Hurricane Florence to activate mudslides? Why the storm is the potential effect has scientists on the edge



Florence to bring catastrophic rainfall on the east coast

Janice Dean breaks the storm models as the hurricane barrels toward the Carolinas.

Millions of Americans in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are preparing for Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm, which is expected to bring massive amounts of rain, floods and havoc caused by wind.

But the storm said that it is a once-in-a-generation event for the residents in the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states — can also lead to mud slides, by the region’s topography, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center warned.

“This is one of the effects that you have to be worried about,” Joel Cline, a meteorologist and a tropical storm, coordinator of the NOAA, told Fox News.

The hurricane caused mudslides are a common effect when a tropical storm hits a mountainous area, such as the western half of North Carolina.

This photo provided by NASA shows Hurricane Florence from the International Space Station on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, as it threatens the US east coast.


Areas in the Southeast experience orographic lift — the air of a low level is forced on a greater height — if the air is moving from the Ohio and Tennessee valleys makes its way to the Appalachian Mountains.


When this occurs, the air moves from the side of the mountains before it starts to “cool down and condense,” the North Carolina Climate Office explains on its website. This effect can lead to showers and thunderstorms to form.

“The three things that make a lot of rain, moisture, lift and instability [in the atmosphere]. We have two of these with tropical weather and the third is the lift provided by the mountains in this case,” Cline said. “On the slopes that face the oncoming wind directly — that is, a local effect — localized areas of heavier rain.”

In other words, the slopes that face the oncoming winds and heavier localized rain are more prone to mudslides, while the slopes that are angled away from the moisture-laden winds, less rain, and ultimately less of a risk for mudslides.

Michael Ventrice, a meteorological scientist at The Weather Company, has a similar explanation for the phenomenon.

“There is a good deal of moisture advection by the Hurricane Florence, in the direction of the Appalachians. This will promote upsloping on the leeward side of the Appalachians, which can result in very heavy precipitation through mesoscale climate interactions,” he told Fox News, pointing to mud slides are not of interest when a tropical storm hits a state like Texas because of the flat topography.

The map shows the likely path of Hurricane Florence.


s of North Carolina have experienced a lot of rainfall in the past few days, softening the soil and loosening the soil. In combination with the impending storm, the potential for mudslides is greater.

“When the upper part of a soil profile is rapidly saturated with water, it can start to move around, especially if the porosity of the soil varies between the upper and lower parts of the profile,” David Peterson, a research biologist and forest ecology expert at the University of Washington, told Fox News.

“Steep slopes and slopes without roots of the trees hold the soil are particularly vulnerable,” he noted.


As for the Hurricane Florence, Ventrice said he was involved mudslides could be triggered in the areas that “never experienced such events.”

“Florence is a rare tropical cyclone due to the intensity of the system and it would be a large wind field associated with the hurricane circulation,” he added.

Fox News’ Christopher Carbone contributed to this report.

Madeline Farber is a Reporter for Fox News. You can follow her on Twitter @MaddieFarberUDK.

Follow us

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.

Most popular