4:23pm Monday - Hurricane Florence Update

Hurricane Florence 3:30pm EDT Monday.
Sustained winds 136 mph. Central pressure 944 mb. 
“Well, I was in Hurricane Gordon and we didn’t have any damage…”  Sirius XM this morning. 

“I can’t say that!” (when I asked a newsman this morning to say that Florence had the potential to be the worst disaster in U.S. history)

The national media has not been covering Florence as it should but believe me: if the wrong ingredients come together, Florence could be the worst disaster in U.S. history due to:
  • Winds of a strong Category 4 storm, a rare event in itself. The winds will be coming into the U.S. coast at the most destructive angle. 
  • Terrible storm surge of 12+'
  • Major to catastrophic flooding due to maximum rainfalls of more than 20" (likely) to more than 50" (possible if the storm stops moving in the wrong place) causing record flooding. 
Let's break it down. If you have friends or family in the Middle Atlantic Region, please make sure they are aware of all of this.

Why the Exact Eye Location Doesn't Matter (Too Much)

The storm already has sustained winds of 136 mph with stronger gusts. But, the diameter of the most destructive winds (known as the "wind field" to meteorologists) is growing. I am presenting the map below to illustrate my point. The wind field could be shifted north or south, so remember this is an example, not an exact forecast.
Please also note that destructive winds are possible well inland. Finally, gusts strong enough to cause power failures (bright red) could occur as far north as the Virginia foothills. Again, the winds could shift north or south aways.

So, please look at the map below. Prepare for the possibility of power failures over the entire area and destructive winds nearer to coastal areas.

Flooding Potential
This is a critical forecast. 
Because it is possible for rain in West Virginia to cause a river to flood in South Carolina, I have depicted the entire area where major flooding is possible.
Flooding from last year's Hurricane Harvey.
This what it may look like if similar torrential rains fall with Florence.
The issue is, "How Much?"
The spread in model rainfall forecasts has increased since yesterday. I believe that a maximum somewhere of 20" is likely. I'd rate the probability (based on experience) at 80%. 
  • Probability of 30" or more is 50%.
  • Probability of 40" or more is 33%.
  • Probability of 50" or more is 20%. 
It goes without saying that if one of the upper amounts occurs, the flooding will be catastrophic and there will be great loss of life if precautions are not taken. Because of the wetter-than-average conditions recently, dams will not be able to contain the rainfall and areas that have never flooded before will flood. 

I'm going to try to zoom in on the amounts tonight, if the data is sufficient to do so. 

For your family, it is critical to get a flu shots now and here is how to protect them from waterborne diseases

Here are the most likely times of arrival of sustained 40 mph winds. Beyond that, power failures will occur. Make sure your preparations are completed well before these times!
Print out my suggestions below and please use them to prepare if you haven't already. I will do a complete update late this evening. 

So, What Do I Do Now?

There are a number of good lists out there. Here are my suggestions for things to do at this point with the storm about 2.5 - 3 days away. Most of the things I recommend will eventually be used even if the storm does not affect your specific location. 
  • Get prescriptions refilled now, especially if you doctor must approve the refill. 
  • Toss out any expiring food, clean cat litter boxes, empty all trash cans in the house, including bathrooms. Otherwise the odors could get bad.
  • Gather your utility bill (proof of current residency!), passport and any other important papers so you can take them with you if you should have to evacuate due to the hurricane’s winds and/or the hurricane’s flooding. Put together a "go kit."
  • If you are in the hurricane wind area, see this information for preparing your home. 
  • Prepare bottles of water by filling them 90% (allowing for expansion when they freeze) and putting them in your freezer. They will keep the freezer cool longer if the power fails. They will also serve as emergency water. Freezers stay cold longer when full. So, if you have two freezers, consider consolidating the contents. 
  • Pet food and supplies? I'm not an expert in pets so I leave that to you. 
  • Batteries for everything. Lots of batteries. Full charge for cell phone and laptop. Keep them fully charged. 
  • If you have a relative at home that requires electricity for life-assistance purposes, you may want to move he or she outside of the higher wind zone. 
  • If you can get an electrician to install a generator, get it done. Do not try to install a generator yourself. 
  • If you don't have a generator, get a power inverter or two. Radio Shack and similar stores sell them. They are a "poor man's generator" and will keep your cell phone, laptop, and similar items charged. Tell the person in the store what you want to run off it so you get one of the right size. Do not try to run the inverter for hours at a time as that is tough on your car's battery. Charge the (for example) cell phone and let the charge run all the way down, then use the inverter to recharge. 
  • Keep your car's gas tank full. 
  • If you have a wood-burning fireplace and you know your chimney is clear, get wood. Keep some indoors to keep it dry during the storm. You may need it to heat your home, especially since the power failures could last for weeks in some area (i.e., toward the first of October). 
  • If you live in a 250-year flood plain (you can check at city hall or your library) or on the coast figure out your evacuation strategy now. Make your list of things you will take with you. Be prepared to leave at short notice. Have a paper map of the region as your first choice of evacuation routes may be cut off. 
  • Fill a few gas cans (the type you would use for your mower) to have extra in the event of power failures for your auto or generator. 
  • Purchase extra food staples. Without power, stores will be closed. Things that require less preparation are better. Bottled water is especially important. 
  • Purchase booster batteries for your cell phone and other essential equipment. If you need insulin or other medicine that must be kept chilled make plans now!
  • Consider what you would do if you were without electricity for a month. If you have an invalid living with you that requires electricity, there will be areas that will be without for weeks. Be proactive. 
  • If you live in a heavily wooded area, does someone in your vicinity have a gasoline-powered chain saw? Does it have fuel and a reasonably good chain/blade? Test it, now. 
  • Get to an ATM. Without power, credit card readers and ATMs will not be working. In a disaster, cash is king!
  • If you are in the high forecast wind area, thoroughly photograph your home and possessions now. You will need it for insurance purposes. This includes trees, shrubs, etc. Then, if using a digital camera, upload to internet so it will be there after the storm in case the worse happens. You can use it then to document damage for insurance purposes if the worst occurs. 
  • Stay away from downed power lines!
  • If you evacuate, turn off the main water line. 

Again, I will update again late this evening. Don't worry. Please prepare and we will get through this. 

To close: Hurricane Florence from the Space Station this afternoon.


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