Remnants of Tropical Storm Fred Flood North Carolina

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

After dumping rain on Florida’s panhandle, Tropical Storm Fred continued inland and inundated western North Carolina with a foot of rain. At least two people have died, and as many as 15 bridges were “damaged or destroyed.” The state’s Department of Public Safety said the Pigeon River is seeing “historic” levels of flooding, which may have put water levels in some communities “3 to 7 feet higher than their previous high watermark,” state Gov. Roy Cooper said. As searches continue, 20 people remain missing, according to reporting by the Raleigh News & Observer.  

Why This Matters: On top of leading to more frequent and severe storms, the warming climate means that storms stay stronger further inland. Since 1970, the time it takes for hurricanes to dissipate after making landfall has doubled. Their increased endurance means that the heavy rains and wind cause more damage further inland, especially in communities that aren’t near the coast and are underprepared for dealing with the force of tropical storms. Deadly flooding has been a global phenomenon this summer — in China, Turkey, and Western Europe.

Tracking the Next Round of Storms: It’s been an active hurricane season so far, and two additional storms are expected to make landfall within the next week:  

  • Hurricane Grace made its first landfall in Mexico and is poised to hit the country’s mainland today. 
  • Tropical Storm Fred led to downpours and street flooding in Massachusetts this week, and New England is expected to see impacts from Tropical Storm Henri by the end of the weekend. The region has had an exceptionally wet summer, so “the threshold to see flooding is less than it would typically be,” the Boston Globe writes. 

According to the latest IPCC report, warmer waters are helping storms endure farther north than before, impacting locations not used to tropical cyclones. The last time a hurricane hit New England was 30 years ago when Hurricane Bob made landfall in Rhode Island, then Maine. Today, the Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest-warming bodies of water, and while Henri intensifying to hurricane-strength winds is not likely, it’s not impossible either. 

Climate Change Becomes Part of FEMA Flood Insurance: This month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it will overhaul its National Flood Insurance Program to take climate change into account. The new model, which will take effect on Oct. 1, will consider the property’s replacement cost, distance to possible flooding sources, and models of natural disasters fueled by climate change.

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