night into Friday morning as a major Category 4 hurricane. Making matters worse, once it makes landfall it is expected to stall, dumping days of rain on coastal and inland locations from Raleigh, to Charlotte, even West Virginia.
Looking back in time, the track and approach of the coast is shaping up to be eerily similar to that of Hurricane Hazel in 1954. That legendary storm, killed at least 400 people in Haiti before making landfall as a Category 4 right around the North Carolina/South Carolina border. There were 95 fatalities in the U.S. from that storm, and the name was retired.
Anticipating a major disaster, Gov. Roy Cooper has declared a state of emergency. Many coastal counties have declared their own states of emergency as well.
“At the State Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, emergency management leaders have started coordinating with state, local and federal officials to prepare for the storm. That includes the N.C. Department of Transportation, which has been readying response equipment like bulldozers, motor graders and chainsaws.
The Dept. Health and Human Services is already working with the Red Cross and other groups to make sure shelter and food needs can be met if necessary.
“In North Carolina, we rely on our local officials,” he said. “They make the initial call regarding evacuations. They know their communities best. They know which residents might need extra help in getting evacuated, like nursing homes.””
Already, residents are getting supplies and emptying store shelves of items like bottled water. Those at the coast have been busy preparing their homes and businesses for the worst, leaving them to hope for the best.
Some effects of the storm are already being exploited by surfers, finding a silver lining among the dark storm clouds approaching. Some swells are already hitting the Outer Banks, but the real swells will begin in earnest on Wednesday.
Meteorologists will have more certainty of Florence’s path in the next 24-48 hours. If you haven’t made, or planned for preparations in that time, make sure you have what you need to hunker down or get out of town.
Here’s to a near miss and minimal danger and/or damage.