Samantha England, Staff Writer
Though now a past event, Hurricane Florence has wreaked havoc, destruction, and death over the course of its lifetime. As much damage as it has caused, however, it has also brought forth the power of community as various neighborhoods have come together to aid each other in the aftermath of the natural disaster that had befallen them.
Hurricane Florence started as a strong tropical wave off the coast of Africa around the end of August, turning into a tropical depression near Cape Verde, and then wavered in strength as it made its way across the Atlantic Ocean. For Cape Verde, there were a few landslides, some localized flooding, and heavy rainfall, but no material damage was reported. It was not until Sept. 4 that Florence reached hurricane status. Small in size initially, Florence took advantage of the low wind shear area it found itself in, and grew rapidly. Florence became a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson scale on Sept. 5, with winds reaching speeds of 130 mph.
The sheer speed at which the hurricane changed shocked weather forecasters as Florence had outgrown its predicted model by previously unimaginable numbers. Hurricane Florence became a Category 4 hurricane, but was brought back down to a tropical storm until it reached hurricane-favorable conditions on Sept. 9, and again reached Category 4 status on Sept. 10. This time it had reached new top speeds of 140 mph and was headed for the United States. Taking a path similar to the Chesapeake–Potomac hurricane back in 1933, Hurricane Florence was headed to make landfall just south of Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Sept. 7, followed by the governors of South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and the Mayor of Washington DC in preparation for the arrival of the hurricane. “Disaster is at the doorstep and is coming in. If you are on the coast, there is still time to get out safely,” Cooper of North Carolina said to urge citizens to evacuate the coastal cities and beaches. Hurricane Florence had downgraded from major hurricane status when it made landfall on Sept. 14.
Since landfall, the hurricane returned to tropical depression status, with maximum wind speeds only reaching 35 mph, and battering the coastlines with record rainfall in both North and South Carolina. As it headed upwards in a northwest direction, following its predicted trajectory, it left behind not only heavy rainfall, but severe flooding in the more inland towns and cities. Rivers overflowed onto the sidewalks and streets, rising to levels as high as 25 ft.
Ever since Hurricane Florence made landfall, stories of heroism and crime started coming in from all parts of the states affected by the tropical storm. A man drowned on Sept. 11 at Florida’s Playalinda Beach, trying to rescue a 10-year-old boy who had gotten caught in a rip current. A woman in Hampstead, N.C., died from a heart attack as first-responders tried to save in storm conditions that prevented them from reaching her in time. More tragically, was the discovery of a suspected case of a murder-suicide on Harker’s Island.
More cheerfully, is the sight of multiple communities coming together to rescue local cats and dogs from the floodwaters, most notably a school bus lined with carrier crates with animals inside them. Aid is already rushing in as fast as the rising water levels, with President Donald Trump declaring a major disaster declaration in South Carolina on Sept. 17, allowing state and local governments to be reimbursed through FEMA for costs associated with emergency and life-saving actions during the course of Hurricane Florence. The NFL Foundation has also donated $1 million to relief efforts and encourages fans to donate what they can.