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Preliminary peak stage and streamflow data for selected U.S. Geological Survey streamgaging stations in North and South Carolina for flooding following Hurricane Florence, September 2018

October 24, 2018

Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, shortly after dawn on September 14, 2018. Once over land, the forward motion of the hurricane slowed to about 2 to 3 miles per hour. Over the next several days, the hurricane delivered historic amounts of rainfall across North and South Carolina, causing substantial flooding in many communities across both States. For the Hurricane Florence event, a new record rainfall total of 35.93 inches was set in Elizabethtown, N.C. Many other locations throughout North Carolina set new records for rainfall, exceeding the previous State record for rainfall from a tropical system of 24.06 inches, which was set over a 4-day period in Southport, N.C., during Hurricane Floyd in 1999. In South Carolina, the highest reported total rainfall of 23.63 inches was in Loris, S.C., which was the highest total rainfall in South Carolina from a tropical cyclone, replacing the previous total of 17.45 inches associated with Tropical Storm Beryl in 1994. During the October 2015 flood in South Carolina, a 4-day total rainfall of 26.88 inches was recorded in Mount Pleasant; however, because that total rainfall was a combination of a tropical storm system and another front that was centered over the State, it is not considered the largest rainfall event from a tropical storm.

Peak streamflow and stage data at 84 U.S. Geological Survey streamflow gaging stations (referred to hereafter as streamgages) in North and South Carolina with at least 10 years of systematic record and for which the flooding following Hurricane Florence resulted in a peak in the top 5 for the period of record are included in this report. New peak streamflows of record were recorded at 18 sites in North Carolina and 10 sites in South Carolina. Another 49 streamgages recorded peak streamflows in the top 5 for their record (45 in North Carolina and 4 in South Carolina). Peak streamflow data following Hurricane Florence were not available for three additional streamgages prior to the publication of this report. Of those three streamgages, two recorded a new peak stage of record and one recorded the second highest peak stage of record. An additional four stage-only streamgages having at least 10 years of systematic record also had new peak stages (also referred to as gage height) of record. For 11 of the 28 streamgages for which the September 2018 peak streamflow was the peak of record, the October 2016 peak following Hurricane Matthew was the second largest peak, and for another four streamgages the September 1999 peak following Hurricane Floyd was the second largest peak.

For the 28 streamgages for which a new peak streamflow of record was recorded, a flood-frequency analysis was done using available systematic record through September 2017 and the peak streamflow from the Hurricane Florence event. Of the 28 streamgages analyzed, the estimated annual exceedance probability for the Hurricane Florence peak streamflow at 9 of the streamgages was less than 0.2 percent, which in terms of recurrence intervals is greater than a 500-year flood event. At three streamgages, the estimated annual exceedance probability was equal to 0.2 percent, and at six streamgages, it was between 0.2 and 1 percent (between a 500- and 100-year recurrence interval, respectively). For the remaining 10 streamgages, the estimated annual exceedance probability was between 1.5 and 7.1 percent, which in terms of recurrence intervals is approximately a 67- to 14-year event, respectively.