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Wind, rain from Hurricane Florence could reach our region this weekend

J. H. Osborne • Sep 11, 2018 at 8:43 AM

Even though our region is hundreds of miles from the Atlantic coastline, you might want to keep an eye on Hurricane Florence.

As of Monday evening, Florence appeared to be on track to make landfall Thursday somewhere in the Carolinas as a major hurricane, according to its path as projected by the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center. And the storm system's wind and rain could reach hundreds of miles inland over the following days.

By 2 p.m. Friday, Florence could be a tropical storm (wind speeds between 39 mph and 73 mph) midway across the Carolinas. Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky stay within Florence's potential track area through the weekend with a 10 percent to 40 percent chance of winds up to 39 mph and rainfall totaling from 1-4 inches through Monday.

According to the sources cited below:

• Flooding from heavy rains is the second-leading cause of fatalities from landfalling tropical cyclones. Widespread torrential rains associated with these storms often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm has dissipated.

• In an average 3-year period, roughly five hurricanes strike the United States coastline, killing approximately 50 to 100 people anywhere from Texas to Maine. Of these, two are typically major hurricanes (winds greater than 110 mph).

• Florence's sustained winds on Monday evening were estimated at 140 mph.

• Hurricanes are given names by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) so that they can be distinguished. Each year, tropical storms are named in alphabetical order according to a list produced by the WMO. That name stays with the storm if it develops into a hurricane. The names can only be repeated after six years.

• Typical hurricanes are about 300 miles wide, although they can vary considerably in size. The eye at a hurricane's center is a relatively calm, clear area approximately 20-40 miles across. The eyewall surrounding the eye is composed of dense clouds that contain the highest winds in the storm. Hurricane-force winds can extend outward to about 25 miles in a small hurricane and to more than 150 miles for a large one. Tropical storm-force winds can stretch out as far as 300 miles from the center of a large hurricane.

• On Sept. 22, 1989, Hurricane Hugo made landfall just north of Charleston, South Carolina, as a Category 4 hurricane. After landfall, the storm gradually recurved northeastward, becoming extratropical over southeastern Canada on Sept. 23. Storm surge from Hugo inundated the South Carolina Coast from Charleston to Myrtle Beach, with maximum storm tides of 20 feet observed in the Cape Romain-Bulls Bay area.

• The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is the deadliest weather disaster in United States history. It hit Cuba as a tropical storm on Sept. 3 and moved into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico on Sept. 5, quickly growing in intensity and hitting the Texas coast on Sept. 8 as a Category 4 hurricane. After landfall, it turned northward through the Great Plains. It eventually crossed the Great Lakes, New England, and southeastern Canada. It was last spotted over the north Atlantic on Sept. 15. The death toll: 8,000.

• The Great Hurricane of 1926 moved directly over Miami Beach and downtown Miami during the morning hours of Sept. 18. This cyclone produced the highest sustained winds ever recorded in the United States at the time, and the barometric pressure fell to 27.61 inches as the eye passed over Miami. Its path of destruction would cost $90 billion or more today.

• Great Atlantic Hurricane 1944 caused 46 deaths and $100 million in damage in the United States, the worst effects occurred at sea, where it wreaked havoc on World War II shipping. Five ships, including a U.S. Navy destroyer and minesweeper, two U. S. Coast Guard cutters, and a light vessel, sank due to the storm, causing 344 deaths.

• Hurricane Donna in 1960 is one of the all-time great hurricanes and the only hurricane of record to produce hurricane-force winds in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic states and New England. Sombrero Key, Florida, reported 128 mph sustained winds with gusts to 150 mph. In the Mid-Atlantic states, Elizabeth City, North Carolina, reported 83 mph sustained winds, while Manteo, North Carolina, reported a 120 mph gust. In New England, Block Island, Rhode Island, reported 95 mph sustained winds with gusts to 130 mph.

• Hurricane Katrina, which hit in 2005, is one of the most devastating hurricanes in the history of the United States. It is the deadliest hurricane to strike the United States since the Palm Beach-Lake Okeechobee hurricane of September 1928. It produced catastrophic damage — estimated at $75 billion in the New Orleans area and along the Mississippi coast — and is the costliest U. S. hurricane on record.

Sources: National Weather Service, National Hurricane Center, National Geographic Kids, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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