Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ask Anything: 10 questions for hurricane expert Jamie Rhome

3-D NASA image of Hurricane Fran, which hit the (aptly-named) town of Cape Fear, North Carolina on September 5, 1996 with sustained winds of 115 mph.

If a Cat 5 Hurricane hit our coast and made a bee-line for Raleigh, what kind of damage would we expect to see in Raleigh? – James Radford, Garner

James, since warm waters are the fuel for hurricane and tropical storms, these storms typically weaken as they move inland. The extent of damage from a hurricane moving into the Piedmont of North Carolina would be a function of many things, such as the forward speed of the hurricane, the rate of decay/weakening, and pre-existing conditions.

Thus, it is hard to say for sure exactly how much damage one could expect. People often forget that hurricanes are not just a coastal hazard and produce significant inland damage. We only need to look at two historical hurricanes affecting North Carolina to prove this point.

Hugo (1989) produced significant damage in Charlotte after making landfall in the Charleston, S.C., area as a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale. Similarly, Fran (1996) downed many trees and produced widespread power outages in the Raleigh/Durham area. Life-threatening flash flooding is also a major hazard and can be worsened if the soil is moist from earlier rain.

For the other 9 (very good) questions at click here.

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