Florence: It's Now All About the Flooding

Sep 14, 2018

Hurricane Florence has slowed and is now crawling to the west at 6 mph. Life-threatening storm surge, inland flooding, and wind damage are imminent along the coast of North Carolina from Wilmington to the Outer Banks and stretching to northern portions of South Carolina through the day on Friday. Florence is forecast to move southwest along the coastline before turning to the northeast on Sunday.

An additional 15 inches of rain is expected for portions of southeastern North Carolina. As Florence moves inland, heavy rain and potential flooding be a growing concern. By Saturday afternoon, rain will have entered the Pee Dee region of South Carolina with 4-10 inches forecasted.

Several cells have moved onshore with embedded rotation. Tornadoes are still possible across eastern North Carolina through Friday, where a Tornado Watch is in effect until further notice.

Storm Surge Warnings continue for more than 350 miles of coastline from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina, including the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds and the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. Flood Warnings are in effect for multiple rivers, including the Pee Dee River At Cheraw in South Carolina where 10 to 20 inches of rainfall is likely due to Florence.

As of 12 pm Friday, Florence was a Category 1 storm with winds up to 80 mph. The storm is forecast to continue slowing down as it encounters slower winds aloft. Florence will continue to weaken as it interacts with cooler waters due to upwelling near the coastline of North Carolina.

The wind risk from Florence is greatest along the coast and along the northwestern side of the storm. Wind speeds are increasing in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina, and will move into the Mid-Carolina and Low-County regions on Saturday. Sustained winds up to 45 mph is possible, with gusts up to 60-70 mph. The wind damage risk from tropical-storm force winds will spread inland, likely as far as Charlotte and as far south as Charleston.

Life-threatening storm surge of 9 to 13 feet is expected from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout, including the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers. The storm surge is likely to be in the 6 to 9-foot range from North Myrtle Beach to Cape Fear, and Cape Lookout to Ocracoke Inlet. Four to 6 feet of storm surge is forecast from South Santee River to North Myrtle Beach, and Ocracoke Inlet to North Carolina-Virginia Border. Two to 4 feet of water above normally dry ground can be anticipated from Edisto Beach to South Santee River.

Catastrophic inland flooding will be a growing concern as Florence moves inland. Several Flash Flood Warnings are in effect across a large area of the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Appalachians.

In some areas, the heavy rain risk could continue through next Tuesday. Due to the slow nature of the storm, Florence could produce up to 24 inches of rain near and north of where it comes ashore over a three or four-day period. Rainfall totals further inland may also be this high over a five-day period as the storm slowly weakens and meanders through North or South Carolina. Amounts this high could not only cause flash flooding, many rivers are likely to experience major--possibly even catastrophic--flooding for several days following Florence.

Florence will continue to meander to the southwest, which means the potential for high winds and extreme rainfall could expand to include more of South Carolina.

The South Carolina Emergency Information Network will continue to monitor the progress of Hurricane Florence and provide updates on public radio stations throughout the state, and on the @SCPublicRadio social media accounts.