It’s a common misconception to judge a hurricane’s “danger” based solely on its strength. But sometimes, even a weak system can be deadly. In 2004, a weakening Tropical Storm Bonnie made landfall along the Florida coast. The system quickly fell apart over land and was merely a remnant circulation by the time it exited North Carolina. But the associated bands of thunderstorms managed to produce an F2 tornado (winds of 130 mph) near Rocky Point (Pender County). Three residents died in the storm.
Hurricane Matthew was also a relatively weak system when it finally arrived in North Carolina in October of 2016, with winds barely at hurricane strength. But Matthew brought torrential rain that led to flash flooding. Even after Matthew departed, area rivers (which were already swollen with heavy rains from September) began to rise. Water levels eventually surpassed records set by Hurricane Floyd in several counties, and the economic toll would be measured in billions.
We must always remember that a hurricane’s “threat” is a function of timing, path, strength, as well as the dominant weather pattern of the preceding weeks. No storm should ever be taken “lightly”.
(images courtesy of NWS and CBS)