Hurricane Florence Weakened, Still Serious Threat
Although Florence has weakened to a Category 2 hurricane, this storm is certainly still a very serious threat for the North Carolina coast.
The National Hurricane Center is highlighting the chances of up to 40 inches of rain in localized areas, with a large area of 20+ inches of rain possible. The primary reason that Florence is going to be such a prolific rainmaker is that the storm is forecast to slow down as it approaches the coast. It will then drift slowly westward as it weakens. While it will not stop moving completely like Harvey did last year, it will be proceeding very slowly during the next 48 hours.
While the storm surge numbers have slightly decreased, they still look to be potentially devastating, especially on the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.
Additionally, the maximum winds have weakened considerably from 130 mph to 105 mph, but the radius of hurricane-force and tropical storm-force winds has expanded a bit. Hurricane-force winds now extend up to 70 nautical miles away from the center of the storm (compared with 60 nautical miles yesterday at this time) and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 170 nautical miles away from the center of the storm (compared with 150 nautical miles yesterday at this time).
Even though the wind threat has somewhat diminished, the surge numbers have only dropped slightly so the flooding threat remains. This is another case where the Saffir-Simpson category does not do a storm justice. Similar to Hurricane Ike in 2008, this storm will have much more surge than one would typically expect with a Category 2 hurricane due to its size. Also, its slow speed is likely to cause a huge flood threat. This will be another hurricane where water is the primary threat, with wind being a significant (but less severe) issue.
About the Author:
Dr. Phil Klotzbach has received national and international attention for his work in researching weather patterns and forecasting hurricanes. He currently is lead author on Colorado State University's Atlantic basin hurricane forecasts which he releases every year with his colleague Dr. Michael Bell.