Hur­ri­cane Florence

Florence made land­fall as a slow-mov­ing rain­maker with flood­ing that forced boat own­ers and builders to stay vig­i­lant

Soundings - - Contents -

leaves flood­ing and de­struc­tion in her wake, par­tic­u­larly in New Bern, North Carolina, where boat own­ers and builders were forced to stay vig­i­lant.

Capt. Lee Sykes started get­ting the May­day calls as soon as Hur­ri­cane Florence hit. De­spite days’ worth of evac­u­a­tion no­tices, weather fore­cast­ers beg­ging view­ers to take warn­ings se­ri­ously, and of­fi­cials urg­ing mil­lions of peo­ple to get the heck away from the Carolina coast­line, some boaters de­cided to stay and take their chances against an ap­proach­ing storm as big as the state of Michi­gan. They didn’t last long. Sykes, who op­er­ates the Tow­boatUS fran­chise in More­head City, North Carolina, says peo­ple aboard sail­boats in Beau­fort were call­ing for help from the water­front. He heard com­mer­cial fish­ing boats is­su­ing May­days. There were about a dozen calls in all. “Some of them were right af­ter it started, and some waited un­til it was up over 100mph winds,” Sykes says. “We ac­tu­ally could not re­spond then. We had to wait un­til that wind died down.”

Ev­ery­one, he says, was all right in the end. There wasn’t much talk­ing once he got to the boaters in dis­tress. “You can’t sit there and try to rea­son with some­one who was warned and put them­selves in that kind of jeop­ardy, and then put other re­sources in jeop­ardy when they got into a bad spot.”

Florence made land­fall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, as a slow- mov­ing rain­maker, drop­ping his­toric lev­els of wa­ter

and cre­at­ing flood­ing that shocked peo­ple who had lived in the coastal re­gions for decades. While early pre­dic­tions had been for a ma­jor wind event, Florence turned out to be a killer by pre­cip­i­ta­tion, with dozens of deaths re­ported, in­clud­ing some from rag­ing flood­wa­ters. The res­i­dents of Swans­boro, North Carolina, saw a record-set­ting 33.89 inches of rain —shat­ter­ing the all-time state record of 24.06 inches set in 1999 dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Floyd. Some rivers were pre­dicted to crest even higher than they did dur­ing the dev­as­tat­ing Hur­ri­cane Matthew in 2016.

“It was so much worse than we had thought,” says Avery Brooks, a life­long res­i­dent of New Bern, North Carolina, and as­so­ciate brand man­ager for Hat­teras Yachts, which is based there on the Neuse River. “It slowed down to a Cat­e­gory 1 and every­body breathed a sigh of re­lief, but then the wa­ter got higher than I’ve ever seen in my life.” And yet, while the Hat­teras fa­cil­ity was in the storm’s bull’seye, early re­ports were good from the ship­yard, where fin­ished hulls were stored to weather Florence’s worst punches. “It’s the way the fa­cil­ity is built,” Brooks says. “We have a big basin where we do de­liv­er­ies and put the boats in and out. But the places we were tuck­ing boats, they’re a lot far­ther back away from the river.”

Brian Hors­ley, a res­i­dent of North Carolina’s Outer Banks since the 1970s and a fish­ing guide there since the 1990s, says his boats were un­scathed af­ter be­ing put away in­side the Jones Brothers Marine fa­cil­ity at More­head City. “New Bern, their town docks, they had a bunch of boats sink,” Hors­ley says. “But if you’re not smart enough to move them, you get what you get.”

A cou­ple of days be­fore Florence hit, she was a Cat­e­gory 4 storm. Ex­perts were com­par­ing her to Hur­ri­cane Hugo, which slammed into the South Carolina coast as a Cat­e­gory 4 in 1989, with 140-mph sus­tained winds. But about 24 hours be­fore Florence’s outer bands started to hit the East Coast, the Hugo com­par­isons faded. She was still pow­er­ful— with wave heights at 83 feet and a breadth that left some 10 mil­lion Amer­i­cans un­der hur­ri­cane watches or warn­ings— but she was down­graded to a Cat­e­gory 2 as her wind speeds eased.

At that point, com­par­isons be­gan be­tween Florence and 1999’s Hur­ri­cane Floyd, a tor­ren­tial rain­maker that hit Cape Fear in North Carolina as a Cat­e­gory 2 and caused wide­spread flood­ing for weeks, with river basins ex­ceed­ing 500-year flood lev­els. When Florence did make land­fall near Wrightsville Beach, she was a Cat­e­gory 1 with winds of 90 mph, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter. Fore­cast­ers urged peo­ple to re­main vig­i­lant, not only in the face of her pow­er­ful storm surge, but also be­cause of her slow speed. She was mov­ing at just 4 mph, lin­ger­ing for days and pour­ing down rain, much like Hur­ri­cane Har­vey did last year. Har­vey dropped more than 40 inches of rain dur­ing four days over Texas and left 13,500 boats dam­aged or lost in the re­gion. The high­est rain­fall to­tal for Florence af­ter three days was just shy of 34 inches.

