N.C. may see 15 more inches of rain from record storm
Despite its weakened status to a tropical storm, Florence has deluged parts of the North Carolina coastline with torrential and historic amounts of rain. Many areas in southeastern North Carolina have endured 15 to 30 inches of rain and up to another 15 inches could fall.
The rain is resulting in a catastrophic flooding in southeast North Carolina which is spreading into the interior, reaching even into the population centers of Raleigh and Charlotte. Already, the event has broken North Carolina’s state record for most rain in a tropical storm or hurricane, with a preliminary report over 30 inches.
The floodwaters are expected to push many rivers to all-time record high levels and, toward the mountains of western North Carolina and southwest Virginia, may spur life-threatening landslides.
The Associated Press reports the storm may unload 18 trillion gallons of rain on the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. “Florence’s 18 trillion gallons is as much water as there is in the entire Chesapeake Bay,” its article says. “It’s also enough to cover the entire state of Texas with nearly four inches of water.”
Onslow County, located about 50 miles to the northeast of Wilmington, has been hit particularly hard. The National Weather Service office in Newport, North Carolina, (located on the eastern edge of Onslow County) recorded a storm total of 23.75 inches just after midnight.
A citizen weather observer posted a total of 30.58 inches of rain in Swansboro, which is in Onslow County, and would be a state a record for a tropical storm or hurricane if verified. While the amount is unofficial, it would shatter the old record of 24 inches — set near Wilmington during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Florence is forecast to “drop almost double” the volume of rain over the state compared to Floyd, tweeted Ryan Maue, meteorologist for weathermodels.com.
Since making landfall at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina on Friday morning, Florence’s forward speed has slowed down dramatically, with the storm’s center of circulation only about 100 miles away from Wrightsville Beach a full 24 hours after landfall. The storm’s slow and parallel movement to the coastline created several bands of heavy rain, capable of producing 2 to 4 inches of rain per hour, sitting over the same locations for essentially the last day and a half.
Florence will continue to move very slowly to the southwest on Saturday, which in turn will drag the axis of heavy rain bands to the southwest as well. That should spell some relief for the inundated areas of Onslow County, but unfortunately puts the city of Wilmington, southeast coastal communities of North Carolina and northeast areas of South Carolina in the line of fire instead.
Most of the rivers in northeast South Carolina and eastern North Carolina are experiencing moderate to major flooding and, in some cases, many continue rising well into next week as floodwaters from the interior flow downstream.
The Cape Fear River in Fayetteville, North Carolina, is forecast to rise an astonishing 45 feet by Tuesday.
Flooding concerns extend beyond the coast of North Carolina as well. Flash flooding has spread into Raleigh and will expand over Charlotte as well, where flash flood advisories are in effect.