Editor’s Note: Earlier this year the National Weather Service gave the Town of Carolina Beach a stark warning following the damage of Hurricane Florence — “We are way overdue for a major hurricane.”
While many balked at the sentiment, it was explained that a so-called major hurricane is one that reachers higher levels on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Florence made landfall as only a Category 1.
CAROLINA BEACH — The impacts of Hurricane Florence are still visible throughout the Cape Fear region as we head into the 2019 hurricane season. And, while devastating, Hurricane Florence could have been much worse — and according to the National Weather Service’s Steve Pfaff, the region is “way overdue” for a major hurricane.
While some people might think Florence was a major hurricane, it made landfall as only a Category 1 storm.
“We had it bad but it certainly could have been a lot worse. As you recall it was forecast to maybe come ashore as a major hurricane. The last major hurricane to make landfall in our area was Fran back in 1996. The average return frequency for a major hurricane in this area is 21 years. So even though Florence wasn’t a major hurricane, we had a major impact but when you look at the intensity of the wind … we are way overdue for a major hurricane,” Pfaff said during a Tuesday night meeting at Carolina Beach.
“SO EVEN THOUGH FLORENCE WASN’T A MAJOR HURRICANE, WE HAD A MAJOR IMPACT BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE INTENSITY OF THE WIND … WE ARE WAY OVERDUE FOR A MAJOR HURRICANE”STEVE PFAFF
The meeting was held at Town Hall to address the town’s Emergency Operations Plan and see what the town as a whole as well as residents can do to prepare for the inevitable.
According to Pfaff, Florence was the sixth most costly storms to hit the area with costs reaching $45 billion. There were also 30 direct fatalities from the storm and 23 indirect deaths due to the storm.
One of the biggest problems from Florence was the fact that when the storm made landfall and was weakened to tropical storm force winds, people thought that meant conditions were safe — the opposite was actually true, he said.
The only thing that the Saffer-Simpson scale tells people is the strength of the winds, but that is only one part of the danger when it comes to these storms. The rain and tornados that spawned once the storm made landfall were one of the more dangerous aspects of the storm, according to Pfaff.
The 2019 Hurricane Season officially begins June 1 and goes until Nov. 30 and early predictions show an active hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Predictions have this year’s season seeing 12-14 storms with five to seven of those being hurricanes and two to four becoming major hurricanes.
As always, hurricane prediction can only make educated guesses and Pfaff recommends everyone prepare for the worst before a storm hits.