Despite slowdown, Hurricane Florence is “still a very dangerous storm”

Businesses in Wilmington, North Carolina have begun boarding up their storefronts in preparation for Hurricane Florence ( Image: Shutterstock ).

As bands of Hurricane Florence are beginning to hit the East Coast, DTN provided a storm update on Thursday.

Brad Nelson, event meteorologist for DTN, noted that “the storm has certainly weakened since yesterday.” Currently approaching the coast and slowing down, Hurricane Florence was about 220 miles east of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and 170 miles ESE of Wilmington, North Carolina at the time of the webinar. Wind shear from the south has helped to weaken the storm, Nelson explained.

Despite the slowdown, Hurricane Florence is “still a very dangerous storm, and we still expect severe storm surge and catastrophic flooding in the Carolinas,” said Nelson. DTN notes that Florence remains a “large hurricane in regard to its cloud shield and wind field.”  

DTN anticipates the storm to increase in speed while overall decreasing in intensity, expecting that rapid weakening will occur once Hurricane Florence moves inland on Friday.

FreightWaves also spoke to Jim Forester, Director of Meteorological Services for DTN, who explained that “storm intensity, forward speed, size, central pressure, shape, and angle of approach to the coast all determine how strong the surge will be.”

“With Hurricane Florence, we have seen a very significant storm surge develop. It’s now in the process of moving onshore in North Carolina. This surge is likely to cause significant damage to roads, rails and other infrastructure. As such, officials in both states have closed some ports and roadways at least for the near-term,” Forester continued.

“It’s important to note that waves also move on top of the surge and can cause even more damage by acting as battering rams to flooded structures. In this case, the water that is surging inland and into the rivers will have to drain back into the ocean over the next 1-2 weeks,” said Forester.

“We would anticipate a historic flooding event that will continue far beyond the next few days and could continue to impact roads and access to ports during that full period of time. It is likely that officials will keep a close eye on flooding and make closure decisions as needed,” Forester concluded.

Looking ahead to the weekend, tropical storm force winds will likely reach far inland from Georgia to West Virginia. Extreme rainfall, including isolated amounts of up to 30-40 inches for coastal North Carolina could also come as a result of Hurricane Florence. Nelson pointed out that rainfall will “likely be the most dangerous, deadliest, and costliest portion of Florence.”

The records for maximum rainfall caused by tropical cyclones and their remnants are expected to be broken in the coming days. The risk of heavy flooding along the coast of the Carolinas and life-threatening 2-6 foot storm surge is highest during high tide today and tomorrow.

“Squally rain bands on the east and north sides of Florence will bring isolated tornado threats through the weekend, but the greatest risk is across eastern North Carolina today and Friday as well as eastern South Carolina on Saturday,” Nelson concluded.

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Maria Baker, Staff Writer

Maria is a staff writer who has covered everything from the environment to sign-on bonuses and women in the industry. She is a recent graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South, where she majored in English literature and minored in environmental studies. Maria loves writing about freight almost as much as she loves Emily Dickinson and the self-imposed challenge of finding the best iced mocha in Chattanooga.