Hurricane Florence’s excessive rainfall to trigger natural disaster in the Carolinas

With Florence slowing substantially as it meanders along the coast of North and South Carolina, the current forecast of feet of rain could lead to catastrophic flash flooding and major river flooding in parts of the Carolinas and possibly other neighboring states.

Some communities in the Carolinas may be under water for days and possibly a week or more.

As AccuWeather meteorologists have warned about since the middle of the soggy and in some cases record wet summer, any tropical storm or hurricane that moves over saturated ground in the eastern United States during the height of the hurricane season may lead to disastrous flooding.

Image via AccuWeather

"Strength, track and forward speed of Florence will be the major players in determining the scope and amount of rainfall and correspondingly the severity of inland flooding," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

Brace for flooding on par with Floyd, Joaquin and other blockbuster hurricanes

Even in lieu of the worst-case scenario and Florence making landfall as a Category 2 or 3 hurricane, the storm has the potential to join the ranks of the costliest natural disasters in the history of the United States joining Irma, Maria and Harvey in 2017; Sandy in 2012; Katrina in 2005 and Andrew in 1992.

Image via AccuWeather

In addition to storm surge flooding, inland flooding will escalate from urban and poor drainage areas to small streams. However, even as torrential rain ceases days after the initial first drops from Florence, major rivers in the region are likely to reach major flood stage.

Record flooding is possible.

Following the State of Emergency that has been declared from Georgia to Maryland, property owners are urged to take action.

See images of the storm's destruction:

"Precautionary preparations for major inland flooding are advised," Kottlowski said.

"People should expect not only travel disruptions but also disruptions to daily activities related to work or school."

Image via AccuWeather

Moving the most valuable items out of the basement and first floor onto the second floor in flood-prone areas may be of interest at this time. Gathering important papers and irreplaceable photographs are also a good idea.

As the rain pours down during the storm, inland evacuations may become necessary and the time for completing such tasks will come to an end as travel becomes increasing difficult and dangerous.

Some low-lying roads that are not flooded at the onset of the storm may become flooded during the weekend and early next week.

Have a plan of action in place ahead of the flooding. Work-at-home plans may not be an option in some communities where the power goes out or flooding commences. Without a means of power, computer and cell phone batteries will drain.

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Which areas are likely to be hit the hardest by inland flooding?

On Thursday, the first bands of rain directly associated with Florence will arrive on the Carolina and Virginia coasts. Rainfall will then spread inland and intensify on Friday and during the weekend.

Florence has the potential to cause a storm record rainfall in North Carolina and South Carolina.

"At this time, the most likely scenario is for 1-2 feet of rain with a AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 40 inches centered on portions of the Carolinas from Florence," Kottlowski said.

Image via AccuWeather

This is due to the great risk of Florence stalling over or moving very slowly through the region.

AccuWeather Local StormMax™ is more hyper local than other sources, and AccuWeather is predicting higher rainfall amounts than other sources. If 40 inches of rain fall, it will be the heaviest amount of rain from a single storm in the lower 48 states since Hurricane Harvey last year.

The 24-hour flash flood threshold ranges from 1 inch in the Appalachians to near 6 inches along the Carolina coast. Rainfall is forecast to exceed that range by a substantial margin.

Enough rain to cause major flooding is likely in part of northern Georgia, eastern Tennessee and perhaps southern West Virginia, assuming the Florence continues to drift westward later this weekend into early next week.

A slight shift in the storm track even after landfall could bring rainfall of that magnitude into southern Virginia or farther south in Georgia.

There is a risk of flooding in part of the Northeast from Florence, but not until next week.