Massive Hurricane Florence starts flooding parts of Carolinas

Category 2 storm brings life-threatening storm surge, 160,000 without power

By Bryan Norcross - Hurricane Specialist, Betty Davis - Chief Meteorologist, Andrew Perez - Reporter

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - HURRICANE FLORENCE’s more-than-two-day assault on the North Carolina coast is underway.

WATCH LIVE - Beach cams show Florence's arrival in real time

11 PM PUBLIC ADVISORY

 The massive Category 2 storm slowed down on Thursday night worsening the life-threatening storm surge. 

Maximum sustained winds are near 90 mph with higher gusts. The center of the eye of the storm is moving toward the northwest and a turn toward the west-northwest is expected through Friday. 

Little change in strength is expected before Florence moves inland across extreme southeastern North Carolina and extreme eastern South Carolina Friday and Saturday.

The threat of freshwater flooding will increase over the next several days. Florence will weaken and recurve across the western Carolinas and the central Appalachian Mountains early next week. 

 

TROPICAL UPDATE (Thursday, 6 p.m.)  

The center of TROPICAL STORM ISAAC has passed the eastern Caribbean islands but thunderstorms with gusty winds and heavy rain have yet to move through.  

INVEST 95L, which is the National Hurricane Center designation for the system we are watching in the western Gulf of Mexico, may organize into at least a Tropical Depression before impacting the western Gulf coast from Mexico through Texas to Louisiana tomorrow.

HURRICANE FLORENCE:  Top winds estimated at 105 mph – Category 2.  The center is now less than 100 miles from North Carolina and is barely crawling toward the coast.  Squalls gusting to hurricane force have already been reported.

The winds from HURRICANE FLORENCE will increase in surges on the North Carolina coast this tonight, and the forward motion of the storm will range from slow to stop.  It will take until tomorrow until the highest winds are blowing, and the peak storm surge – the ocean water pushed up over the land – comes in. 

The highest water will be around midnight and noon at high tide. The strong winds will last through much of Saturday.

When the center of Florence gets near the coast or just across the North Carolina coastline, it will turn to the left and head toward South Carolina.  The storm surge will continue into Saturday, and catastrophic inland flooding is expected near and north of Florence’s path.  

The rainfall forecast is for 20-30 inches with some spots getting 40 inches in eastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina.

Here are the Key Messages from the National Hurricane Center concerning HURRICANE FLORENCE:

1. A life-threatening storm surge is now highly likely along portions of the coastlines of South Carolina and North Carolina, and a Storm Surge Warning is in effect for a portion of this area. The greatest storm surge inundation is expected between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers and western Pamlico Sound to the west of Cape Hatteras.

2. Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern and central Appalachians through early next week, as Florence is expected to slow down as it approaches the coast and moves inland.

3. Damaging hurricane-force winds are likely along portions of the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina as soon as this evening, and a Hurricane Warning is in effect. Strong winds could also spread inland into portions of the Carolinas.

4. Large swells affecting Bermuda, portions of the U.S. East Coast, and the northwestern and central Bahamas will continue this week, resulting in life-threatening surf and rip currents.

The center of TROPICAL STORM ISAAC has moved past the eastern Caribbean, however heavey rain is yet to come.  Guadeloupe, Dominica, and Martinique will feel the most impact.  The northern Caribbean islands – the Greater Antilles – including Puerto Rico and the southern U.S. Virgin Islands may also feel some fringe effects from the storm.  

Tropical Storm Isaac currently has top winds of 40 mph.  

After Isaac passes deeper into the Caribbean Sea, it is forecast to weaken and lose its circulation.  Some computer models that have shown it restrengthening and moving into the Gulf.  They are being discounted at this time, but the system will have to be watched for the next several days in case it reorganizes.

INVEST 95L, the system in the Gulf of Mexico, will move west toward Texas.  The National Hurricane Center gives it a 50% chance of organizing into at least Tropical Depression before it reaches the coast tomorrow.  In any case, it will bring heavy rain and some gusty winds to northern Mexico, Texas, and possibly part of the Louisiana coast.

TROPICAL STORM HELENE, SUBTROPICAL STORM JOYCE, and the POTENTIAL DISTURBANCE are not expected to affect land in the next 5 days, if at all.


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