PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday morning at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, just before 8 a.m. The long two-day slog begins as the hurricane creeps along and very slowly weakens.
For them, this will be like Hurricane Irma last year in South Florida -- a long duration, relentless wind with storm surge, but times two or three.
In the Caribbean, what's left of now-Tropical Depression Isaac is heading away from the islands. The question is, will anything be left of this system next week? And might it redevelop?
First Florence. The winds in the circulation have slowly spun down as the center of the storm moved over the cooler waters immediately along the coast. In addition, part of the circulation is over land -- relentlessly pummeling the Carolina coastal communities. Now winds gusting to about 100 mph will slowly spread into South Carolina as the storm crawls in that direction.
In addition, the storm surge, the ocean water pushed over the land by the hurricane's winds, will peak late Friday morning when the tide is high, and then again around midnight. Hundreds of water rescues have been needed in New Bern, North Carolina, and additional communities will be threatened as the wind shifts direction driving the water up rivers and inlets. The difference between high and low tide is about 4 feet on the North Carolina coast, so timing is important.
Torrential rain has already fallen in some areas, and there is much more to come. The forecast is for an additional 20-25 inches of rain, with some spots receiving 30-40 inches.
The legacy of Hurricane Florence is likely to be the extremely slow forward movement of the storm, prolonging the assault for two to three days. The flooding caused by the storm surge and heavy rain will take days or weeks to subside.
Here are the key messages from the National Hurricane Center concerning Hurricane Florence:
1. A life-threatening storm surge is already occurring along portions of the North Carolina coast and will continue through Friday and into the evening. This surge is also likely along portions of the South Carolina coast. The greatest storm surge inundation is expected between Cape Fear and Cape Hatteras, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers and western Pamlico Sound.
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 while it moves inland.
3. Damaging hurricane-force winds are occurring along portions of the North Carolina coast and are expected to spread to portions of the South Carolina coast later Friday. Strong winds could also spread inland into portions of the Carolinas over the next couple of days.
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.
Isaac is coming apart and and for the next few days, at least, is not a significant threat to land.
Technically, it is now a tropical depression. The question is, what will happen after this weekend?
The primary computer forecast models kill off the storm and either push the remnants into Mexico or into the Gulf as simply a weak disturbance. The weather pattern in the western Caribbean and the Gulf is more conducive for development than the part of the Caribbean where the depression currently is, so we will have to keep an eye on the remnants next week to be sure is does not misbehave. No models forecast it to suddenly strengthen.
While we can't rule out an effect on Florida, it appears unlikely.
Invest 95L, the system we have been watching in the western Gulf, is moving into northern Mexico and southern Texas as a gusty moisture surge.
Tropical Storm Helene, Tropical Storm Joyce and the potential disturbance are not expected to be a threat to U.S. interests in the next five days, if at all. Tropical Storm Helene may bring gusty winds and heavy rain to the Azores -- islands west of Portugal on the other side of the Atlantic -- this weekend.
Hurricane Survival Guide
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