Florence, with her ex­ten­sive rain­fall, added to an in­creas­ing num­ber of storms that are slow­ing down, stick­ing around longer and drop­ping mon­strous amounts of rain. Re­search pub­lished in the sci­en­tific jour­nal Na­ture this past June showed that such storms are be­com­ing a trend, as global warm­ing heats the oceans. Jim Kossin, a Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion sci­en­tist at the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin- Madi­son, found that in the past 70 years, hur­ri­canes have slowed 10 per­cent over open wa­ters and 16

“It was so much worse than we had thought.” — Avery Brooks

per­cent on the U. S. Coast. “The last thing you want ( the hur­ri­cane) to do is stay in your neigh­bor­hood longer then they used to, and that’s what we found,” Kossin told the ABC af­fil­i­ate in Madi­son. Florence also took an un­usual track. Most hur­ri­canes hit the Caroli­nas from dif­fer­ent an­gles. About a week be­fore Florence struck, she was in a po­si­tion to­ward the north that usu­ally sends storms out to sea. Since 1851, 33 named storms have got­ten to the po­si­tion where Florence was swirling less than a week be­fore land­fall, and none of them hit the United States, ac­cord­ing to Colorado State Uni­ver­sity me­te­o­rol­o­gist Phil Klotzbach. The New York

Times re­ported that the last Cat­e­gory 4 storm to bar­rel straight at North Carolina the way Florence did was Hazel, in 1954.

Three days af­ter Florence made land­fall, the U.S. Coast Guard said ports at Wilm­ing­ton and More­head City, as well as Ge­orge­town, South Carolina, re­mained closed. The North Carolina Ports Au­thor­ity said ini­tial as­sess­ments showed dam­age to ware­houses and other build­ings, as well as “a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of downed empty con­tain­ers.”

In the good news cat­e­gory were early re­ports from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der was is­sued be­fore Florence hit—along with dooms­day pre­dic­tions. The Outer Banks’ low-ly­ing is­lands are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some of the fastest rates of sea-level rise in the world, ac­cord­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press, with pro­jec­tions that oceans will rise more than 6 feet by the end of this cen­tury, wash­ing over towns at high tide. But with Florence, quite a few news­cast­ers used the phrase “dodged a bul­let” to de­scribe the Outer Banks. Res­i­dents re­turned to find min­i­mal dam­age, and no in­juries or deaths. Sand dunes ap­peared gen­er­ally okay and har­bors were empty, with just a few boats scat­tered.

Hors­ley, the long­time Outer Banks fish­ing guide, said a few days af­ter the storm that lo­cals were ex­pect­ing to be with­out power for weeks. Re­ports were still com­ing in of dam­age to lo­cal mari­nas. “Some of the dry stacks in At­lantic Beach got dam­aged pretty se­verely,” he says. He hadn’t heard any re­ports about aids to nav­i­ga­tion or shoal­ing at Ore­gon In­let, but he wasn’t ex­pect­ing it to be worse for the wear. “Storms change things; they al­ways do,” he says. “We had one eve- ning with a rain band that blew 50, but the rest of the time it blew 30 to 40. We get that all win­ter. So I am go­ing to say that aids to nav­i­ga­tion in and around Ore­gon In­let are about as good as they’ve al­ways been.”

The Cape Look­out Na­tional Seashore— pop­u­lar among boaters for fish­ing, camp­ing and bird- watch­ing— was closed for at least two weeks so the Na­tional Park Ser­vice could as­sess dam­age. The seashore’s iconic light­house, opened in 1859, made it through the storm, but a num­ber of cab­ins, road­ways and dunes were de­stroyed. Early re­ports were that Florence did not cre­ate any new in­lets, and that the area’s beloved wild horses seemed to be all right.

At Hark­ers Is­land Fish­ing Cen­ter on the Outer Banks, Rob Pas­field was in a sur­pris­ingly good mood. When Hur­ri­cane Matthew bar­reled through in 2016, his ma­rina got torn to bits and his docks ended up in his park­ing lot. Florence was the first big test of his new con­crete docks. “We did all right,” he told

Sound­ings. “It’s tore up, we’re out of power, but we’re still here.”

Sykes, the Tow­boatUS op­er­a­tor from More­head City, said many of the calls he was get­ting three days af­ter the storm were for haz­ardous ma­te­ri­als. Nu­mer­ous water­front fa­cil­i­ties had old oil vats and fuel tanks that were re­leas­ing into the wa­ter. Beyond that, he said, peo­ple were still try­ing to fig­ure out just how bad the dam­age re­ally was. In some places, he said, there was cause for se­ri­ous con­cern. “A lot of mari­nas are to­tally wiped out,” Sykes says. “Our crews are over at the Crow’s Nest fa­cil­ity, and the dry stack col­lapsed with the boats in­side. We’ve got a 60-foot yacht at a ho­tel. The surge drove it up into the build­ing. That’s in New Bern.”

Al­most a week af­ter the storm made land­fall, many eyes re­mained on New Bern, the city that con­tin­ued to lead na­tional news­casts with flood­ing emer­gen­cies and rivers still ris­ing. Jeff Don­ahue, long a skip­per with Hat­teras and Cabo Yachts, was the first em­ployee to reach the ship­yard af­ter flood­wa­ters on the main road went down enough that he could get his truck through. He used the flash­light on his smart­phone to take a look around. The main build­ing, a good 25 feet above river height, was to­tally dry, and all the boats that had been tucked in­side were okay.

Said Don­ahue, “As soon as we get power, we’ll get the build­ing up and run­ning. But our first pri­or­ity is our peo­ple. Some have dam­age at home to take care of. When they’re ready, they’ll come back.”

Hur­ri­cane Florence wreaked havoc in a ma­rina in New bern, Nor•h Caroli­nam

A sail­boa• res•s agains• a col­lapsed garage in New bernm

A mo•or­boa• •ook ou• a garage in New bernm

Hur­ri­cane Florence as seen from •he In•erna•ional Space S•a•ionm

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.