Travel Warning: US Hurricane Florence - Southeast

14 Sep 2018

Hurricane Florence has weakened slightly in the Atlantic Ocean, Sept. 12. As of 1700 EDT, the hurricane's centre of circulation was approximately 630 km (390 miles) southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. Despite decreasing in strength to a Category 3 storm, the size of the overall wind field has increased. Much of the weakening has been attributed to an influx of dry air into the system; only minor additional strengthening is predicted over the coming days as Florence tracks toward the Carolina coastline.

Meteorologists predict that Florence will approach the southern coast of North Carolina through the day Sept. 13, likely staying off the coast for an extended period of time. Weak steering currents could cause the centre of the storm to slowly start tracking southwestward along the Carolina coast through Sept. 14 before the centre of circulation finally pushes onshore near the North Carolina-South Carolina border at some point late Sept. 14 or Sept. 15.

Regardless of where the centre makes landfall, the large size and slow speed of the hurricane will cause extensive onshore flow, storm surge, heavy rainfall, and damaging winds for at least 72 hours in most of the Carolinas. As of late Sept. 12, hurricane-force winds extend outward approximately 110 km (70 miles) from the centre of circulation; tropical-storm force winds currently extend outward up to 315 km (195 miles) from the centre of the hurricane. Florence is forecast to weaken upon interaction with land, ultimately transitioning to a tropical depression and remnant low by Sept. 17 in far western South Carolina and North Carolina. Anticipate additional changes to the forecasted landfall location and intensity of the hurricane in the coming days.

Weather Warnings
As of 1700 EDT Sept. 12, the following coastal advisories, watches, and/or warnings remain in effect:

  • Hurricane Warning: South Santee River, South Carolina, to Duck, North Carolina; Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds
  • Hurricane Watch: Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to South Santee River, South Carolina
  • Tropical Storm Warning: North of Duck, North Carolina, to the North Carolina-Virginia Border
  • Tropical Storm Watch: North of the North Carolina-Virginia border to Cape Charles Light, Virginia; Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort
  • Storm Surge Warning: South Santee River, South Carolina to Duck, North Carolina; Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds (including the Neuse and Pamlico rivers)
  • Storm Surge Watch: Edisto Beach, South Carolina to South Santee River, South Carolina; North of Duck, North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border

Emergency Preparations
Life-threatening weather conditions are likely in the Carolinas, southern Virginia, and into parts of northeastern Georgia starting on Sept. 13 and persisting through at least Sept. 17. Government officials in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Maryland have issued state of emergency declarations in anticipation of a landfalling hurricane. As of late Sept. 12, more than 1.5 million residents have been placed under mandatory evacuation orders in the following areas:

South Carolina

  • All evacuation zones in Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Georgetown, and Horry counties, including Edisto Beach
  • Mandatory evacuations lifted in Beaufort, Colleton, and Jasper counties (with the exception of Edisto Beach)

North Carolina

  • Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico, and Tyrrell counties: Entire counties
  • Beaufort County: Low-lying flood-prone areas and mobiles homes
  • Brunswick County: All unincorporated areas
  • Carteret County: Atlantic Beach; Emerald Isle; Indian Beach; Pine Knoll Shores
  • Currituck County: Currituck Outer Banks (Corolla and Carova)
  • Jones County: All towns and unincorporated areas
  • New Hanover County: University of North Carolina Wilmington; Carolina, Kure, and Wrightsville beaches
  • Onslow County: Unincorporated areas and Topsail Beach
  • Pender County: Topsail Beach; low-lying flood-prone areas and mobile homes (including areas near the Intercoastal Waterway, Northeast Cape Fear River, and Black River)


  • All residents in Zone A, the lowest-lying areas of Coastal Virginia and the Eastern Shore

Authorities are warning that emergency services will likely be unavailable to individuals who fail to heed mandatory evacuation orders for the duration of the storm.

In order to facilitate the evacuations, authorities have implemented contraflow lane reversals along the I-26 and US 501 in South Carolina and are prepared to implement additional lane reversals along US 21 and US 278 if traffic conditions warrant. Regardless, extensive delays are likely on regional highways in the Carolinas and southern Virginia through at least Sept. 12 as residents heed the orders, including along I-26, I-40, and I-95. There have also been reports of long lines at gas stations throughout the Carolinas. Some distributors have also run out of fuel due to the high demand; however, supply issues are not anticipated following the passage of the storm.

