North Carolina

Hurricane Florence was among the costliest disasters on record. Here’s NOAA’s tally

A Hurricane Florence escape: a man and his ‘Survivor’ kitten

Robert Simmons Jr. escapes Hurricane Florence floodwaters with his kitten 'Survivor' in New Bern, NC.
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Robert Simmons Jr. escapes Hurricane Florence floodwaters with his kitten 'Survivor' in New Bern, NC.

The final tally on damage from Hurricane Florence is higher than the costs from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Floyd in 1999 combined, new federal estimates show. Florence’s final cost was $24 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Florence was not the costliest natural disaster last year. Hurricane Michael caused an estimated $25 billion in damage when it came ashore on the Florida panhandle as a strong Category 4 storm, according to NOAA.

The wildfires in California caused about as much damage as Hurricane Florence. “The total 2018 wildfire costs in California (with minor costs in other Western states) approach 24.0 billion — a new U.S. record,” NOAA writes. “In total, over 8.7 million acres has burned across the U.S. during 2018, which is well above the 10-year average (2009-2018) of 6.8 million acres. The last 2 years of U.S. wildfire damage has been unprecedented in damage, with losses exceeding 40.0 billion.”

There were 14 weather and climate disasters in the United States that caused more than a billion dollars in damage last year, NOAA reports. Those billion-dollar disasters killed 247 people and caused about $91 billion in damage in 2018, according to NOAA.

Federal data shows Hurricane Florence was the 12th most expensive tropical cyclone in recent decades, according to data that goes back to 1980.

“Hurricane Florence was a large and very slow moving hurricane that produced extreme rainfall,” NOAA writes in the estimate. Parts of eastern North Carolina saw almost three feet of rain from the storm that came ashore near Wilmington in mid-September.

“Florence made landfall as a category 1, at Wrightsville Beach, NC with damaging storm surge up to 10 feet and wind gusts reported over 100 mph. However, the majority of the damage caused by Florence was due to the rainfall inland, which caused many rivers to surpass previous record flood heights. U.S. Marine base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina suffered extensive damage that will cost billions to repair,” NOAA writes.

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NOAA

Fifty-three people died because of Hurricane Florence, according to NOAA, and severe flooding lasted for weeks in southeastern North Carolina and around the Florence and Myrtle Beach areas of South Carolina.

People are still working to clean up from Florence four months after the storm, The News & Observer reported recently. Landfills have been struggling to deal with a volume of waste from the cleanup that they have not seen before, according to the newspaper.

The refuse includes moldy furniture and household items, destroyed sheetrock pulled from flooded homes, uprooted trees, and anything else that was destroyed in the storm, The News & Observer reports

“The trash piling up at some sites may not be disposed of until summer — or perhaps not until next year. Caravans of trucks are bringing new waste daily, and solid waste workers are logging major overtime to keep up with the load,” the newspaper reports.

Floodwaters from Hurricane Florence's deluge of rain crest in the seat of Horry County, Conway, S.C.

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Charles Duncan covers what’s happening right now across North and South Carolina, from breaking news to fun or interesting stories from across the region. He holds degrees from N.C. State University and Duke and lives two blocks from the ocean in Myrtle Beach.


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