Sunday, February 5, 2023

New approach to storm warnings this year revolves around flooding

Most recent track of Hurricane Florence from the National Hurricane Center, issued at 11 a.m. Thursday (Southside Daily photo/Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center)
Most recent track of Hurricane Florence from the National Hurricane Center, issued at 11 a.m. Thursday (HNNDaily photo/Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center)

The downgraded intensity and track change of Hurricane Florence has brought a collective sigh of relief to Hampton Roads; but a tropical storm warning and coastal flood watch are both still in effect for the region, which could bring moderate to major flooding to property and roads.

Chief meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Wakefield Jeff Orrock said this is the first year the NWS has issued both coastal flood and tropical storm watches and warnings at the same time.

“We used to just implement coastal flood watches and warnings for Nor’easters, but did not use them for tropical storms or hurricanes because they come with their own sets of warnings,” Orrock said.

Related story: Virginia Beach ‘breathing a sigh of relief,’ as Florence changes course

However, Orrock said the NWS found that hurricane warnings and their categories did not properly communicate flood risks to the public, as people typically associate hurricanes and their categories with high wind speeds  — not water inundation caused by coastal flooding.

That’s why Hampton Roads is currently under two different sets of warnings and watches.

The NWS issued the tropical storm warning for Hampton Roads because of the imminent landfall of Florence and the 40 to 45 mph gusts it is expected to bring to the area.

“The rain will bring elevated tidal levels, and the wind is going to push water up the rivers,” Orrock said, which is what triggered the coastal flood watch.

Because of the wind direction of the storm, those who live west of the Chesapeake Bay in Hampton Roads — particularly along the James and York Rivers — should expect more flooding than those in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, Orrock said.

According to the NWS data, Florence is predicted to make landfall near the border of North Carolina and South Carolina on Friday.

An evacuation order is still in place for Zone A. To find out which zone you are in, click here.

John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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