How Hurricane Florence could affect New England

“There’s really no way it’s going to move up here as a tropical system.”

The ocean off Kill Devil Hills, N.C., in the early morning on Sept. 11, 2018. Officials in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia are imploring residents and visitors to evacuate coastal areas ahead of Hurricane Florence, with more than one million expected to flee. The Category 4 storm is predicted to make landfall Thursday night, with tropical storm-force winds arriving by Thursday morning.
The ocean off Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, early Tuesday morning. Officials in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia are imploring residents and visitors to evacuate coastal areas ahead of Hurricane Florence. –Eric Thayer/The New York Times

Millions on the East Coast are preparing to be hit by what meteorologists are calling a hurricane of “staggering” size. The approach of Hurricane Florence has sparked mandatory evacuations for parts of the Carolinas and Virginia, where the center of the Category 4 storm is expected to arrive on Thursday.

While Florence could punch the Carolinas harder than any hurricane since 1954, New England isn’t expected to see much of an impact from the storm.  

Bill Simpson, a spokesman for the National Weather Service in Boston, told Boston.com there’s “no chance” of New England seeing severe impacts from the powerful hurricane because of the system’s patterns.

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“There’s really no way it’s going to move up here as a tropical system,” he said.

Simpson said starting Wednesday and through the latter part of the week, southern New England could see high surf, elevated swell, and possible rip currents due to the hurricane farther south.

“Mainly in the south-facing beaches, coastal Rhode Island and the Cape and Islands for the south coast,” he said.

Other impacts, like potential rain, depend upon what Florence does after it makes landfall, the meteorologist said.

“What it does after that is pretty complicated because there’s no real steering currents,” he said.

The current upper air pattern indicates Florence will probably move west into New York and Pennsylvania as it weakens.

“But central Mass. over towards the Berkshires could get some rain,” Simpson said. “It’s all contingent on how quickly it weakens once it hits the coast later this weekend. So the impact overall is pretty minimal.”

Simpson said the coverage and attention on Florence is a reminder for New Englanders of the importance of being vigilant during hurricane season and preparing for severe weather “way before any potential event.”

“These events highlight how it’s important to prepare for any tropical system,” he said. “A lot of people down in the Carolinas weren’t really prepared, and all of sudden they’re running on the food and water and all of a sudden they’re in trouble. So we always say way before it’s even on the map to have some kind of kit and extra water and extra food, well advance of an event. That just makes so much sense because once there is a potential threat there is a run on the stores and the next thing you know there’s nothing to be had.”