Hurricane Florence recently dumped between 23 to 33 inches of water on areas of coastal North Carolina. Mandatory evacuations of the Carolina coasts took place before the storm hit, and river flooding has caused evacuations in more inland areas. The damage associated with Florence has been called catastrophic and devastating.
But Florence was “only” a Category 2 storm at landfall.
The Saffir-Simpson scale assigns tropical systems a category based on wind speeds, as shown in this table:
Many Americans, especially those who live near the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, are familiar with this scale, and assess the danger of a storm based on its category. A Category 4 or 5 storm causes much more alarm than a Tropical Storm or a Category 1 hurricane. So understandably, when Florence went from a Category 4 to a Category 2 as it approached the US, many people believed that the storm had been overhyped or poorly forecasted, and that it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as meteorologists were claiming.
Therein lies the problem with the Saffir-Simpson scale. The scale is only based on wind speed, with no regard for rainfall, flooding, or storm surge. These were the true threats associated with Florence, and with 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, which did much of its damage as a Category 1 hurricane and a tropical storm. Yes, winds are a major component of a hurricane and can do a lot of damage. Water, however, is more dangerous than wind. Flooding destroys homes and the personal items within them. Moving floodwater, especially powerful storm surge, can sweep away people, cars, even homes built close to the shoreline. Trees in wet soil are more likely to be uprooted and fall over, crushing buildings. Mudslides can occur in hilly or mountainous terrain.
Between Harvey and Florence, it has become clear that a new, more detailed hurricane classification system is necessary. In the meantime, broadcast meteorologists and the public alike must remember to look beyond a storm’s category. Just because a storm is a Category 1 doesn’t mean it won’t bring large, destructive amounts of water with it.
It is important for water impacts to be better communicated as part of hurricane coverage. Perhaps a new scale will be developed in the future. In the meantime though, make sure to pay attention to rain totals and expected storm surge should you find yourself in a hurricane situation.
©2018 Meteorologist Margaret Orr
Photo Credit: NOAA/NESDIS https://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/content/hurricane-florence-nears-east-coast
Rainfall total source: https://abcnews.go.com/US/hurricane-florence-numbers-latest-power-outages-rain-totals/story?id=57819104
DISCUSSION: As of this past Friday morning, Hurricane Florence finished the long journey to North America and made a historic landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. However, one of the more notable aspects about this particular tropical cyclone were the long-duration rainfall and wind impacts across a number of different cities in both North Carolina and South Carolina. Attached above is a brief video briefing which discussed some of these longer duration impacts and why they occurred. Be sure to watch and learn more about this historic hurricane which has now been downgraded to a tropical depression. Also, attached at the top is a shot of Hurricane Florence when the storm was all the way up at Category 4 status over the open waters of the tropical Atlantic Ocean.
To learn more about other weather safety and preparedness issues and/or topics from around the world, be sure to click here!
© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Planning for Soon-to-be Hurricane Florence Impacts across the East Coast of the United States? (credit: Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz)
DISCUSSION: When it comes to dealing with coastal and semi-inland logistical and personal preparations out ahead of a developing and/or an approaching tropical cyclone, there is no question that there are many critical decisions which can either be made or not made. For instance, in the critical days ahead of a given tropical cyclone landfall, any local citizen in the path of what is more than likely soon-to-again-be Hurricane Florence can make certain conscious decisions which can make them either safely or more vulnerable to any and all potential upcoming impacts. Thus. there are some core fundamental questions which one should ask themselves (i.e., right now so there is still sufficient time prepare adequately) in advance of Hurricane Florence.
One such question could be something as simple as "Is my house as hurricane-ready as possible? Or, have I purchased enough drinking water and non-perishable foods to last through at least 5 to 7 days? That is, so one is prepared to endure a period of time where government-based storm-relief aid may not be able to arrive due to the severity of what could be a rough post-storm aftermath as a result of wind and/or flooding damage. A great example for proof and point of what a tropical cyclone can do to a region is the image attached above which is a shot of what Houston-Hobby International Airport looked like in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Another pivotal question may be "Should I be safe enough to stay where I am or should I evacuate?" This question can often be answered by simply listening to and heeding advice and/or recommendations from local law enforcement while also supplemented that information with the key messages being sent out from your local National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office as well as the NWS National Hurricane Center office.
If what is soon-to-again-be Hurricane Florence does end up squaring up the Mid-Atlantic coastline for a direct hit somewhere between South Carolina and Virginia as is currently the predominant forecast track thinking, there are some MAJOR things to consider. First off, all people living within at least 25 to 50 miles of the coastline will want to get a hold of as many emergency supplies as possible so there is as much solid preparation out ahead of a potential head-on strike as possible. This makes in-storm emergency response logistics much simpler when nearly everyone in the path of an approaching intense tropical cyclone has sufficient protective shelter and survival resources at their disposal. Thus, the bottom line is that with a currently landfall time-frame of later Thursday evening (09/13), there is still plenty of time to pack things up and get out of the way if a person or family feels safest going that route or making things and their situation as hurricane-safe as possible. However, the time to act is between now and Wednesday evening to remain as safe as possible and to avoid congesting regional highways and such. Take action now and be prepared!
To learn more about other important weather preparedness topics and issues from around the world, be sure to click here!
© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
DISCUSSION: With us now fast-approaching the climatological peak of the 2018 Tropical Atlantic hurricane season (i.e., the period of time during which tropical cyclone formation is often found to occur most frequently over the course of recorded history), there are things you should know ahead of time. First and foremost, ahead of any tropical storm you ever experience, it is absolutely critical to always have a solid, concrete plan in place well in advance of any given tropical cyclone season so you are always ready to act. In addition, you should have other back-up contingencies ready to go as well so you are not stuck with nowhere to go if the worst should happen and your back-up plan will not end up being a viable plan.
In any evacuation plan, one should always be sure to have at least the following items in their emergency kit: extra batteries of varying types for various devices you may have with you and need, at least a week to 10-day supply of water and non-perishable food items, prescription medications, blankets, a basic first aid kit, flashlight, a batter-powered or hand-cranked weather radio, cell phone with the corresponding charger and a back-up charged battery supply (if physically possible), and local and/or regional maps of your state and other nearby states (for any situation in which you need to evacuate to unfamiliar areas away from your home city). Thus, there is quite a bit you should be ready to have on-hand at a moment's notice and especially if you live within 100 miles of a given coastal region along the U.S. Gulf and/or East Coast.
Thus, the idea is to be ready well ahead of any potential natural disaster threat imposed by an incoming tropical storm and to never "wait until the time comes" since that may honestly create major logistical problems for you and your family/friends. This is because just prior to the landfall of any more intense tropical cyclone, a good portion of the general public from any larger metropolitan region and nearby suburbs will always make a "last-minute rush" to grab food from local grocery stores and home improvement stores to pick up emergency supplies of varying types. This makes for a VERY hectic situation and nightmarish pre-storm process in any larger city and makes the advanced pre-storm planning that much more valuable.
To learn more about this important pre-storm planning topic and what else there is that you could know and do ahead of a storm (courtesy of the www.ready.gov website), feel free to click here!