Coastal Scientist Predicts Widespread Storm Surge With Florence

Sep 10, 2018

Dr. Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences and the UNC Center for Natural Hazards and Disasters, uses computer modeling to predict storm surge from hurricanes and the areas effected.
Credit UNC

Hurricane Florence is predicted to cause widespread, significant storm surge throughout parts of Eastern North Carolina.

Director of the University of North Carolina's Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City Rick Luettick helped develop ADCIRC, a computer model for predicting storm surge and flooding.  He estimated as much as 15 feet of storm surge could occur along beaches from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout.

“The surge itself, the water level itself, has waves on top of it.  And those waves can tear things apart in a big way.  So, a lot of damages to particularly wooden structures and things that are exposed directly to those waves, an awful lot of beach erosion, dune erosion.”

Luettick said that the amplitude of storm surge will be dependant upon the strength of the winds generated by Hurricane Florence. 

"We saw a category three hit in roughly the same area that Florence is forecast to hit and that was Hurricane Fran in '96.  Hurricane Fran had 10 to 11 feet of storm surge along the open coast and so if this storm stays at about a category 3, that's probably a good comparison.  If this storm makes it up to category 4 close to landfall, than we should expect to see more than that.  That's when we'll get up to towards the 13, 14, 15 feet along that open coast."

ADCIRC forecasts that the western part of Pamlico Sound and areas along the New River, White Oak River, Neuse River and Tar River can expect 10-15 feet of storm surge.  The National Weather Service in Newport, North Carolina on Tuesday forecasted life-threatening and historic storm surge of 8-12 feet starting Wednesday. Luettick urges people who live in areas that are susceptible to storm surge to evacuate ahead of Hurricane Florence.