Devastation by Hurricanes Florence and Michael

DENAE RABINETTE

Last month, Hurricane Florence struck the southeastern coast of the United States near Wilmington, North Carolina and became one of the most devastating storms to ever hit the Carolinas. School districts across the east coast closed, airports grounded flights, and over a million people were under mandatory evacuation orders as the storm approached the coast as a strong category 4 hurricane.

Although Florence weakened as it approached the coast and made landfall only as a category 2, some parts of the Carolinas got over 33 inches of rain. As the storm made landfall it slowed to a crawl and was able to dump rain for days on end, similar to Hurricane Harvey that struck Texas in August of 2017.

The heavy rainfall and the intense storm surge on the coast of North Carolina caused rivers and lakes to overflow, blocking roads for days after the storm and causing deadly mudslides. Highways I-40, I-95 and U.S. 74 were closed off due to flooding and road collapses.

While North Carolina got the majority of the rain from the northern side of the hurricane, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was also inundated by 7 inches of rain and heavy winds when Florence made her second landfall. As the storm then turned northward, it brought rain and wind as far north as southern New England. The death toll from Hurricane Florence storm stands at 37.

Weeks later, another powerful hurricane popped up in the Gulf of Mexico, heading for the Florida Panhandle. Hurricane Michael was a fast-moving category 4 storm that allowed only a few days for Floridians in its path to evacuate and prepare their homes. Hurricane Michael held sustained winds of up to 155 miles per hour as it barrelled toward Panama City Beach, Florida. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental United States in 50 years.

The current death toll from Hurricane Michael stands at 16, but that number is expected to rise as officials are finally able to make it to the affected areas, like the destroyed cities of Mexico Beach and Panama City Beach to search for survivors through the devastation. Deaths attributed to the storm occurred as far away as Virginia as Michael spread rain and wind across the southeastern United States. The massive storm’s hurricane-force wind field was over 6,000 miles wide the size of the state of Delaware.

Areas of the Carolinas that were still recovering from Hurricane Florence experienced even more rain, flash flooding, wind and tornadoes from a weakened Tropical Storm Michael. As of Friday October 12, around 1.5 million people across the southeastern U.S. were without power as the storm moved on into the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia coast. Emergency Management officials in Florida have weeks of work ahead of them to assess the true extent of the damage from Hurricane Michael.

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