Florence made landfall Friday morning over Wrightsville Beach and has since slowed down to a crawl – literally – at 2 mph you can walk faster than Florence was moving Saturday morning. It’s that slow movement that is making Florence such an intense and prolonged threat to the Carolinas, despite having weakened slightly to a tropical storm by Friday afternoon.
The storm stalling out over the Carolinas keeps it close enough to the coast to continue pulling in moisture from the Atlantic ocean, while focusing the heavy rains over one region for days. So far preliminary reports (meaning they have not been made official by the National Weather Service and are subject to adjustments) are showing totals upwards of 20+ inches and there’s more on the way.
This kind of rain is record breaking. A preliminary report of 30.58 inches in Swansboro, NC would easily break the record for most rainfall from a tropical cyclone in North Carolina state history. The current record is 24.06 inches, which fell during Floyd in 1999 near the coastal city of Southport.
Other records falling because of Florence are only from a few years ago. When Hurricane Matthew moved up the East Coast back in 2016 it also triggered record breaking river flooding across North Carolina. The Cape Fear River at Wilmington broke the record set by Matthew on Friday, according the Wilmington National Weather Service office:
Cape Fear River at Wilmington has reached an all-time high level of 8.27 feet – this beats past records from Matthew (8.2') and Hazel. pic.twitter.com/lgfGxwoQqv
— NWS Wilmington NC (@NWSWilmingtonNC) September 14, 2018
Several other rivers, many of which hold record flood levels from Matthew or Floyd, could also see new records set from Florence.
This is a good example of how the impacts of a hurricane are not always dependent on their category. NOAA estimates that 4 out 5 deaths in the US related to tropical cyclones are caused by flooding.
Florence will linger where it is through this weekend, potentially dropping another foot of rain over the eastern Carolinas. Overall storm totals from Florence are expected to reach near 40 inches in Southeastern North Carolina.