CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. — In North Carolina, the similarities between Matthew and Hurricane Floyd, the state’s worst natural disaster, are unmistakable.
“When the storm itself came through we had the ocean response, which really wasn’t too terribly bad, but then all the rain came down the rivers from the Piedmont,” Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, Center, said of the 1999 storm.
“If this turns into the rainmaker that some predictions suggest it could then certainly we can expect flooding in Kinston and areas along the Tar River that flooded when Floyd came through.”
Like Floyd, Matthew arrives after a prolonged period of rain in eastern and central North Carolina. Floodwaters in areas around Fayetteville, Windsor and Greenville were just starting to recede.
An average of 10 inches are predicted to fall over the next day in eastern North Carolina, with some spots expected to see 15 or more inches.
Luettich said he expects Matthew’s storm surge to average two to three feet. That’s enough to cause damage to structures along the dune line, but the timing of the storm and tides appear to be working to limit a larger surge and more damage. High tide was around 1 p.m. today, well ahead of Matthew’s strongest punch.
“When the worst of the winds get up to southeastern North Carolina, hopefully we will be past the high tide and in fact a bit closer to the low tide,” he said. “That has a huge impact impact on the amount of storm surge we end up getting.”
Luettich said one major concern about potential storm surge right now is that the storm’s farther reach up the coast will drive the waters of Pamlico Sound into low-lying communities on the sound’s western side and back up the mouth of Neuse and Tar-Pamlico rivers.
Luettich said those areas, likely to flood in the days after the storm, could see several feet of surge this evening and tomorrow.