Storm Surge Potential For NC Lessens As Hurricane Matthew Shifts East

Oct 5, 2016

A still photo from ADCIRC of the storm surge model associated with Hurricane Matthew.
Credit UNC Institute of Marine Sciences / UNC IMS

The latest update from the National Hurricane Center forecasts that Hurricane Matthew will track more eastwardly than initially thought. If that holds, the storm will still bring wind and rain to the coast, but it would dramatically reduce the storm surge in the sounds that frequently causes the most damage.

"At 5:00 last night, for example, we were looking at storm surge just north of Cape Fear and the beaches there, Topsail and Onslow Bay, in excess of 10 to 12 feet,” says Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute for Marine Sciences and an expert in storm surge. “Today, we are looking at storm surge of maybe less than half that, maybe 4 to 5 feet.”

Related: Hurricane Matthew Eyes The Carolinas, Governor McCrory Declares State Of Emergency

Luettich and UNC IMS have developed a website that models the potential storm surge from Matthew.

Luettich said four characteristics of a hurricane determine the potential for coastal and sound-side flooding: the storm’s track, intensity, size and speed.

Yesterday, Matthew looked bad in all four categories.

“The forecast from yesterday, had it stayed with its intensity and size and track and its forward speed, would have been the worst flooding in eastern North Carolina in the 30 years that I’ve been here,” he said.

Luettich warned that another shift westward and Matthew’s predicated storm surge will increase dramatically.

“Even with this current track those in the Wilmington and Topsail Beach area and just north of Cape Fear still need to take it seriously. Because even in this state, they are still going to see significant beach erosion,” he said.