Metro

Dave Epstein

Here’s what we know about the track and strength of Hurricane Florence

As of early Tuesday morning, Hurricane Florence continues to be a formidable storm moving toward the United States. This system will affect the southeastern part of the US coastline beginning late Wednesday, but the bulk of the impact will occur later Thursday and Friday.

NHC
The latest track of Florence as of Tuesday morning.

It’s important to remember that hurricane forecasts for both track and intensity are still subject to change. Much of what we’ve heard so far relies on the upper limits of this hurricane being reached. Part of the reason for continually mentioning the worst case scenarios is that, if the worst were to occur and residents didn’t plan, it could result in an even greater loss of life and property. What you may be hearing about this storm isn’t fear mongering — the potential of the storm is so great. With all of this in mind, it’s rare for a hurricane to strike this part of the United States as a category 4.

NOAA/National Hurricane Center
Hurricane watches are posted for much of the South and North Carolina coasts and up to southern Virginia.

High pressure to the north of the hurricane is steering it toward the North Carolina coastline. Computer models continue to show that the most likely scenario is Florence hitting that area sometime later Thursday to early Friday. If you are in these areas, or have ties there, take the warning and evacuation orders seriously.

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The worst damage will occur to the north of where the hurricane makes landfall. This is because the counterclockwise wind will blow the water onshore north of the storm, but actually move the water further out to sea south of the center. The difference in shoreline damage on the right versus the left side of the storm will be amazing. This is why people who are south of the center will say after the storm it wasn’t so bad, but because the point of crossing isn’t known, a wide area will be under a hurricane warning soon.

Wave heights will exceed 20 feet as Florence approaches the coastline.
NOAA
Wave heights will exceed 20 feet as Florence approaches the coastline.

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The official forecast track from the National Hurricane Center has slowed down a little bit overnight. Another aspect of the forecast to notice is the highest intensity of the storm is predicted to occur before landfall, and then there is likely to be some minor weakening prior to the eye crossing the land. This doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a big storm, but a lessening of the wind prior to landfall would be a great thing and not surprising.

One of the hurricane models that forecasters use also shows this storm weakening before landfall. Again, weakening doesn’t mean it’s not a big storm, it just means that we may go lower in category as the storm approaches the coastline.

Once the storm reaches land, it will quickly lose its tropical characteristics, and the ferocity of the wind will diminish greatly. It’s easy to see this on some of the model forecasts that we use. Notice on the chart below that the hurricane goes from a possible category 4 all the way down to a category 1 in just 24 hours. Hurricanes need the warm waters of the ocean to survive, and as soon as they go over land, they lose that sustaining energy. The mountains of North Carolina will also help to rip this hurricane apart.

Tropical Tidbits
Hurricane Florence could reach category 5 status before hitting land.

There is going to be a lot of rain with this storm, but it appears the heaviest of the rain will remain confined to the eastern part of South and North Carolina as well as Virginia. While those areas will experience major flooding, the more rural and mountainous areas to the west should be spared extreme rainfall.

Rainfall will be very heavy north of the storm.
NOAA Wilmington, N.C.

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There will be new updates about the storm throughout the next couple of days, with changes in the track coming in each day at 5 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m., and 11 p.m. Any moisture from this storm isn’t likely to reach New England before next week, if it ever does. For us here in the Northeast, it actually looks like a nice weekend ahead.