Hurricane Florence, even downgraded to a tropical storm as it churned across the coasts of North and South Carolina, has been breaking historical rainfall and flooding records.
The storm is moving an average of 6 mph, which is slow enough to guarantee that the areas is passes over get drenched.
“The flood danger from the storm is more immediate today than when it made landfall 24 hrs ago,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a briefing. “This system is unloading epic amounts of rainfall: in some places, measured in feet, not inches.”
“We face walls of water.”
As the storm made landfall, the death toll was reported to be five, including a mother and infant whose car was crushed under a falling tree. A new report on Saturday from Carteret County Director of Emergency Services Stephen Rea on Saturday said that two more people died in Harkers Island, NC, which would bring the total to seven.
The rainfall totals have been historic, as Florence dumped 30.58 inches inches of rain on North Carolina, according to preliminary data from Saturday morning.
With a preliminary 30.58" so far, Florence has now broken the all-time North Carolina hurricane rainfall record.
It has also broken the all-time rainfall record for any East Coast state north of Florida.
And it's still raining. pic.twitter.com/sZT54KX17J
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) September 15, 2018
This would obliterate the previous record set by Hurricane Floyd in 1999 of 24.06 inches, considering that Florence has continued to rain throughout Saturday morning and afternoon, and the rain event was not even halfway over as of 11 a.m. Saturday. Meteorologist Ryan Maue tweeted that “4 Trillion gallons have fallen across state & 6 Trillion more are in the forecast.”
Climate change has made the atmosphere and the ocean warmer. Warmer air can hold more moisture, which can translate into enormous rain events. Meteorologists have been comparing the rain bands they are seeing with Florence to the rain bands that made Harvey such an extremely dangerous storm.
The extreme rainfall band is being driven by the long fetch of moisture flux convergence over the warm SSTs of the #GulfStream. This helps to reinforce the band as it rains out over over land in coastal NC.
— Philippe Papin (@pppapin) September 15, 2018
Despite the fake controversy of a Weather Channel reporter being accused of “exaggerating” how hard he was bracing against the wind while reporting in the storm, Florence blew wind gusts up to 70-80 mph across the Carolinas.
— NWS WPC (@NWSWPC) September 15, 2018
The area of North and South Carolina that Florence has hit hardest so far, compared to Harvey’s focus on Houston, is far less-densely populated. That doesn’t mean the populations in the storm’s track are not any less vulnerable, however. Nursing home residents sometimes sheltered in place instead of evacuating. Prisons in areas that were under orders to evacuate sometimes chose to stay put, and prisoners have been put to work making sandbags and likely will be part of any cleanup efforts after the storm.
As the storm’s rainfall moves inland, officials warned that the rainfall would be like a “fire hose” over the Charlotte, NC, which is the most populous metro area to feel Florence’s effects.
Gov. Roy Cooper said at a Saturday press conference that “Mountains areas can expect flooding and potential landslides starting tonight. Areas that never experienced flooding before may experience it now.”
In a press conference just moments ago, Gov. Cooper said, "Mountains areas can expect flooding and potential landslides starting tonight. Areas that never experienced flooding before may experience it now."
The latest on the storm: https://t.co/taHjBCP2ta https://t.co/jpGbyqq5qg
— WLOS (@WLOS_13) September 15, 2018
Officials warned residents who had evacuated not to return to their homes yet, as flooding risks will actually increase as all of the water being dumped inland comes rushing back to the sea via already-flooded streams and rivers, sometimes washing out roadways. A 33-mile stretch of Interstate 95 between Fayetteville and Dunn was forced to close completely on Saturday afternoon because of the storm.