Being taken by surprise

Published 5:40 pm Monday, August 29, 2016

Out in the Atlantic Ocean, storms are brewing. Sometime soon, eastern North Carolina could be in the path of a tropical system. There’s no doubt that the region has, in years past, been a magnet for late summer storms.

Even without a direct hit from a storm like Category 4 Hurricane Irene, which devastated the area nearly five years ago to the day, these storms can bring danger and destruction.

Consider Hurricane Dennis, a storm that just sort of wandered and wobbled off the coast of North Carolina for five days in August 1999 before finally making up its mind as to which direction to go. By that time, Dennis was a tropical storm. Dennis’ winds weren’t so bad. In fact, Dennis should have been a non-issue for those who have weathered many storms far worse in the past.

The problem was five solid days of rain. Eastern North Carolina was drenched, the land, saturated, so when Dennis finally made its way onto land, there was no outlet for the additional rain and minor storm surge. There was major flooding.

A week later, Hurricane Floyd hit. The combination was disastrous. Lives and property were lost.

With the amount of rain eastern North Carolina has seen this past year — in the winter, spring and summer — there is a risk that any kind of tropical weather can do some serious damage through not only flooding, but the root systems unable to keep hold of soft, wet dirt, leading to trees down. A minor storm could do considerable damage.

Though tropical systems are circling off the coast this week, perhaps all Beaufort County will see in the next week will be a little bit more rain. But it never hurts to be prepared. Sometimes the least threatening of storms, like Dennis, can take people by surprise. Don’t be one of them.