Short version: The SC coast north of Charleston, all of North Carolina, and Virginia/DelMarVa Peninsula really need to take this storm seriously and be ready to act today. Georgia should keep an eye on it, but things are looking ok at this point. Watches and warnings, and the attendant evacuations, etc. are just about inevitable for SC/NC and maybe VA at this point. A reminder, be very careful when using social media like Facebook that uses algorithms to display information, since it does not always work chronologically, and you may be seeing old data!
The steering environment is still somewhat fuzzy, but as expected has come in to much better focus over the last 24 hours. Starting with the track guidance, it is fairly stable pointing to a landfall along the southern North Carolina coast (Wilmington area). Here’s the current track forecast maps:
Florence is intensifying and now looks like a serious hurricane as it moves over warmer waters, and more favorable wind environment. It may well be a strong category 3 or even category 4 before landfall. Here’s the satellite view as the sun comes up (just before 7 am ET):
Damage right at the eyewall at landfall and inland could be epic if this intensity forecast holds up. Storm surges of 5 to 6 meters (upwards of 20 feet) are likely to the right of the landfall, and depending on the exact storm configurations, 25 feet are not out of the question. Using the 5am NHC forecast track/intensity, Florence is shaping up to be about a $15 to $20 Billion storm. A BIG question on this track is how intense the storm remains over the Research Triangle area of NC (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill). The NHC forecast has it decaying to a tropical storm before crossing the triangle, but storms like Hugo stayed as hurricanes to that point, and if so the damage racks up pretty quickly. The tops of pine trees shear off on average at 70mph or so – and NC has lots of pine trees to end up in the living rooms and business in the triangle. Subtle changes in how fast the storm decays, a 20 or 30 mile wobble as it moves inland, or a tornado or two in a bad place and this *easily* turns into a $30 Billion storm. Wobbles or shifts towards Virginia and the “target rich” environment of the Norfolk and DelMarVa penensula (and the Washington DC area, even as a decaying tropical storm) could also up the totals.
Bottom line: if you are in the swath of this storm, take is seriously. Don’t panic, but pay attention to National Hurricane Center advisories and your local emergency management, and take appropriate action. Along the rest of the coast, beware high waves and rip currents. Surf might be good for another day or so, but be aware of your limitations and don’t get in to trouble!