Here we go again…

Published 7:03 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Only a few weeks ago, the rains and storm surge of Hurricane Florence inundated Beaufort County and swole our rivers beyond their shores. In the time since, area residents have shown resilience in the face of adversity. We have started to rebuild, better and stronger, and relief efforts have been tremendous.

This week, however, a new threat has been intensifying in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 2 storm yesterday, and is expected to make landfall today on the Florida panhandle.

From the epicenter of Panama City, Florida, to Charleston hurricane watches and warnings, paired with tropical storm watches and warnings, were in effect for counties from Mississippi to South Carolina.

Soon, our friends down south may need the same attention and assistance that the Carolinas required only weeks ago.

The bad news for Eastern North Carolina? The National Hurricane Center cone forecasting the potential paths of the storm places North Carolina under threat, from Wilmington to Greensboro. As of Tuesday, the chance of our area experiencing tropical storm-force winds was between 50 and 60 percent.

In the case of Michael, however, the good news might yet outweigh the bad. While Beaufort County residents should take any major tropical storm seriously, our area has a few things going for it with regards to Hurricane Michael:

  • The point of landfall is more than 600 miles away. Michael will have to cross three states before arriving in North Carolina. By Thursday, the storm is forecasted to become a tropical storm as it passes through the state.
  • Mild rainfall totals throughout the Carolinas. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts estimate anywhere between 2 and 6 inches of rain for most of the Carolinas. Compare that to the staggering high of 30 inches received in Swansboro during Florence.
  • Storm surge risk is minimal. For days, the might of Hurricane Florence pushed water out of the sound and into the Pamlico and Pungo rivers, adding to the more than 6 inches of rainfall in the area to create major flooding damage. This was exacerbated by the slow speed of the storm, which lingered in the area for three days.

All things considered, it does not appear likely that Michael will rival Florence when it comes to destruction in Beaufort County. That does not mean however, that area residents should not take the storm seriously. Anytime a tropical cyclone takes aim at eastern North Carolina, we should prepare for its impacts.

While we might not see catastrophic flooding, you could still lose power. Trees could still fall on your property. There is no such thing as “just a category one” or “just a tropical storm.” As we prepare for Michael, let us all hope he is kinder to our state than Florence.