Hurricane Florence makes landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina


11:41pm Friday NZT --- Hurricane Florence has made landfall in Wrightsville Beach near the eastern United States city of Wilmington, North Carolina says the National Hurricane Center as of 11:40pm Friday NZT. Nearly half a million people are without power. Despite Florence dropping to a Category 1 Hurricane (with sustained winds of around 150km/h and gusts closer to 180km/h) the storm is expected to cause significant widespread damage due to the incredibly slow movement of the system along with torrential rain and storm surge across low lying dune communities - many will be entirely swamped.

Major flooding is already being reported. While winds aren't as bad as a Category 3 near the centre, the winds elsewhere haven't dropped in recent days. Slow movement of the overall hurricane means wind damage is more likely.

Power cuts and electrified water (from live powerlines in the water) are causing major issues tonight. Already the latest is that 430,000+ are without power in North Carolina, 5400 without power in South Carolina. These numbers are likely to jump very quickly in the hours ahead. Over 10 million people live in North Carolina and over 5 million people live in South Carolina.

CNN Senior Meteorologist Chad Myers says despite the storm dropping to a Category 1 hurricane the air pressure of the storm remained the same low pressure around 953/954hPa and says that is why the storm is producing Category 3 storm surge in places. He says the storm dropped categories because the wind speed at the centre reduced as the centre became much wider - but the overall hurricane retrained most of its power.

Significant storm surges are already destroying sand dunes and causing severe coastal flooding. Storm surges of over 3.3 metres, on top of high tide, plus hurricane force wind driven waves will push well inland and block rivers - rivers which are now in flood. There have already been 110 rescues, according to CNN. Flooding sounds serious across a number of communities and the situation is only getting worse.

An incredible 559mm (over half a metre, or 22 inches) of rain has already fallen in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina - this was just overnight local time. CNN Weather is now reporting 488mm from another location, which verifies these incredible totals. The storm hasn't even made landfall yet.

Florence is moving very slowly, just over 9km/h which is not much more than walking speed.

The main problem with Florence will be the incredibly slow movement which means this already torrential rain direct from the tropics will continue to fall over low lying, flooded, areas. The hurricane force winds may continue for several more hours, or longer. Storm surge (a dome of higher sea which inundates low lying areas) will continue to affect the coastlines of the Carolinas for the next 24 hours.

The storm may last for over a day before tracking inland as a major rain/flood event. "Recovery will be weeks and months" the Wilmington Fire Chief, Buddy Martinette, told CNN's John Berman a short time ago from North Carolina. 

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- Images above via CNN.

- Story by WeatherWatch.co.nz



 

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