USA – Rivers Hit Record Levels After Hurricane Florence Dumps 800mm of Rain

At least 10 people have died in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence made landfall in the state on 14 September. Between 20 and 33 inches (500mm to 838mm) of rain has fallen since 13 September and several rivers in the state have now reached record levels.

Heavy rain has also fallen in South Carolina, where rivers are extremely high and are expected to crest over the coming days. At least 4 deaths have been confirmed in South Carolina.

Coast Guard shallow-water response boat team members assist motorists stranded in flood water caused by Hurricane Florence in North Carolina, Sept. 16, 2018. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard photograph

Mass evacuations were ordered and widespread warnings issued in the days prior to Florence making landfall. Although the storm had weakened and was downgraded from a Category 4 hurricane to a tropical storm during the evening of 14 September, torrential rain and storm surge that could lead to coastal and inland (freshwater) flooding are of major concern.

On 14 September, widespread flooding was reported in coastal areas of North Carolina, in particular New Bern, Belhaven, Morehead City and the barrier islands. Since then flooding has continued and spread further inland. Governor Roy Cooper warned on 16 September “Flood waters are raging across our state and the risk to life is rising with the angry waters.”

Parts of North Carolina received 20 and 33 inches (500mm to 838mm) of rain from 13 to 16 September. Several rivers have reached levels higher than during Hurricane Floyd of 1999, and there could be more to come for North Carolina and neighbouring states.

National Weather Service warned via Social Media that “the flooding WILL GET WORSE in many locations across SC, NC and VA. River levels will continue to rise today and early this week. If you live near a body of water, don’t let your guard down and follow local evacuation orders!”

Rain

Many areas of North Carolina received over 20 inches of rain from 13 to 16 September. According to NWS figures, Swansboro recorded 33.89 inches (860 mm), Hofmann Forest 29.48 (748.79mm), Newport/Morehead City 25.20 (640.08mm) and Wilmington International Airport 23.59 inches (600mm).

In South Carolina, Marion recorded 18.13 inches (460.5mm) of rain from 13 to 16 September.

Rivers

NWS Newport / Morehead City said that rivers were rising across the region, with major and record flooding ongoing or expected in some areas. Some river gauges have been inundated or damaged making readings unavailable.

The Trent River at Trenton and North East Cape Fear River at Chinquapin both reached record levels. Earlier the Pungo River at Belhaven and Neuse River at various points including Oriental both exceeded record high levels.

Deaths and Damage

Three more storm-related deaths were confirmed on 16 September in Duplin County, North Carolina, bringing the official toll to at least 10 lives lost in the state. Other storm-related deaths occurred in the counties of Cumberland (2), Lenoir (2), New Hanover (2) and Wayne (1). More deaths are under investigation.

In South Carolina, storm-related deaths were confirmed in Union County (1), Georgetown County (1) and Horry County (2).

As of 15 September, nearly 20,000 people were housed in more than 150 shelters across North Carolina and 4,000 people in South Carolina.

More than 900 water rescues have been reported in North Carolina. Overnight 15 to 16 September, nearly 1,000 personnel from North Carolina and other states, FEMA, the National Guard and the Coast Guard deployed with more than 200 boats and several helicopters to conduct search and rescue operations, mostly in the southeast portion of the state. Officials anticipate rescue operations to continue for several days.

The storm also damaged roads and power supply. At one point more than 800,000 were without power in North Caolina and 61,000 in South Carolina.

North Carolina Department of Transport said that road conditions across most of the state are rapidly deteriorating, and flooding will remain a concern for the next several days. As of 16 September there were 171 primary roads closed, including sections of the I-95 and I-40.

U.S. Marines assigned to Combat Logistics Group 8 (CLB-8) drive through the rain to a local fire station in order to aid in evacuating victims of Hurricane Florence to shelter in Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele.
A 7-ton assigned to Combat Logistics Group 8 (CLB-8) passes by a flooded church road while in route to a local fire station to aid in evacuating victims of Hurricane Florence to shelter in Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 15, 2018. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele.