Weather News

Threat of storm surge expands in North Carolina as Dorian nears the coast, maps show

The potential for storm surge accompanying Dorian as the Category 2 hurricane makes its slow trek toward the Carolinas has grown in severity, the latest updates from the National Hurricane Center show.

Digital maps indicate parts of the North Carolina coast could see more than 6 feet of storm surge flooding. Storm surge warnings also extend to the Virginia border, encompassing the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds as well as the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.

Hurricane Dorian Storm Surge Map.jpg

Dorian is expected in North Carolina’s coastal areas within a day, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday, dragging with it 105 mph winds and the potential to dump 10 to 15 inches of rain.

Those winds could aid the storm surge — which occurs when a storm’s winds push abnormally high seawater onto shore — with disastrous consequences, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

The National Hurricane Center previously had the entire South Carolina coast and parts of the North Carolina coast under a storm surge warning. The remaining portions of the coast were only under a watch.

But the threat intensified Wednesday when the hurricane center extended the warning to encompass the entirety of the North Carolina coast. A storm surge watch has also been issued for parts of the Virginia coast.

A warning “indicates there is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline,” according to the National Hurricane Center. A storm surge watch implies such an inundation is possible.

Warnings are in effect for the next 36 hours.

Digital maps measuring the potential for storm surge flooding show areas between and around the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds could see storm-surge flooding above 1 foot. Some areas farther inland — particularly close to Greenville, New Bern and Plymouth — could see more than 6 feet.

The National Hurricane Center warned of forecast uncertainty, saying the reality may differ from its predictions on the map.

Storm surge is a “complex phenomenon” that is sensitive to small changes, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Given Dorian’s propensity to fluctuate — National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said “a little wobble could take it right on shore with some of those winds” — residents should be on high alert.

“This is a life-threatening situation,” according to the Hurricane Dorian Public Advisory. “Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions. Promptly follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.”

Follow more of our reporting on Hurricane Dorian

See all 10 stories
Related stories from Charlotte Observer

Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.