East Coast Nervous About Major Hurricane Florence

September 7th, 2018 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

We are now at the climatological peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, and Mother Nature is revving into high gear. We could have up to three hurricanes in the Atlantic in the coming days, as strong easterly waves continue to emerge from the west coast of Africa:

GOES-16 view of the North Atlantic, midday September 7, 2018.

Florence is of the most immediate concern. While still about 6 days away, a variety of weather forecast models are beginning to converge in their forecasts for Hurricane Florence to make landfall somewhere between the Carolinas and Delaware. The latest “spaghetti” plot compiled by the South Florida Water Management District shows the model forecast tracks to be clustering along the mid-Atlantic, with the latest (11 a.m. EDT) official NHC forecast represented by the heavy red line:

(The westward and northward tracks in the above plot can be ignored.) Florence has temporarily weakened to a strong tropical storm, but should become a hurricane again this weekend, and then a major hurricane (maximum sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph) on Monday or Tuesday.

The two most-watched forecast models are the European ECMWF and the NOAA GFS. Even though it is still too early to place much confidence in their forecasts 6 days out, to give some idea of how those models are treating Florence, here’s this morning’s GFS model bringing Florence inland in North Carolina Thursday morning with wind gusts to 120 mph (graphic courtesy of WeatherBell.com):

GFS model forecast of Hurricane Florence landfall on the North Carolina coast on Thursday, September 13. This forecast time is still 6 days away, and so likely has a substantial forecast errors.

The GFS then takes Florence up into central Virgina, with 6 to 12 inches of total rainfall mostly east of the track.

The most recent ECMWF model run from last night takes Florence well inland after making landfall near the border of North and South Carolina.

Consistent with the GFS model, Joe Bastardi at Weatherbell.com earlier today predicted the hurricane might track up the Shenandoah Valley, centered on a region already waterlogged from a wet summer, and produce large amounts of additional rainfall the area does not need.

What we know for sure is that large waves and strong rip currents will be a threat along the eastern seaboard this weekend.

Again, it is still too early to place much confidence in any specific forecast. But the trend toward an East Coast landfall is becoming worrisome, and so residents in hurricane-prone areas, especially in the mid-Atlantic states, should be watching the official forecasts from the National Hurricane Center over the next few days in case serious preparations become necessary.

63 Responses to “East Coast Nervous About Major Hurricane Florence”

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  1. Michael McNichol says:

    Thanks for your insight Roy! Living in SE VA at 7.3ft above MSL makes me nervous too.

  2. RW says:

    Thanks for the detailed report, Roy. Hopefully the forcasters are wrong.

  3. RW says:

    Well, I should say hopefully those models forecasting landfall are wrong. A few do show it staying out to sea. Let’s hope they’re right.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      RW…”…hopefully those models forecasting landfall are wrong”.

      The difference between those models and the climate models is the validation of the former. The weather models are programmed with a vast amount of real data and experience from seasoned meteorologists.

      I watched a program on that recently. A meteorlogist explained how they use stored data and experience to predict the path of a storm. They begin with a broad sweep then narrow it down.

      At the end, he admitted they are still wrong in certain situations, a refreshing comment to my ears.

      At least they can admit that and have the integrity to do so. Climate modelers on the other hand act like prima donnas, making absurd claims regarding the infallibility of their unvalidated models.

  4. Gordon Robertson says:

    Roy…”Joe Bastardi at Weatherbell.com earlier today predicted the hurricane might track up the Shenandoah Valley, centered on a region already waterlogged from a wet summer, and produce large amounts of additional rainfall the area does not need”.

    Ah!!!….that explains where our rain got to this summer. This has been the driest summer in a long time in the Vancouver, Canada region. We seem to have had a high pressure area stalled over us since mid June.

    Got some rain today, but just a sprinkle.

    • David Appell says:

      This post isn’t about you.

      Shut up. Let it be and let the discussion pertain to the topic of the post.

      • Mike Flynn says:


        You wrote

        . . . cant you just shut up . . .

        Have you ever considered following the advice you dispense so eloquently?

        Do you think religion is useful?


        • Mike Flynn says:


          I meant to write “‘” (punctuation went missing) and “repetition” rather than “religion”. My bad.

          If you prefer expressing an opinion on whether religion or repetition is more useful, feel free.


  5. Mike Flynn says:

    Assuming the hurricane won’t hit might be fatal.

    Assuming it might hit may have less adverse consequences. I’m more in favour of a “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” approach.

    Cyclone “Marcus” a few months ago only had 130 kmh winds, but uprooted a couple of thousand trees, and left about 26,000 homes without power. As for me, a couple of garden plants needed putting upright after the blow, and I collected a bit of debris here and there.

    Not even a power outage, just a little island of comparative calm, amongst a sea of destruction.

    Good luck helps. I wish all those likely to be affected, all the luck I would wish myself.


    • Nate says:


      I’m glad you seem to understand that hurricane or cyclone forecasts ought to be taken seriously. Their accuracy even days out is very impressive.

      But just remember, the models that give these forecasts are built on our excellent understanding of atmospheric physics.

      An essential part of that understanding is how heat is moved around in the atmosphere, including by the greenhouse effect….the thing that you deny exists.

  6. Aaron S says:

    Anyone know when hurricanes/ cyclones are close in geographic distance and time, do they interact? Like if Florence organizes and feeds on temperature gradients to grow, does this discourage Gordon from growing? Seems one could deplete either the cold or warm energy defining the temperature gradient.

    • jimc says: