Hurricane Floyd – September 16, 1999

The flooding from hurricanes can be extremely destructive as became clear in the $6 billion amount of damages caused by this one.

Hurricane Floyd came ashore and made landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 2 A.M. on September 16 with wind speeds of 104 mph. The greatest damages it inflicted were along the eastern Carolinas northeast into New Jersey, and adjacent areas northeastward along the east coast into Maine. In these areas it produced more human misery and environmental impact than almost any previous one, leading to $6 billion of damages.

The twenty inches of rain that fell across the eastern half of North Carolina caused every river and stream to flood. There were fifty-seven deaths directly attributed to Floyd, and high flood damage costs. Many rivers set new flood records. Whole communities were underwater for days, even weeks in some areas. Thousands of homes were lost. Crop damage was extensive. The infrastructure of the eastern counties, including roads, bridges, and water plants, was heavily damaged.

Floyd’s origin can be traced to a tropical wave that emerged from western Africa on September 2, 1999. It became a tropical depression a few days later and Tropical Storm Floyd on September 8. After developing into a hurricane on September 10, Floyd turned westward and increasingly strengthened, reaching its greatest strength a day later with winds of 156 mph. It came within 110 miles of Cape Canaveral as it paralleled the Florida coast on September 15, and then turned northward so that its center reached the east coast of North Carolina. After landfall it moved along the coasts of Long Island before reaching Maine and becoming an extra tropical storm.

Much of Floyd’s impact was due to extreme rainfall. Although Floyd was moving quickly, its large circulation interacted with a pre-existing frontal zone extending from central North Carolina through the mid-Atlantic states. This caused the heaviest rainfall to fall both behind and to the left of Floyd’s track. In Yorktown, Virginia, the storm’s rainfall total was over eighteen inches. The second region of extreme rainfall totaled fourteen inches in parts of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, southeast Pennsylvania, and southeast New York. Eighteen tornadoes associated with Floyd were reported and all occurred in North Carolina on the day of landfall. The two strongest produced storms of F2 strength.

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