Bigger, Slower, Weaker: As Hurricane Florence Nears the Coast, Here Are Five Things You Need to Know | News
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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Bigger, Slower, Weaker: As Hurricane Florence Nears the Coast, Here Are Five Things You Need to Know

Posted by on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 9:36 AM

1. Last night, Flo was downgraded to a category 2, which means it’s no longer considered a major hurricane. That’s not to say it won’t still be an ass-kicker, especially along the coast, where it will still pack winds in excess of 100 mph. In the Triangle, we’ve got about a 75 percent shot at seeing at least a minute of tropical storm-force winds—39 mph or above—according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Service. Wake County (though not Durham or Orange Counties) is under a tropical storm warning
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2. Hurricane categories are measured in wind strength, not rainfall totals—and in the Triangle, that’s primarily how Florence is going to make her presence felt. The image below is the three-day precipitation prediction from NWS Raleigh. As you might expect, they’re expecting huge amounts to the south and east—11 inches in Fayetteville, 10 inches in Smithfield, 8 inches in Fuquay-Varina—but less to the north and west—6 inches in Raleigh, 4.6 in Durham, just 3 inches in Winston-Salem.
click to enlarge rah.72hr.precip.png
3. While we seem to be getting off easier, the southern part of the North Carolina coast and the area over to Wilmington is going to get walloped—more than twenty inches of rain, perhaps upward of forty. (As I noted yesterday, that area has a pretty large concentration of the state’s twenty-two hundred hog farms—and a whole lot hog waste stored in uncovered lagoons that environmentalists worry could flood and contaminate, well, everything. The industry says everything is under control. I guess we’ll see.) There area between Cape Fear and Cape Lookout could see a storm surge of between nine and thirteen feet, which is crazy. The barrier islands could be underwater by Saturday.
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4. While the storm keeps tracking away from us, it has also gotten bigger. A few days ago, Florence looked prime to cruise straight down I-40, which was a rather frightening prospect. The image below—the 8:00 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center—is much kinder to North Carolina, though less so to our friends to the south. But the storm is nonetheless about five hundred miles in diameter, which is freaking huge, larger than North and South Carolina combined. Hurricane-force winds extend eighty miles out from the eye; tropical storm-force winds extend two hundred miles out. Florence is a big girl.
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5. So here’s what you can expect: By this afternoon, it’s going to get windier. Throughout the Triangle, by 4:00 p.m. we’ll see sustained winds of about 16–18 mph with gusts up to 25–29 mph. By the time you wake up tomorrow, you’ll be looking at sustained winds around 30 mph and gusts topping 40. And thereabouts we’ll stay for most of Friday into Saturday morning; all day Saturday, you’ll see winds somewhere in the mid-20s, then into the upper teens on Sunday. But again, for us, Florence is going to be all about the rain: And, well, it’s going to start tonight and just keep coming over the next few days. Flooding is possible, and authorities in both Raleigh and Durham are encouraging people in flood-prone areas to get the hell out.

Bonus round: President Trump, possessed of an impeccable sense of timing and class (and a stubborn refusal to learn to thread his tweets like a normal person), went full-on Hurricane Truther this morning, dismissing reports that three thousand Puerto Ricans died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria as a conspiracy theory cooked up by Democrats to harm him politically.

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