Could Hurricane Florence be Another Hugo for Appalachia?

National Weather Service - Projected path of Hurricane Florence
National Weather Service – Projected path of Hurricane Florence

This month marks the 29th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo making landfall in South Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane.  On September 22, 1989, the eye of the storm entered the continental US just north of Charleston, South Carolina, with sustained winds registering at 140mph and gusts measuring at speeds of up to 160 mph.

In the coming hours, the storm trekked northwestward toward western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia and was eventually downgraded to a tropical storm near the two states’ border in Grayson County, Virginia; however, parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains experienced more than seven inches of rainfall — leaving several schools in Southwest Virginia to closed for more than two weeks because of the wind and flooding damage.

By the following day, Hugo had weakened into a remnant low near Lake Erie, however, the storm remains the most intense tropical cyclone to strike the East Coast north of Florida since 1898. In total, the storm claimed the lives of an estimated 60 individuals and caused what equates to damages in excess of $18-billion in 2018 money.

Fast-forward twenty-nine years later and residents of Appalachia are again being warned by their states’ emergency management officials to prepare for what may be a “generational storm” as Hurricane Florence is expected to be just as strong at the time it makes landfall and is forecasted to possibly follow a similar path — albeit possibly farther to the north and slightly more eastern.

According to meteorologists at the National Weather Service, the arrival time of tropical force winds should be around Thursday at 8 p.m. for the Appalachian region of North Carolina and Virginia, with these areas seeing rainfall totals that could range from 2-5 inches, while central Virginia and Carolina may see anywhere from 10-15 inches of rainfall; however, emergency officials are quick to caution that these rainfall totals are entirely dependent upon the track of the storm and that they could dramatically increase or decrease based upon the hurricane’s path.

Emergency officials are encouraging residents of the many states forecasted to be affected by the storm to prepare by stocking on food and water, as well as having plans in place to remain safe should the storm cause localized flash flood or excessive wind damage.

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