14 years since Hurricane Floyd

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – September 16, 1999 is a date burned into the mind of many North Carolina residents, especially those that directly experienced the power of Hurricane Floyd. Hurricane Floyd made landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina at 1:30 a.m. on September 16 as a Category 2 storm.

Floyd began as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa on September 2. The system began to become better organized by September 7, and became a tropical depression later that day, and became a tropical storm by September 8. Floyd slowly strengthened and became a Category 1 hurricane on September 10.

Floyd had strengthened to nearly Category 3 status early on the 11, but quickly weakened to a low-end Category 2 over the eastern Caribbean early September 12. Later that day, Floyd took a turn toward the west, and a major strengthening period ensued. Maximum sustained winds increased to near 155 miles per hour. By September 14, Floyd had weakened somewhat as it approached the northern Bahamas, but winds were still around 130 miles per hour. The center of the storm paralleled the central Florida coast, and by the afternoon of September 15, the storm was near the Florida/Georgia border and headed northward toward the Carolinas. As Floyd neared the North Carolina coast on the evening of the 15, its maximum winds decreased to below 110 miles per hour.

When Floyd made landfall near Cape Fear, it was a Category 2 with winds of near 105 miles per hour, with higher gusts. Heavy rainfall had preceded Floyd over the Mid-Atlantic States due to a pre-existing frontal zone, which resulted in very high precipitation amounts, even though the hurricane was moving quickly. Rainfall totals as high as 20 inches were recorded in portions of eastern North Carolina; Wilmington measured a total of 19.06 inches. Storm surge values as high as 10 feet were reported along the North Carolina coast. On top of the torrential rain and storm surge, the storm spawned a number of tornadoes in eastern North Carolina.

Locally, Horry County received 15-20 inches of rain, with Myrtle Beach International Airport recording 16.6 inches. These torrential rains led to the worst flooding in history for the Waccamaw River in Conway. Hurricane and tropical storm-force winds were felt across areas of the Grand Strand as Floyd passed; MYR recorded a gust of 70 miles per hour, while Springmaid Pier recorded a gust of 80, and Florence recording a gust of 62.

56 deaths in the United States were directly attributable to Floyd, 35 of which were in North Carolina alone. Floyd caused no casualties in South Carolina. Total damage estimates in the United States from Floyd range from 3 to over 6 billion dollars.

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