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Wednesday December 7th

'We just need to be aware and be smart': NC hurricane season predicted to be above-average

Satellite image of Hurricane Florence on Friday, September 14, 2018.
Photo Courtesy of CNN Weather.
Buy Photos Satellite image of Hurricane Florence on Friday, September 14, 2018. Photo Courtesy of CNN Weather.

Rainy days may be ahead for North Carolinians, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted this hurricane season will bring above-average hurricane activity in an Aug. 4 press release.

Forecasters from the organization said the likelihood of an above-normal season is 60 percent. The likelihood of near-normal activity sits at 30 percent and chances for a below-normal season are at 10 percent.

While the Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, the first major hurricanes typically begin in late August or early September.

Matthew Rosencrans, the lead for the seasonal hurricane outlook for NOAA, said about 75 percent of activity occurs after Aug. 20, with peak activity occurring on Sept. 10.

He added that about 60 to 90 days after the intense heat of the summer solstice, changes in wind patterns occur. These changes can lead to the formation of tropical storms, which can develop into hurricanes. 

Rosencrans also said the biggest impact of hurricane activity in inland North Carolina is typically flooding.

He added that tropical storms can bring six to ten inches of rain well away from the storm, with the storm’s remnants leading to inland flooding.

“So people even inland really need to pay attention to the tracks of these storms,” Rosencrans said.

In 2018, UNC created a $2 million initiative to help students who were affected by Hurricane Florence, which resulted in record flooding and 42 deaths in North Carolina.

Throughout the state, there were an estimated 74,563 structures flooded, and 5,214 people were reportedly rescued from the flooding.

Rick Luettich, the director of UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences, is a co-developer of the ADCIRC circulation and storm surge model. This computer model helps to recognize storm surge, which is excess water generated from a storm, and determine the extent of flooding that communities will experience.

Luettich said that as he developed the model with his colleague in the early 1990s, its benefit in storm prediction and potential for designing infrastructure became clear.

“Usually you think about how strong the winds might get, what category it might be, where it might go, but then a model like ADCIRC becomes really useful for translating that information about the storm into information about how the storm surge and the flooding is going to occur for any given storm,” Luettich said.

Jonathan Blaes, the meteorologist-in-charge for the National Weather Service in Raleigh, noted flooding accounts for the majority of hurricane-related fatalities in North Carolina.

He said the most important part of hurricane safety is to stay aware and recommended residents make hurricane kits with food and materials in case they lose power.

Rosencrans said residents should think through what they would do if a hurricane were to come to their region. He said this involves knowing where loved ones are and potentially updating insurance plans ahead of time.

Blaes added residents should rely on trusted resources for weather information, avoid parking near old trees and exercise caution when there is water on the road.

“For the most part, people in our part of the world, here inland from the ocean, really don’t need to evacuate,” Blaes said. “We just need to be aware and be smart.”

Rosencrans said that ready.gov is a good resource for flooding information and finding contact information for state emergency managers.

For information regarding safety and hurricane kits, Blaes recommended that residents visit hurricanes.gov.

@madelynvanmeter

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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