Sep 21, 2018

Hurricane Florence Causes Widespread Flooding

Governors from the Carolinas discuss the flooding impact

Hurricane Florence causes more wastewater infrastructure.
Hurricane Florence causes more wastewater infrastructure.

Across North Carolina, Hurricane Florence disposed approximately 8 trillion gal of rain, enough to fill more than 12 million Olympic swimming pools. According to Vox, the downpours dropped about 50 inches of rain in the some areas of the Carolinas.

The National Weather Service reported Thursday that the overwhelming amount of rain from Florence over the three days was a “1,000-year” event. The floods broke record and sent animal waste and toxic coal ash spilling out of containment structure and into surrounding waters.

Until lately, massive rain events like Florence have been uncommon.

The rain quantity seen in Florence is a “1,000-year” event because it has a 0.1% chance of occuring any given year. As the climate changes, events like these are occurring with increasing frequency.

Hurricane Harvey led to record flooding in Houston, but it was also the city’s third 500-year flood in as many years. As the average temperatures go up, air can hold on to more moisture, and heavy rain events have depositing more water in the recent years.

According to CBS News, at least 42 deaths have now been attributed to Hurricane Florence. There were 31 deaths in North Carolina, nine in South Carolina, and two in Virginia. More than half of the deaths were individuals in vehicles.

Roy Cooper, North Carolina Gov., said he knows the damage will add up to billions of dollars, but said with the effects of the storm ongoing, there was no way to make a more accurate statement.

“The flooding is like nothing we have ever seen,” Cooper said. “People in hard hit communities do want to go back, but many are still having to wait.”

Henry McMaster, South Carolina Gov., has estimated damage from the flood in his state at $1.2 billion. McMaster says the flooding will be the worst disaster in the state’s modern history and asked Congressional leaders to hurry federal aid.

Potential environmental problems have remained. Duke Energy issued a high-level emergency alert after floodwaters from the Cape Fear River overtopped an earthen dike and inundated a large lake at a closed power plant near Wilmington, N.C. The utility did not think any coal ash was at risk.