The Most Common Natural Disasters in North Carolina

A woman standing in front of a board reading hurricane slogans

North Carolina has its share of natural disasters, but hurricanes and floods top the most common North Carolina natural disasters list. Floods and hurricanes can cause power outages, property damage, disruptions to food and water, illness, and even death. Flooding and hurricanes go hand-in-hand. On the coast, high winds and coastal flooding happen from storm surges. Inland, the same powerful hurricane surge can cause storms in Charlotte, NC, and severe flooding.

Does North Carolina get hurricanes?

Yes. North Carolina’s hurricane season is from June 1st to November 30th, with peak periods early to mid-September. Nearly a quarter of the most damaging hurricanes to hit the U.S. have struck the Carolinas.

Some of the most devastating hurricanes in the last 25 years brought storm surges resulting in torrential rainfall and heavy flooding. Hurricane Floyd, which hit the North Carolina coast as a Category 2 hurricane in 1999, dropped nearly 20 inches of rain in some areas, causing severe flooding, 50 deaths, and an estimated $6 billion in damage.

Hurricane Matthew was the most powerful storm of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The most significant impact of Hurricane Matthew was the torrential rainfall it dropped. Upwards of 12 to 18 inches, with some areas reporting more than 20 inches, resulting in heavy flooding, 28 deaths in North Carolina, and affecting 100,000 structures valued at $1.5 billion. In 2018, Hurricane Florence, a long-lived Category 4 hurricane, dumped an enormous amount of rain in just two days. Some parts of North Carolina received upwards of 30 inches, the highest amount of rain from a single storm, responsible for more than 50 deaths and $24.5 billion in damages. In 2020, a record 30 named storms were recorded, with 13 becoming hurricanes.

Charlotte Natural Disasters

The Queen City boasts beautiful weather most of the year. It’s home to stunning rivers such as the Catawba and picturesque Little Sugar Creek, Mallard Creek, and McMullen Creek, but when torrential rain storms in Charlotte, NC generate heavy rainfall, they rise and crest, making Charlotte a flash flood-prone city. This type of flooding, also called urban flooding, is often worse because paved roads and streets, less vegetation and green space, dense building, and low-capacity drainage equipment leave fewer options for the water to go.

Hurricanes are part of life on the North Carolina coast, but they rarely go far inland—especially not in Charlotte, which is 200 miles away from the ocean. But Charlotte residents got first-hand experience when the gale-force winds of Hurricane Hugo made landfall in 1989. The devastation wasn’t from flooding but the violent wind gusts that reached up to 90 mph, blowing windows out of skyscrapers and toppling 80,000 trees.

Flood Prone Areas in Charlotte NC

Flooding is one of the most common North Carolina natural disasters. More than 450,000 people are living in areas at elevated risk of inland flooding. Charlotte had an 86 percent spike in heavy downpours

with 58.8 inches of rain in 2020. As the environment and weather patterns change, flood risks will increase. Approximately 18,343 properties are already at risk in Charlotte, and within 30 years, about 19,373 will be at risk.

You can quickly find out your home’s risk of flooding by entering your address at Flood Factor.

A Peek Ahead for North Carolina Disasters

Flooding, one of the most common natural disasters has the potential to be worse in the years ahead. Research shows a 99-100% probability the sea level will continue to rise, and a 66-100 % probability hurricane intensity will increase, as will the annual total precipitation leading to inland flooding.

Hurricane staying power is holding on longer these days once they make landfall, spreading more inland destruction, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Nature. The study stated warmer ocean waters from climate change are likely allowing hurricanes’ power to linger longer after landfall because they act as a reserve fuel tank for moisture.

Flooding Dangers to Health and Home

Did you know that floodwaters from storms in Charlotte, NC—or anywhere for that matter, that seep into your home may be significantly more contaminated than floodwaters from clean sources, such as rainwater? Category 3 water is grossly contaminated from originating from seawater, rivers, streams, and ground surface water. It may come from sewage and toilet backflows. It also might contain pesticides and toxic organic substances.

This type of water isn’t something you want in your home or near your family. It has the potential to cause serious illness, disease, or death. Look for a professional restoration company with IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification). They have trained professionals with specialized equipment to extract the water and remove contaminants from the air quickly. Their commercial-grade equipment increases air circulation and restores your home’s humidity level, significantly reducing the harmful effects mold growth can have on your health.

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