With Hurricane Irene lurking off the South-East coast I thought it might be good to explore some facts about hurricanes in general and those that have effected North and South Carolina in recent years.
First, what is a hurricane? A hurricane is a cyclonic storm that forms in the tropics and effects the North Atlantic or the Eastern Pacific. Similar storms form in the Western North Pacific called typhoons and in the South Pacific and Indian oceans called cyclones. These storms have a rotating wind system that forms around a calm eye. In the Northern hemisphere the winds are in a counter-clockwise direction around the eye of the storm. To be called a hurricane the winds must be in excess of 73 mph. These storms also have heavy rainfall associated with them. The season of hurricanes is from June 1 to the end of November with the majority of storms in August and September.
Hurricane Hazel came ashore in North Carolina in October, 1954. Passing 95 miles to the East of Charleston, South Carolina, Hazel made landfall very near the North Carolina and South Carolina border, and brought a record 18 foot storm surge at Calabash, North Carolina. Wind gusts of 150 mph were felt in Holden Beach, Calabash, and Little River Inlet 100 mph gusts were felt farther inland at Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York. A local resident who lived in this area in 1954 says that the landscape of Myrtle Beach was wiped clean making way for the development we know there today.
If you have lived in this area for a number of years you have probably heard of Hurricane Hugo. In September 1989 this storm came ashore at Charleston, South Carolina and proceeded to come across the piedmont to Charlotte, on up to Lake Norman and then went west across the state to drop a lot of rain in the mountains. In this area it is remembered mostly for the wind that knocked down trees all over the area. One result was the huge piles of debris that had to be removed from the neighborhoods. The power was out in some areas for weeks and telephone service as well. And this was before the day of cell phones.
In 1999 Hurricane Floyd came ashore in North Carolina and produced a flood of dramatic proportions. One thing that it pointed up was the hog-waste lagoons in the eastern part of North Carolina. Because of the 12 to 20 inch rainfalls over the eastern part of the state coming soon after the heavy rains of hurricane Denis, the lagoons flooded across the countryside producing a very foul situation, especially contaminating water supplies.
In 2003 Hurricane Isabel washed out a portion of Hatteras Island to form what was unofficially known as Isabel Inlet. Damage was greatest along the Outer Banks, where thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed.
These are but a few of the storms that have come ashore in the Carolinas. Here’s a link to more history of Hurricanes.
We tend to think about the destruction to real estate and the loss of life that comes with hurricanes, but what happens to the wildlife? There is likely loss of habitat and birds can get sucked up into the storm and killed. Also, they may be pulled out to sea far from their natural habitats. Here’s an interesting post that talks about what happens to birds in a hurricane. So, what will Irene bring? We wait to see.