This morning at 9 AM, DTN, a provider of analysis and real-time delivery of weather, agricultural, energy, and commodity market data, hosted a Hurricane Florence update presented by meteorologist Brad Nelson.
The most important takeaway was that Florence is now projected to shift southward after making landfall in the Wilmington, North Carolina, region, hugging the South Carolina coast and pummeling coastal areas with ‘extreme rainfall’ and storm surges, and a “strong possibility for the track to shift even farther south,” according to Brad Nelson.
Nelson said that Hurricane Florence was 530 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, NC, with sustained winds of 130 mph, unchanged from yesterday. Hurricane-force winds now extend across a 70 mile area, widening from 50 miles on Tuesday. A widening wind field can actually make hurricanes more vulnerable to weakening and disintegrating. The water ahead of Florence is between 84 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit; Nelson said the warm water would be “plenty of fuel to feed Florence” in the coming days.
The wind shear surrounding Florence is weak, which Nelson said was favorable for Florence’s persistence as a Category 4 hurricane.
“Not much change until you get to about forty miles off the coast of Wilmington,” Nelson said. “As the [high pressure] ridge strengthens to the north, the storm completely stalls out and is trapped. The system will stay off the coast and in the warm water, which will allow it to maintain some intensity, and then move into interior North Carolina as we get into late Friday and Saturday.” Nelson went on to say that “slow movement results in extreme rainfall; some of this will be catastrophic on the eastern portion of the Carolinas.”
Nelson said that Florence should slowly weaken during Friday and Saturday, maintaining hurricane strength through at least Saturday. “Florence should weaken to a Cat-2 as it drifts southwest over the coast of South Carolina—the risk of Cat-5 has diminished by this point,” said Nelson.
At a high level forecast, we’re looking at a Cat-3, possible Cat-4 stalling off the coast of Wilmington Thursday night or Friday morning, weakening to a tropical storm by Saturday night in South Carolina, then down to a depression by Sunday night as the storm starts to move through Augusta, Georgia and North Georgia.
There’s a strong possibility of “extreme damage and extreme beach erosion due to two full days of hurricane-strength winds over the coast,” warned Nelson. Instead of making landfall at low or high tides, which can make a difference between one and two feet of storm surge, Hurricane Florence will linger over the coast for days through multiple tide cycles, pushing water in a northwesterly direction into the coast.
Recent models from Riskpulse and the National Hurricane Center show the hurricane slowing and making initial landfall even further south, near the South Carolina – North Carolina border on Friday night.