New approach to storm warnings this year revolves around flooding

Most recent track of Hurricane Florence from the National Hurricane Center, issued at 11 a.m. Thursday (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center)
Most recent track of Hurricane Florence from the National Hurricane Center, issued at 11 a.m. Thursday (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center)

The downgraded intensity and track change of Hurricane Florence has brought a collective sigh of relief to Hampton Roads; but a tropical storm warning and coastal flood watch are both still in effect for the region, which could bring moderate to major flooding to property and roads.

Chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wakefield Jeff Orrock said this is the first year the NWS has issued both coastal flood and tropical storm watches and warnings at the same time.

“We used to just implement coastal flood watches and warnings for Nor’easters, but did not use them for tropical storms or hurricanes because they come with their own sets of warnings,” Orrock said.

Related story: Virginia Beach ‘breathing a sigh of relief,’ as Florence changes course

However, Orrock said the NWS found that hurricane warnings and their categories did not properly communicate flood risks to the public, as people typically associate hurricanes and their categories with high wind speeds  — not water inundation caused by coastal flooding.

That’s why Hampton Roads is currently under two different sets of warnings and watches.

The NWS issued the tropical storm warning for Hampton Roads because of the imminent landfall of Florence and the 40 to 45 mph gusts it is expected to bring to the area.

“The rain will bring elevated tidal levels, and the wind is going to push water up the rivers,” Orrock said, which is what triggered the coastal flood watch.

Because of the wind direction of the storm, those who live west of the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton Roads — particularly along the James and York Rivers — should expect more flooding than those in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, Orrock said.

According to the NWS data, Florence is predicted to make landfall near the border of North Carolina and South Carolina on Friday.

An evacuation order is still in place for Zone A. To find out which zone you are in, click here.

Always be informed. Get the latest news and information delivered to your inbox

Print Friendly, PDF & Email