Florence: Change in plan

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Remember all those details about exactly what Atlantic Hurricane Florence was going to do later this week? Well, the plan has changed in important ways. Mainly, the inland effects will be stronger, more to the south, and more concentrated in space. Read below for details.

Florence is now likely to stall on the coast longer. This is very bad news for people on the coast. I had suspected this, and intimated it earlier and now others are realizing as well. How did I know that? Random lucky guess. I also noted earlier the possibility that Florence would degrade from major hurricane to tropical storm while it’s eye was still off shore, and thus, never make eye landfall. That would allow Roger Pelike (Junior or Senior, either one) to leave Florence off the list of landfalling hurricanes, and thus, continue to claim that climate change is not a problem. But I digress. Here’s the skinny on the storm.

How strong will Florence be?

Florence is going to be a mid range Major Category 3 hurricane as it sidles up to the coast. As it makes landfall it will weaken to a strong Category 2 hurricane. That’s the important part. Florence may well reach Category 5 status while still out over the very warm Atlantic waters, and is now a Category 4 hurricane.

Where will Florence hit?

This is one of the things that has changed over the last day. Florence is now projected to shift a bit to the south. Bulls eye (the center of the range of possible landfalls) has moved from the Greenville area down to Willington, shifting from the middle of the North Carolina coast south to the North Carolina-South Carolina border. And, it is possible that as Florence comes ashore, it will shift even further to the left, heading straight west along the northern part of the Carolina coat.

More importantly, the likely landfall location of the CENTER of the very wide hurricane has shifted from somewhere near Cape Hatteras to central South Carolina to the south, and is now projected as somewhere between the middle of the North Carolina coast down to the Georgia-Florida border. Yes, it is possible that a half million of those evacuated are out of the woods and a whole bunch of people in Georgia who may have not bothered to evacuate are now looking into the maw of the beast.

Note: This could all change again over the next 24 hours. People tell you that you can’t predict what a hurricane is going to do several days out. That is true, but it is not that important to know. Here is what is important to know: When a Hurricane gets near land, all the things that influence the storm’s direction, strength, and forward motion change in highly unpredictable ways. You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t like the weather? Wait an hour, it will change!” Everybody says that everywhere, but it actually was invented along the Atlantic coast of the US, because of all the places in the world, that is where it is the most true, owing to various factors. That coastal effect in combination with the fact that the exact geography of the storm in relation to the land and human settlement determine the nature of the storm caused death and destruction means that even as the storm is plowing into land, it is hard to predict what will happen next.


Tropical storm force winds will start to come ashore on the barrier islands of the Carolinas during the night tonight. By tomorrow morning, sunup, there will be barrier island erosion well underway, and tropical storm force winds will be well inland.

Outer hurricane-strength bands of Florence could start to come ashore mid afternoon on Thursday. Since the coast juts out to the north and the hurricane may be making a move to the left (south), that could really vary.

All afternoon and night on Thursday, tomorrow, we will see the bad parts of the storm coming to land somewhere, with the powerful front right quadrant in contact with land near the eye before sunup on Friday.

Then, the storm may sit there from the wee hours of the morning on Friday until the wee hours of the morning on Saturday. There may be a period of 24 hours of hurricane right there somewhere near the North/South Carolina border.

Some time between the wee hours of the morning Saturday and early morning Sunday, the storm will degrade to a tropical storm, but it will not have moved very far inland. Then, over the next 24 hours, Florence should speed up and spread out bringing flooding rane inland in South Carolina, Georgia, and elsewhere.

Flooding Rains: The Big Difference

Yesterday we were talking about flooding rains across Virginia, North Carolina, and some or all of neighboring states. Virginia will still experience flooding rains, but not as much, according to current forecasts. Rather than a large widely dispersed rain accumulated rain patter, Florence now seems likely to dump huge amounts of rain in a smaller area. Southwestern North Carolina is now expected to receive over 10 inches everywhere, with two feet right along the coast.

Storm Surge

The storm surge is probably more of a problem with a stalled hurricane. Don’t be distracted by the actual amounts, though. Areas where there is expected to be a 7 or 8 foot storm surge have higher topography, while areas that are expected to have 3-5 feet of storm surge are low lying areas, where a 5 foot storm surge could overtop barriers or rework coastal landscape features.

Also, with two or more feet of rain coming from above, regions that back against the coast AND are expecting a high storm surge, may experience a sort of double whammy the likes of which are really seen, so we don’t really know what the are going to look like.

As always, this is all subject to revision.

From the National Hurricane Center:

Key Messages:

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. All
interests from South Carolina into the mid-Atlantic region should
complete preparations and follow any advice given by local

2. Life-threatening, catastrophic flash flooding and significant
river flooding is likely over portions of the Carolinas and
Mid-Atlantic states from late this week into 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, and a Hurricane Warning
is in effect. Strong winds could also spread inland into portions
of the Carolinas.

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


INIT 12/0900Z 29.0N 70.1W 115 KT 130 MPH
12H 12/1800Z 30.3N 72.1W 120 KT 140 MPH
24H 13/0600Z 32.0N 74.4W 125 KT 145 MPH
36H 13/1800Z 33.2N 76.1W 120 KT 140 MPH
48H 14/0600Z 33.8N 77.3W 105 KT 120 MPH…NEAR THE COAST
72H 15/0600Z 33.8N 78.2W 85 KT 100 MPH…NEAR THE COAST
96H 16/0600Z 33.6N 79.7W 45 KT 50 MPH…INLAND
120H 17/0600Z 34.2N 82.7W 25 KT 30 MPH…INLAND

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