The Unique Impacts of Matthew, Florence, and Dorian


It’s well known that global climate change has led to an increased prevalence of extreme weather phenomena. North Carolina has been hit by several severe hurricanes in recent years, and those storms have not only impacted our state, but the country as a whole. Every hurricane is unique, with each having its own “personality.” For instance, every storm takes a different path to its final destination, due to deeply complicated, not-fully-understood weather patterns. Some hurricanes cause more flooding, while others lead to more wind damage; some hit the coast hard, while others may actually hit inland North Carolina worse. Since 2016, there have been three major hurricanes that have caused significant damage to our area. In order to better understand these storms, let’s look at some unique features of each. 

Hurricane Mathew: October 8-9, 2016

Hurricane Mathew was a unique storm for North Carolina: while most hurricanes enter North Carolina through the Outer Banks, Mathew came up into our state from South Carolina, before stalling and heading back out to sea. This caused catastrophic damage in the southeastern portion of the state, accumulating 4.8 billion dollars in damages. 28 people were killed in North Carolina alone, including 19 who drowned in their cars. 

Horrific flooding, caused by Hurricane Matthew, shown in a neighborhood in eastern North Carolina. (National Weather Service, 2016)

Hurricane Florence: September 14, 2018

Hurricane Florence, nicknamed “The Frankenstorm” made landfall just south of Wrightsville Beach on September 14, 2018. The Category 1 storm held sustained wind speeds of 106 miles per hour and a 12-foot storm surge. The Charlotte Observer stated that of the 33 hurricanes that hit North Carolina before Florence, the only other one that made landfall as far north as Florence was Hurricane Hazel (1933). Florence turned deadly due to its slow-moving and determined nature. 30 people died as a direct result of the storm and 23 additional people died in situations indirectly related to Hurricane Florence. The cost for damages far exceeded Mathew, at 17 billion dollars in statewide damages. 

Neighbors shown attempting to rescue local citizens from the rising floodwaters of Hurricane Florence. (Chip Somodevilla-Getty Images, 2018)

Hurricane Dorian: August 22-24, 2019

In late August of this year, Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas and made its way to the States. Dorian’s path traveled straight up the east coast of the US, making landfall in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Dorian reached the Outer Banks as a powerful Category 2 storm, devastating these islands with the second direct hit from a hurricane in less than a year. Even houses on stilts had water covering their first floors as Dorian raised water levels over 7 feet in just an hour and a half. Dorian spun off many tornadoes with wind speeds of up to 90 miles an hour. Hundreds of residents were trapped on top of their houses waiting to be rescued. Four people have died in North Carolina due to Dorian and the cost for damages is estimated to be over 5 billion dollars nationwide. 

A trailer home in Emerald Isle in shown upended after a tornado caused by Hurricane Dorian.  (Morgan Newell-NewsChannel 12, 2019)

Header image: Satellite view of Hurricane Dorian on September 2 GETTY IMAGES

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