At the time of this writing, the Carolinas have only been hit by one Category 4 storm in modern history. As of Tuesday evening, Hurricane Florence was a Cat 4 on track to make landfall in North or South Carolina on Thursday night.
“There’s never been a storm like Florence. It was located farther north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we’re forecasting is unprecedented,” said Accuweather Vice President Marshall Moss on Tuesday, “Most storms coming into the Carolinas tend to move northward, and this storm looks like it’s going to stall over the region and potentially bring tremendous, life-threatening flooding.”
Tuesday was a very strange day on the Outer Banks. It was 85 degrees and sunny in Buxton, North Carolina. There was an overhead swell hitting with light onshore winds but not many takers. But hundreds of miles away, east of the Bahamas, Florence was on a northwest track with winds at 130 mph. One million people were being evacuated from its path. All facilities at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore were already closed.
On Tuesday afternoon North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper stated, “The waves and wind in this storm may be like nothing you have ever seen. Even if you’ve ridden out storms before, this one is different. Don’t bet your life on riding out this monster.”
Hurricane Season on the East Coast is a special time for East Coasters, when swell and warm waters combine. Florida and the Caribbean will certainly get waves, but the focus at this point is on life and communities. Boats are being pulled. Windows are being boarded up. Dunes are already seeing overwash across highways. Emergency plans are going into effect.
Florence is forecasted to hit the coast at a rare 90 degree angle. When this Cape Verde storm formed, it was originally thought to be curving north and out to sea. But a strong high pressure system blocked the storm, forcing it toward the Southeast coast. As of now, the most probable landfall looks to be around Wilmington, North Carolina, a city of 117,000 people on the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean.
The states of North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina along with Washington, D.C. have all declared a State of Emergency.
Not everyone is leaving.
Buxton, NC pro surfer Brett Barley, who has lived in this town his entire life, commented on Facebook Tuesday that he was going to ride the storm out.
“Truss roof, sturdy build, higher safe ground. Still will prepare for flooding never seen before, if this thing comes straight at us with a 15-foot surge and 40-foot seas, and fills up the sedge via the ocean. Dramatic thought? Maybe, but would rather it pass and think ‘That was overkill.’ Boarding every window tomorrow and hanging on.”
On Monday evening, Barley had posted a video of himself scoring the warm, blue tropical fruits of Florence in his hometown.
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Tickin all the boxes on this one from today. My last surf before #HurricaneFlorence. Time to batten down the hatches and hold on! – Video: @jeffrey.oneil – @oneillusa @sanuk @smithoptics @realwatersports @onamissionsurf @super_brand @soloshotupdates @futuresfins @leus @rawelementsusa
But the coast isn’t the only area watching Florence. When this storm pushes inland, it is likely to stall out, dumping record rains on the Carolinas and Virginia. The wet summer has left soil already saturated, meaning floods are a very real threat.
“It’s going to be bad,” said David Zell, co-owner of Oak City Cycling Project in Raleigh, some 120-miles inland. “People are already talking about low lying properties or yards that slope toward buildings. They’re building sandbag dams to divert the floods. The bakery across the street from the shop is out of bread and the supermarkets are all out of water.”
He said the cycling community is already planning to do a trail maintenance on Sunday of the city’s Greenway System, 150-miles of paved trails that many use for recreation or commuting.
“A lot of those are in low lying areas. We’re already talking getting out there with chainsaws to remove debris if it’s not flooded,” added Zell.
The state of North Carolina is advising residents to prepare to lose power for several days or even weeks. They’re being told to gather emergency supply kits with enough bottled water and non-perishable food to sustain each family member for three to seven days, collect necessities such as weather radio, flashlight, extra batteries, toiletries, change of clothes, blankets or sleeping bag, rain gear and appropriate footwear, know their evacuation route and find out where friends and loved ones will be and how to get in touch with them.
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