Facing Disaster: Forecasting and Assessing Floyd and its Impacts on North Carolina
Jeff Orrock reviewed the year of Hurricane Floyd, 1999. It was not a big hurricane year overall in the Atlantic, but very active for North Carolina. Hurricane Dennis was a welcome storm in that it brought 5–8 inches of rainfall to break the drought. As Dennis moved out, Floyd was named. Just before Floyd’s landfall, there was precursor rainfall. Then Floyd’s outer bands moved onshore, and a cold front interacted with the hurricane. At that time, forecasters had just started to use hydrographs to measure river flooding. The river crests, which lasted for days, were above the record. The force of the water moved mobile homes and put them against trees. Precipitation forecasting was close to the actual rainfall. Forecasts are critical to predicting river crests since the first whole day of rainfall will help determine the amount of flooding for following days. The tools are much improved since 1999 when forecasters said flooding was going to be worse than Fran, but they didn’t know by how much. Radar has improved for rainfall estimates. Now rainfall is digitized and can be mapped in GIS to see exactly where it is going. Hurricane forecasting has also been improved so that forecast are 3–4 days before landfall, enough time to evacuate people and prepare shelters. Forecasters need to further advance understanding so that we can predict and communicate better.