Event Summary
     National Weather Service, Raleigh NC

Hurricane Floyd Floyd, September 1999

Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Floyd on 1999/09/16 at 0645Z - Click to enlarge
(Click the image to enlarge.)


Hurricane Floyd impacted the East Coast of the United States from September 14 to 18, 1999. The greatest damages were along the eastern Carolinas northeast into New Jersey, and adjacent areas northeastward along the east coast into Maine. Hurricane Floyd produced more human misery and environmental impact in North Carolina than any disaster in memory. The 15-20 inches of rain that fell across the eastern half of the state caused every river and stream to flood. There were 57 deaths in the United States directly attributed to Floyd, and flood damage estimates range near $6 billion. Many rivers set new flood records. Whole communities were underwater for days, even weeks in some areas. Thousand's of homes were lost. Crop damage was extensive. The infrastructure of the eastern counties, mainly roads, bridges, water plants, etc., was heavily damaged.

Tropical Summary

Floyd’s origin can be traced to a tropical wave that emerged from western Africa on September 2, 1999. Tropical Depression Eight formed September 7 about 1000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles). The system was upgraded to Tropical Storm Floyd on September 8. Floyd became a hurricane at 8 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT)on September 10. Early on September 12, Floyd turned west and began a major strengthening episode. Hurricane Floyd reached its peak intensity on September 13 when sustained winds reached 156 miles per hour (mph) and the central pressure dropped to 27.20 inches of mercury. This was at the top end of Category 4 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Floyd on 1999/09/15 at 2018Z
Satellite Imagery of Hurricane Floyd on 1999/09/15 at 2018Z - Click to enlarge
(Click the image to enlarge.)

Floyd came within 110 miles of Cape Canaveral as it paralleled the Florida coast on September 15. Floyd then moved slightly east of north and increased in forward speed, coming ashore near Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 2:30 a.m. on September 16. At the time of landfall, Floyd was a Category 2 hurricane with maximum winds of 104 mph. Floyd continued to accelerate north-northeast after landfall. Its center passed over extreme eastern North Carolina and over Norfolk, Virginia. Floyd then weakened to a tropical storm and moved swiftly along the coasts of the Delmarva Peninsula and New Jersey, reaching Long Island by 8 p.m. September 16. The system was extratropical by the time it reached the coast of Maine at 8 a.m. September 17.

Hurricane Floyd Track
Hurricane Floyd Track - Click to enlarge
(Click the image to enlarge.)

Sustained tropical storm force winds and gusts close to hurricane strength were recorded at many locations from the Florida Keys to New York. Sustained winds of 96 mph with gusts to 122 mph were measured by a University of Oklahoma portable anemometer (10-meter height) near Topsail Beach, North Carolina, around 3 a.m. on September 16. Storm surge values as high as 10 feet were reported along the North Carolina coast.

Heavy Rains and Flooding

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 along and left of Floyd’s track. Rainfall totals of 4 to 12 inches were common from northeast South Carolina through eastern North Carolina, eastern Virginia, eastern Maryland, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, eastern New York into the Northeast. Within this region, two areas of extreme rainfall occurred with totals as high as 15 to 20 inches recorded in portions of eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia. At Wilmington, North Carolina, the storm total of 19.06 inches included a 24-hour record of 15.06 inches. In Yorktown, Virginia, the storm total was 18.13 inches. The second region of extreme rainfall totaled 10 to 14 inches in parts of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, southeast Pennsylvania and southeast New York.

Total Precipitation from Hurricane Floyd

Total North Carolina precipitation from Hurricane Floyd - Click to enlarge

Total regional precipitation from Hurricane Floyd - Click to enlarge
(Click the image to enlarge.)

This heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding and flash flooding from northeast South Carolina to southern New England. The flooding in North Carolina was the most damaging in the State’s history. Some rivers in eastern North Carolina were already in flood due to 5 to 10 inches of rainfall from Hurricane Dennis which occurred about a week prior to Floyd. The extreme rainfall produced by Floyd across the Carolinas and Virginia caused widespread flooding on larger rivers and tributaries as well as flash flooding on smaller streams and creeks. Nine record floods occurred on rivers in North Carolina and one in Virginia.

Satellite Image of Flooding across Eastern North Carolina
Satellite Image of Flooding across Eastern North Carolina - Click to enlarge
(Click the image to enlarge.)

There were 57 deaths directly attributed to Floyd, 56 in the United States and one in Grand Bahama Island. North Carolina reported 35 deaths directly attributed to Floyd. Of the 56 deaths, 48 were due to drowning in inland, freshwater flooding. Vehicle related deaths accounted for 55 percent of casualties, and of these, about 80 percent were male. Floyd was the deadliest hurricane in the United States since Agnes of 1972. Damage estimates as a result of Floyd range around $6 billion. Portions of ten states were declared major disaster areas, from Florida north to Connecticut. Whole towns were under water; roads flooded, including portions of Interstate highways; bridges washed out; dams failed; livestock drowned; water treatment plants failed and water supplies were cut off. North Carolina alone had damage over $3 billion, with over 7000 homes destroyed, 56,000 homes damaged, 1500 people rescued from flooded areas, and more than 500,000 customers without electricity.

Specifically in North Carolina, there were 35 deaths; 7000 homes destroyed; 17,000 homes uninhabitable; 56,000 homes damaged; most roads east of I-95 flooded; Tar River crests 24 feet above flood stage; over 1500 people rescued from flooded areas; over 500,000 customers without electricity at some point; 10,000 people housed in temporary shelters; much of Duplin and Greene Counties under water; severe agricultural damage throughout eastern NC; "Nothing since the Civil War has been as destructive to families here," says H. David Bruton, the state's Secretary of Health and Human Services...."The recovery process will be much longer than the water-going-down process"; Wilmington reports new 24-hour station rainfall record (128 year record) with 13.38 inches and over 19 inches for the event.

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