Wave heights to 83 ft were measured early this morning under the NE quadrant of Hurricane Florence. These enormous waves are produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction the storm’s motion. #HurricaneFlorence https://t.co/26J6Uogt6o pic.twitter.com/mdjGD5yibg
— NHC_TAFB (@NHC_TAFB) September 12, 2018
As Hurricane Florence barreled across the Atlantic towards the East Coast, researchers were keeping a close watch. The storm is expected to cause widespread damage, with some estimates saying it will be the costliest storm to ever hit the United States. In hopes of being better prepared, those researchers were figuring out everything they could about Florence. Wind speed, atmospheric pressure, and of course, wave size. And this week, they measured something astonishing: in those stormy seas, they recorded wave heights reaching 83-feet.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch, the waves were measured in Hurricane Florence’s northeast quadrant. “These enormous waves are produced by being trapped along with very strong winds moving in the same direction as the storm’s motion,” the branch wrote on Twitter. For context, Rodrigo Koxa’s world record wave at Nazaré was 80 feet tall.
Hurricane Florence made landfall early Friday morning, prompting the National Hurricane Center to issue storm surge warnings for both Carolinas. “Catastrophic flash flooding and prolonged significant river flooding are likely,” the Hurricane Center said. On top of the storm surge, massive amounts of rain are expected. “It’s tremendously big and tremendously wet,” said Donald Trump. “Tremendous amounts of water.”
In North Carolina, a storm-surge pushed floodwater miles inland. The Associated Press reported that sixty people were rescued from a motel that collapsed, and, since Florence is moving slowly, the heavy rain and strong winds aren’t expected to let up any time soon.
Storm surges are one of a hurricane’s most dangerous effects. “Storm surge is the main cause of the death and destruction associated with hurricanes,” NBC News explained after Hurricane Ike hit Texas. “The raging waters can swiftly move in and flood roads and houses and wash away cars, trees, and other debris.” As Hurricane Florence traveled across the ocean, its winds basically pile up water that is higher than the ordinary level of the sea. When that pile of water hits land, it becomes a storm surge, and they can be devastating. Of course, the size and strength of the storm surge depends on the size and strength of the hurricane—but Hurricane Florence is absolutely massive, and its storm surge is likely to be on the same scale.