Hazardous Conditions
Weather conditions will likely start to deteriorate in the affected area throughout the day Sept. 13. Current forecast models indicate that Florence will significantly slow or stall off the coast of the Carolinas, bringing a long-duration and dangerous rainfall and flooding event to the region through at least Sept. 17. The following rainfall accumulations are predicted in the affected area:

  • Coastal North Carolina: 50-76 cm (20-30 inches); localised totals of up to 100 cm (40 inches) possible; catastrophic flash and areal flooding likely
  • South Carolina; western and northern North Carolina: 13-25 cm (5-10 inches); localised totals of up to 50 cm (20 inches) possible; significant flash and areal flooding likely
  • Eastern Georgia; western and southern Virginia: 7.5-15 cm (3-6 inches); flash and areal flooding possible

This amount of rainfall will undoubtedly cause life-threatening flash and areal flooding for a prolonged period of time. Flood control systems throughout the region will be stressed by the water volumes, and some protection measures - such as dams and reservoirs - could fail.

Extensive and historic storm surge inundation and coastal flooding are likely in the Carolinas and possibly into the Chesapeake Bay. If the storm stalls just off the coast as currently forecast, onshore flow could cause storm surge to persist over multiple high tide cycles, since water will be unable to drain into the Atlantic Ocean. The most significant storm surge is likely to occur near and to the northeast of where the centre of circulation makes landfall. The following water levels above normal tides are possible, especially if the surge coincides with high tide:

  • Cape Fear to Cape Lookout (including the Neuse and Pamlico rivers): 2.7-4 metres (9-13 feet)
  • North Myrtle Beach to Cape Fear: 1.8-2.7 metres (6-9 feet)
  • Cape Lookout to Ocracoke Inlet: 1.8-2.7 metres (6-9 feet)
  • South Santee River to North Myrtle Beach: 1.2-1.8 metres (4-6 feet)
  • Ocracoke Inlet to Salvo, North Carolina: 1.2-1.8 metres (4-6 feet)
  • Salvo, North Carolina to the North Carolina-Virginia border: 0.6-1.2 metres (2-4 feet)
  • Edisto Beach to South Santee River: 0.6-1.2 metres (2-4 feet)

Destructive winds will also be a concern throughout the affected area. Although the strongest hurricane-force winds will occur near the centre of circulation, the wind field of the storm will be expansive and encompass much of the region. Winds associated with major hurricanes can cause extensive damage to well-built homes, including the removal of roofing and decking materials. The combination of highly saturated soils and strong winds will lead to fallen trees and power lines, as well as scatter debris; utilities, including power and water, are unlikely to be available for several days to weeks in some areas. Tornadoes and waterspouts are likely as Florence's rain bands come onshore.

Florence will lead to ground, air, and maritime transport disruptions throughout the southeastern US over the coming days. Traffic and commercial trucking delays are highly likely on regional highways; high winds will pose a significant hazard to vehicles, and travel bans could be instituted as the hurricane makes landfall. Secondary and low-lying roads will probably be inundated by floodwaters; authorities might close some roads and bridges to traffic, especially those along the coast or in frequently flooded locations of urban areas. Standing water could block some low-lying roads for several days following Florence's dissipation.

Florence will almost certainly cause severe and widespread air travel disruptions in the Carolinas, and possibly into Virginia and Georgia. Anticipate airport closures and major flight cancellations at airports serving the region through at least Sept. 15 and possibly longer. All major US carriers have issued travel waivers allowing passengers flying to, from, or through airports in the region to change or cancel tickets without additional fees. Delta Airlines (DL) has also implemented price caps on flights from cities in the storm's projected path. Airlines will likely cancel all flights to many airports in the region, even if the airports remain open.

Temporary port closures are expected in the Carolinas and Virginia as Florence makes landfall. As of Sept. 12, port authorities and US Coast Guard officials have confirmed the following status updates:

  • North Carolina: Port of Wilmington and Port of Morehead City to close from 1200 Sept. 13 through at least Sept. 15
  • South Carolina: Port of Charleston to close Sept. 13 through at least Sept. 15; no train or gate operations at Dillion Sept. 13-16; Port of Georgetown closed until at least Sept. 17
  • Virginia: Manageable weather conditions expected for cargo operations; main shipping channel remains closed at the Virginia Capes; truck gates to reopen at all cargo terminals Sept. 13

Hurricane Florence will also disrupt rail traffic in portions of the southeastern US over the coming days. Amtrak has cancelled all Piedmont trains (between Charlotte and Raleigh) and Carolinian trains (between Charlotte and New York City) from Sept. 13-16. Long distance trains - including the Silver Meteor, the Crescent, and the Silver Star - will not operate in the state until at least Sept. 16. Prolonged flooding could continue to disrupt some freight and commuter rail in the Carolinas through mid-September.

Further assistance

Campus Travel can be contacted 24/7, 365 days a year.

Number: +61 7 3393 8855 (calls from overseas)

Number: 1300 662 703 (calls from within Australia)


If you require emergency assistance while travelling, please contact Chubb Insurance Assistance. The contact details are listed below:

Travel emergency 24/7 contact

Chubb Assistance phone +61 2 8907 5995 and quote UQ policy number 01PP529201. Reverse phone charge is available.