Florence has become a force to reckon with. The storm quickly intensified to a major hurricane late Monday morning and is now a very dangerous category 4 hurricane with winds of 140 mph.
Concerns for the Carolinas the Virginia are increasing by the hour as the forecast models are starting to agree on a track that heads toward the region.
As of Monday evening, Florence is moving west northwest at 13 mph and heading over warmer waters and less wind shear, which is conducive for maintaining or gaining intensity. The official forecast provided by the National Hurricane Center indicates the storm could be just shy of a catastrophic category 5 hurricane by Tuesday afternoon with winds of 155 mph.
Hurricane and Storm Surge Watches will be issued on Tuesday as the storm is expected to head toward the southeastern U.S., potentially making landfall, still as a category 4 hurricane, Thursday afternoon or night. It is important to know that the exact location of where the eye will track to is too soon to be determined. An area stretching roughly from Charleston, South Carolina to the Outer Banks in North Carolina is within National Hurricane Center’s cone of uncertainty.
Even then, the storm’s impacts will go well beyond the center of the storm. Regardless of where the storm makes landfall, Florence is expected to bring a tremendous storm surge that could be life threatening. On the other end of the spectrum, this storm will be a prolonged heavy rain event as the system starts to slow down after landfall. Freshwater flooding is to expected across the Carolinas and into the Mid-Atlantic States as rainfall in excess of 20 inches will be possible. Finally, the hurricane force winds could spread well inland into the Carolinas as well as Virginia.
For our region, an area of high pressure is expected to suppress Florence, keeping it from heading our way. While we are not expected to be directly impacted, swells created by Florence will propagate to our region. A high surf advisory has been posted across the entire coast. 6 to 9 foot waves will batter the ocean facing shoreline, bringing the risk of beach erosion and dangerous rip currents
Beyond the next five days, whatever is left of Florence is still to be determined. The storm could eventually rain itself out, or possibly get picked up by a cold front bringing some rain to our region during the weekend or early next week.