Editor’s note: In a press conference Tuesday morning, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster lifted the mandatory evacuation for Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties. To read more, click here.
Hurricane Florence is forecast to make landfall later this week as a Category 3 storm with 115 mph winds near Wilmington, North Carolina. But communities along the North and South Carolina coast will likely see storm surge and damaging winds as Florence comes ashore.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington expects to start predicting the storm surge over the next two days, according to Steve Pfaff with the NWS. “Somewhere along the Carolinas will see a surge, we just don’t know where yet,” he said.
“There’s going to be a lot of water where we don’t want it,” Pfaff warned in a Monday morning media briefing.
If Florence hits as predicted, the communities along the waterways and on the coast around Wilmington could see a storm surge of 9 feet or more above ground level, according to federal storm surge estimates.
The National Hurricane Center’s storm surge unit has a map tool that people can use to zoom in and see what could happen to their community depending on the strength of the storm.
Florence is also expected to bring heavy rains, but the storm surge map does not take that flooding into account.
A storm surge is created by winds of a hurricane pushing ocean water toward the coast. The Hurricane Center explains: “Adding to the destructive power of surge, battering waves may increase damage to buildings directly along the coast. Water weighs approximately 1,700 pounds per cubic yard; extended pounding by frequent waves can demolish any structure not specifically designed to withstand such forces.”
Along with the storm surge, winds from Florence are expected to cause major damage. National Hurricane Center forecasters expect the storm to come ashore with 115 mph winds.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency warns that Cat 3 winds will snap or uproot many trees and cause major damage to even well-built famed houses.
“Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days or weeks after the storm passes,” FEMA notes.
The Weather Channel explains that the winds from a Category 3 story will destroy or cause severe damage to all mobile homes. Older metal builds and concrete buildings without reinforcements could collapse, the Weather Channel notes.
Hugo in 1989 was the last major hurricane to hit the South Carolina coast. According to the National Hurricane Center, “Storm surge from Hugo inundated the South Carolina Coast from Charleston to Myrtle Beach, with maximum storm tides of 20 ft observed in the Cape Romain-Bulls Bay area.”
Hurricane Floyd came ashore in North Carolina as a Category 2 in 1999, bringing a 9 to 10-foot storm surge, according to the National Hurricane Center.