Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Eye on a Hurricane

Like many Americans, especially those who call the Eastern Seaboard of the United States home, I have been following online and social media reports on Hurricane Florence and its steadfast onslaught into the Carolinas.  Those of us here in northern New England never had anything to fear from this storm save some rough surf and riptides in certain areas.  And this morning the outer most bands of the remnants of Florence pressed through southern Maine with nothing more that a few light rain showers.

During the storm’s initial approach toward the southeastern United States there was some very real concerns that, due to the fact that it was predicted to make landfall as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane - one of the largest hurricanes (and a “very wet” one according to President Trump) to strike the Eastern Seaboard in several decades.  The effects of the storm might be felt as far north as Maryland (including Washington, DC), as well as down into central Georgia.  As a result, I was concerned for our home and neighbors in the DC suburbs along with many friends in the eastern regions of the Carolinas, some of whom were under a mandatory evacuation order as the storm approached.  I can only hope they heeded the warning and left.  It makes no sense to ride out a storm of this predicted magnitude.  There is absolutely nothing one can do to keep it off its destructive path as reports have shown over the past few days.
Lucky for some, but not for others, the storm made a slight jog to the southwest and was downgraded to a Category 1 storm before it made landfall in the vicinity of Wilmington, North Carolina and the Cape Fear River.  Unfortunately those in the Carolinas withstood the full brunt of Florence’s fury with destructive winds, heavy rainfall, and massive storm surges along the coastline.  I spoke with friends at home in Maryland and northern Virginia and they reported only dreary skies and light rain as the outer bands of the storm skirted the region. 

Still, eyes remained on the Carolinas where some areas were inundated with 30+ inches of rain breaking a record almost two decades old when Hurricane Floyd drenched the region in 1999.  An additional three to six inches were still possible in some of the hardest hit areas in southeastern North Carolina and adjacent areas of South Carolina while and additional ten inches of rainfall were expected in the higher mountainous terrain of western North Carolina before the storm system finally shifted northward.

The storm’s fury may have abated in the Carolinas which now must contend with record flooding and several storm related deaths.  Interstates 95 and 40 have been closed due to flooding as many rivers in the Eastern Carolinas are cresting at near or above record flood levels further complicating efforts to restore the region’s vital infrastructure including power outages to several hundreds of thousands of customers.  
But no one was out of the woods yet as Florence, now downgraded to a tropical depression, turned northward yesterday with the promise of heavy rains expected in southwestern and western Virginia.   It was also predicted that the DC metro area could receive upwards of three inches.  Its power significantly diminished as it moved inland, Florence still packed a powerful punch, bringing strong thunderstorms and floods east of the Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as spawning tornadoes in and around Richmond, Virginia.  The DC area also experienced strong thunderstorms and upwards of two inches of rain last night and widespread flooding continues.

Last night I watched the sun set over the lake here in Maine as it illuminated the outer bands of the rain that would arrive overnight.  We have lived through some hurricanes up here and so we were not going to take our eyes off this one until it was well past us.   After some light rain showers this morning, the final remnants of Florence began to  succumb to the colder waters of the North Atlantic.   Gone but not soon to be forgotten.

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