Dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Florence likely to stall and pound Carolinas, Virginia for days

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Dangerous Category 4 Hurricane Florence likely to stall and pound Carolinas, Virginia for days

By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist

September 12, 2018, 8:46:03 AM EDT

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Hurricane Florence is on a path that will put millions of people at risk and threaten billions of dollars in property damage centered on the Carolinas beginning on Thursday and continuing through this weekend.

Even though Florence is moving swiftly to the northwest at this time, AccuWeather meteorologists believe that the hurricane will stall and meander near the Carolina coast from Thursday night to Saturday.

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As this happens, coastal areas will be bombarded with torrential rain, high winds and storm surge, not for a few hours, but possibly a couple of days.

Help may not be available for days due to the dangerous conditions for to those who choose to remain behind along the coast. Total inundation is likely in portions of eastern and southeastern North Carolina and perhaps the upper part of the South Carolina coast with a storm surge in excess of 10 feet in some areas.

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“There will be extensive damage inflicted by Hurricane Florence due to its predicted path, which is perpendicular to the coast, rather than at an oblique angle. This means the east and southeast winds on the east side of the storm are going to be most effective in driving storm surge flooding as the wind and waves pound the coast. That is one of many factors in why AccuWeather is estimating $30 billion in economic impact and damage from Florence,” AccuWeather Founder and President Dr. Joel N. Myers said.

“While other sources are monitoring the intensity of the storm, AccuWeather emphasizes that although Florence will lose wind intensity as it approaches the coast and moves inland, we are focused on the overall impacts of the storm on people and their lives. The maximum damage from hurricanes is generally caused by flooding on land. Typically, the second most costly aspect of a hurricane occurs along the coast as an angry sea is driven inland due to powerful onshore winds, especially when there is a large fetch and particularly when a storm moves consistently and perpendicular to the coast. Following inland flooding and coastal damage, winds, on average, are often the next biggest cause of hurricane damage and economic costs,” Myers said.

Last year, AccuWeather correctly predicted the total economic damage of severe weather events for 2017. These estimates were predicted further ahead and more accurately than any other source, helping people to better understand the urgency of the extreme weather situations so they could take swift action.

There is the potential for Florence to stall or significantly reduce its forward speed as it nears the coast, which could prolong the effects of damaging winds, storm surge flooding and beach erosion. A stall or slow forward speed would also greatly enhance inland flooding of streams and rivers.

“A storm with the track of Florence is unprecedented. It was located father north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we’re forecasting is unprecedented. Also, most storms coming into the Carolinas tend to move northward, and this storm looks like it’s going to stall over the region and potentially bring tremendous, life-threatening flooding,,” AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss said.

States of emergency have been declared in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in preparation for Florence’s arrival.

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Download the free AccuWeather app to stay up-to-date with Florence’s expected track and impacts to the U.S.

Florence regained Category 4 strength as of midday Monday.

It became the first Category 4 hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic season last week but later weakened due to a zone of strong wind shear and cooler waters.

Very warm water and low wind shear may allow additional strengthening through midweek.

Following an eye wall replacement cycle during Monday night and Tuesday morning, Florence began to grow in size and become better organized Tuesday afternoon. A jump in strength to a Category 5 hurricane is possible Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Another eye wall replacement cycle is possible before the hurricane reaches the coast to end the week.

Seas to become dangerous well ahead of Florence

Large swells will propagate outward hundreds of miles away from the center of the storm this week.

The swells will make for rough seas along and well off the U.S. East Coast, Bermuda, the northern shores of the Caribbean islands and the south- and southeast-facing shores of the Canada Maritimes, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

“The rough surf and seas can occur hundreds of miles away from the path of the storm,” Sosnowski said.

The frequency and intensity of rip currents will increase.

If caught in a rip current, do not panic or fight the current. Swim parallel to the shore until you are free of the current’s grip. Then swim at an angle, away from the current, toward the shore.

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“The surf may be especially hazardous, since most lifeguards are not on duty past Labor Day,” Sosnowski said.

Operators of small craft should heed all advisories that are issued and remain in port if necessary.

Larger vessels, such as cruise or cargo ships, may have to reroute their courses to avoid Florence’s dangerous seas.

Conditions along the Atlantic coast from the Carolinas to southern Maryland will deteriorate rapidly as seas dramatically build on Thursday and into Friday.

Florence to bring significant impacts to U.S. East Coast

Florence is expected to be as strong as a Category 4 hurricane by the time it makes its closest approach to the United States from Thursday to Friday.

AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said that a Florence landfall along the U.S. East coast is becoming more likely, with the Carolinas at greatest risk.

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The exact track, overall size and forward speed of the storm will determine which locations along the coast receive the worst of Florence’s damaging winds, heavy rain and storm surge flooding.

“As we have seen with hurricanes in most recent years, such as Lane in Hawaii earlier this summer and Harvey last year in Texas, feet of rain can fall when these tropical storms stall,” Sosnowski said.

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