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Hurricane Floyd

October 6, 2015

By Paul Homewood





In my post yesterday, I noted that more rain fell on S Carolina over two days in 1999 than came down in three days this week, in what has been described as a 1 in a 1000 year event.


The event I was referring to was in fact Hurricane Floyd.

NCDC have this account of Floyd:



Floyd brought flooding rains, high winds and rough seas along a good portion of the Atlantic seaboard from the 14th through the 18th of September. The greatest damages were along the eastern Carolinas northeast into New Jersey, and adjacent areas northeastward along the east coast into Maine. Several states had numerous counties declared disaster areas. Flooding caused major problems across the region, and at least 77 deaths have been reported. Damages are estimated to be $1.6 billion in Pitt County, North Carolina alone, and total storm damages may surpass the $6 billion caused by Hurricane Fran in 1996.



Although Hurricane Floyd reached category 4 intensity in the Bahamas, it weakened to category 2 intensity at landfall in North Carolina. Floyd’s large size was a greater problem than its winds, as the heavy rainfall covered a larger area and lasted longer than with a typical category 2 hurricane. Approximately 2.6 million people evacuated their homes in Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas–the largest peacetime evacuation in US history. Ten states were declared major disaster areas as a result of Floyd, including Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. There were several reports from the Bahamas area northward of wave heights exceeding 50 feet. The maximum storm surge was estimated to be 10.3 feet on Masonborough Island in New Hanover County, NC.


A brief summary of the impacts:

North Carolina: 51 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.

South Carolina: 1 death; over 1000 homes flooded; Myrtle Beach reports 24-hour rainfall of 14.00 inches.

Virginia: 4 deaths; over 280,000 customers without electricity at some point; 9-12 feet of water in downtown Franklin; 5000 homes damaged.

Maryland: 1 death; over 250,000 customers without electricity at some point.

Pennsylvania: 8 deaths; over 410,000 customers without electricity at some point; over 4000 homeless; 2000 homes and businesses damaged.

New Jersey: 4 deaths; over 650,000 customers without electricity at some point.

New York: 2 deaths; over 80,000 customers without electricity at some point.

Delaware: 2 deaths; over 200,000 customers without electricity at some point.

The following states have reported one death each: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

The Bahamas also reported 1 death with severe damage on Abaco, Cat, San Salvador, and Eleuthera Islands.


Aid and Recovery:

Congress approved $2.2 billion in aid during 1999, and the NC state legislature approved $836 million during 1999. In addition, FEMA has thus far spent $1.05 billion for aid, and the U.S. Small Business Administration has spent $459 million. Thus far in 2000, $347 million in supplemental requests have been submitted.



Floyd’s impact was exacerbated by the fact the ground was already very wet after Hurricane Dennis, a Cat 2 storm, had passed the Carolinas. Although Dennis did not make direct landfall, it brought large amounts of rain just two weeks before Floyd arrived.


NCDC also have a data page for the rainfall for the 21 days ending 18th Sep 99 along the Atlantic coast. As they say most rainfall during this period was due to Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd.

I won’t reproduce the whole list, which is here, but it covers all of the coast from Maine down to South Carolina. But the highlights give the flavour. Rainfall in inches is in the right column:


 BAKERSVILLE         LITCHFIELD          CT   13.71
 GREENWOOD           SUSSEX              DE   12.31
 GREENFIELD # 3      FRANKLIN            MA   12.15
 CONOWINGO           HARFORD             MD   11.33
 WEST BUXTON         YORK                ME   11.67
 WILMINGTON          NEW HANOVER         NC   25.72
 MOUNT WASHINGTON    COOS                NH   12.52
 HEWITT              PASSAIC             NJ   14.14
 STROMVILLE          DUTCHESS            NY   14.57
 DOYLESTOWN          BUCKS               PA   14.52
 WOONSOCKET          PROVIDENCE          RI   10.32
 MYRTLE BEACH        HORRY               SC   22.10
 NEWPORT NEWS        NEWPORT NEWS        VA   22.73
 WELLS RIVER         ORANGE              VT   10.82

This shows just how severe and widespread the impact of Dennis and Floyd was.


1 in a 1000 year claims are bandied around all too frequently,, but never seem to stand up when the facts are examined.

  1. NeilC permalink
    October 6, 2015 4:32 pm

    Nice work Paul. Never let facts get in the way of a good story as they say! The motto of climate science.

  2. October 6, 2015 4:55 pm

    Thanks, Paul.
    Yes, Floyd was very bad, but it seems collective memory is short these days.
    The good thing is that the Accumulated Cyclone Energy record is showing a decreasing trend. See (Dr. Ryan N. Maue).

    • justanotherpersonii permalink
      October 6, 2015 8:29 pm

      Indeed, it is a shame that the media nowadays exaggerates many such events.

  3. Andy DC permalink
    October 6, 2015 11:13 pm

    Hurricanes Connie and Diane (1955) produced similar rains and catastrophic flooding from PA thru southern New England.

    Hurricane Agnes (1972) likewise produced similar rains and catastrophic flooding from Virginia to New York.

    These one in a thousand year rains seem to happen far more frequenly than one would think!

    • October 7, 2015 1:40 pm

      Hurricane Diane came up through the Allegheny Mountains in eastern WV. The huge rain dump brought a sea of boulders down the mountains. Prior to that, in 1949, there was an orographic rain event in June which also did huge damage in the same area. For decades, you could see the scars on the mountainsides on the Valley & Ridge Province when looking east from Dolly Sods on the Allegheny Front (eastern watershed) just to the west. We had a brand new 1956 Ford station wagon and drove over to that region. Daddy took pictures on both occasions which are amazing. People have now built cabins along Red Creek and I always wonder if they are ever curious as to where all the boulders came from and why?

      When there is more than 4″ in a 24-hour period, it does not matter whether heavily forested, strip mined or clear-cut, the water just goes taking a lot with it. In these instances, there was 4+” in an hour.

  4. October 7, 2015 10:51 am

    I use to have that picture as my desktop on my computer. Floyd was not an especially strong hurricane, but it was huge! Lost my truck when I hydroplaned driving in it.

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