Huricane Florence: Devastation and Destruction
On September 14, Hurricane Florence made landfall over Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. As winds rose and trees fell, it became clear that Hurricane Florence was no joke. Florence destroyed countless homes and took the lives of over 41 people. The fear and destruction in the wake of the Hurricane has brought many to question their own hurricane preparation. Would we be prepared if a hurricane like Florence hit New York?
Beginning as a tropical storm on September 1 over the Cabo Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa, Hurricane Florence peaked as a Category 4 with sustained winds over 140 mph and had been downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane by the time it reached Wrightsville Beach on the 14th. By the end of the day, it had slowed and weakened to a tropical storm. Just the next day, Florence became a 350-mile-wide tropical storm, dumping massive amounts of rain. Some areas even experienced record rainfall with widespread flooding. Winds had lessened to around 45 mph by the 15th. Some areas received as much as 34 inches of rain from Sept. 13 to Sept. 16. Even after these record-breaking rains, flood waters continued to rise, blocking 1,200 roads in North Carolina. This hurricane became so serious that North Carolina alone was forecasted to receive 9.6 trillion gallons of rain, enough to cover the entire state in 10 inches of water. Florence is considered the “wettest tropical system to hit North Carolina,” according to the Weather Channel, and some parts had nearly 3 feet of rain. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster estimated Friday that his state has suffered $1.2 billion in “financial impact” from the storm.
Hurricanes combine storm duration, size, and wind speed with intensely destructive effects. With sustained winds at speeds over 74 mph, hurricanes can knock down buildings, uproot trees, and send objects flying, turning them into deadly missiles. Proper hurricane preparation is crucial, and people may not prepare as well for hurricanes if the category is downgraded as it makes landfall, but the impact from the next phase of a hurricane can be devastating.
Seeing the devastation in the south from Hurricane Florence should lead us to sharpen our focus on hurricane preparedness here in New York City. Hurricanes might strike at any time during the June to November hurricane season, but the risk in NYC is highest from August to October. In NYC, we have a particular geographic feature that is likely to amplify the effect of a hurricane on the land. The “New York Bight” occurs as a result of the New York and New Jersey coastlines meeting at a right angle, and causes storm surge to be guided straight into New York City. Flooding and related damage are therefore intensified.
It has been 6 years since Hurricane Sandy, which took dozens of lives in New York and New Jersey, destroyed homes and infrastructure, and left many people homeless and even more without power. Remembering the devastation that Sandy brought, as well as seeing recent and ongoing destruction in North Carolina, should give us extra incentive to fully prepare for our next, inevitable hurricane. Before a hurricane, it is important to develop a plan with family members outlining how to communicate and find one another if a hurricane strikes, know your zone (all areas of NYC subject to storm surge flooding are divided into six, flood risk-based evacuation zones), and stay informed of storm updates. NYC Emergency Management has a “Hurricane Safety Tips” page further detailing these precautions and preparedness steps including storing extra water and non-perishable food, bringing inside any lightweight objects outside, placing valuable objects on higher levels, and closing doors and windows firmly. Check out https://www1.nyc.gov/site/em/ready/hurricane-safety-tips.page and encourage friends and family members to do the same.
https://www.worldvision.org/disaster-relief-news-stories/2018-hurricane-florence-facts https://www.nbcnews.com/news/weather/florence-death-toll-climbs-even-cleanup-underway-n911696 https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/11/weather/gallery/hurricane-florence/index.html