Tropical Storm Florence Sweeps Southeastern United States

by Kassie Kirsch

The bulk of the storm may have dissipated, but Florence left a wake of damage behind in the southeastern United States. Florence was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical disturbance shortly before it made landfall outside of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on Sept. 14.

The storm originally formed on the west coast of Africa, and it was noticed by a forecaster on Aug. 28 as a small disturbance caused by a tropical wave. After three days, Florence was gifted the title of “Potential Tropical Cyclone Six” as it gradually increased in size and moved steadily towards the southern Cape Verde Islands.

Until Sept. 4, Florence was not considered a hurricane because it did not have a clear center, though it was traveling rapidly for the U.S. coast. Once the center formed, it was granted an actual name, and it intensified immensely, reaching all the way to a Category 4 rating. After fluctuating in power during its several days over the ocean, it weakened as it drew closer to land.

In preparation for Florence’s arrival, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Maryland and Washington D.C. declared a state of emergency. North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, the states in the hurricane’s direct path, also ordered mandatory evacuations.

There were plenty of people that chose to remain behind, however, including freshman nursing student Sarah Swanson’s parents, who live in North Carolina.

“They aren’t expecting major flooding where they are at, just mostly heavy rainfall and power outages,” Swanson said. “They just don’t think it is necessary for [them to evacuate] where they live, on the western side of the state towards the mountains.”

Freshman Amy Wikrent has several extended family members living in North Carolina.

“They didn’t evacuate because they wanted to prevent looting, mostly, just to stay in their homes and protect it,” Wikrent said.

The current confirmed death toll by CBS News is 42 lives, but that number will continue to climb in the future weeks as flooding goes down and the damage can be assessed.

As things stand currently, Hurricane Florence is estimated by Moody Analytics to be the most expensive hurricane to hit the US, surpassing even Hurricane Katrina’s $150 Billion (adjusted for inflation) by $10 billion. This damage includes things like shingles, gutters and siding coming off houses from excess wind speeds, flooding, and trees losing limbs and falling over, and power lines going down.

According to Swanson, power is a bigger part of daily life than people realize, until they don’t have access to it anymore. She described her family’s preparations for the coming floods and power outages that are currently sweeping over the Southern states.

“I know my parents have a generator, and they bought lots of gas and water and they stocked up on all that stuff,” Swanson said.

Hurricane Florence hit home with many students who have immediate or extended family in the affected states, especially those who chose not to evacuate when ordered. For those out of harm’s way, such as those here on campus, separated from their families and potentially cut off from communication if those at home lose power or cell signal, the choice to remain on campus made it even harder for them to cope.

“It’s very worrying…I feel like I’m sitting around, waiting for a phone call that ‘Oh, this happened…’” said Swanson.

The areas affected by Florence are already being evaluated for safety and people are beginning to go home. Things are slowly returning to some semblance of normal, but it will take a lot of work, resources, and time for these areas to be fully restored.

Kassie Kirsch is a junior English major and a writer for Off Campus news. She loves the outdoors, animals of all kinds, and reading more books than she should.

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