Tropical Storm Florence to continue to impact Appalachians

By Bryan Norcross - Hurricane Specialist

6:00 PM ET FRIDAY TROPICAL UPDATE:  FLORENCE is now a TROPICAL STORM, but the massive flood from Florence has only begun.  The storm made landfall this morning at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, about 10 miles from Wilmington, at 7:15 AM.  The long two-to-three-day slog is underway as the hurricane creeps along near the coast and very slowly weakens. 

For people in the storm zone, 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, TROPICAL STORM ISAAC is back!  The question is, will anything be left of this system next week?  And if there is, might it redevelop?  More below.

First TROPICAL STORM FLORENCE.  The top winds in the storm are slowly weakening because part of the circulation is over land, but they are still strong enough to bring down trees and signs and damage poorly constructed buildings. 

The winds are now estimated at 70 mph with the storm moving West at only 3 mph.

The storm will relentlessly pummel the Carolina coastal communities through tomorrow.  Gusty damaging winds will slowly spread into South Carolina and farther inland as the storm crawls in that direction.

In addition, the storm surge, the ocean water pushed over the land by the onshore winds, will peak again around midnight when the tide is high, and then again tomorrow midday.  Hundreds of water rescues have already been needed in North Carolina, and additional communities will be threatened as the wind continues to drive 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 near the center and on the right side, 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 2 ½ to 3 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. Life-threatening storm surge will continue along portions of the North Carolina coast through tonight, and also along the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers in western Pamlico Sound, where rainfall and freshwater flooding will also contribute to high water levels.

Dangerous storm surge could also affect portions of the northeast coast of South Carolina coast tonight.

2: Life-threatening, catastrophic flash floods and prolonged significant river flooding are likely over portions of the Carolinas and the southern to central Appalachians from western

North Carolina into southwest Virginia through early next week, as Florence moves slowly inland.  In addition to the flash flood and flooding threat, mudslides are also possible in the higher terrain of the southern and central Appalachians across western North

Carolina into southwest Virginia.

3. Tropical storm conditions will continue along the coast within the tropical storm warning area and also well inland across portions of South Carolina and North Carolina.

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.

TROPICAL STORM ISAAC is not well organized, but it has strong thunderstorms near the rough center of circulation.  There is no problem for the next few days.  The question big is, what will happen after this weekend?

The primary computer forecast models keep Isaac weak and either push the remnants into Mexico or into the Gulf as simply a weak disturbance.  But other models show a stronger system slowly turning north toward the Gulf of Mexico.  The weather pattern in the western Caribbean and the Gulf will seemingly be somewhat conducive for redevelopment if enough of Isaac survives to take advantage of the favorable pattern, so we will have to keep an eye on the remnants next week to be sure it does not misbehave. 

The National Hurricane Center is forecasting Isaac to die out, but they acknowledge that the future is cloudy.

While we can’t rule out an effect on Florida, it appears unlikely at this time.

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 a threat to U.S. interests in the next 5 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.

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