Hurricane Floyd - September 16, 1999

 

On September 16, 1999, Hurricane Floyd passed over extreme Northeast North Carolina along an axis from Elizabeth City to the Virginia-North Carolina border. The overall track of Floyd was similar to that of Hurricane Donna in September 1960, however Floyd weakened considerably in its overland track across eastern North Carolina and emerged into the Atlantic as a Category 1 hurricane.  Barometric pressures during Floyd were the 4th lowest this century for a hurricane in Norfolk. The central pressure along the entire track of the storm varied between 968 and 977 millibars.

The sustained winds over land during Floyd's passage through the area never reached Hurricane force. Sustained winds were generally between 35 and 50 mph with gusts to 60 mph in a few locations. The highest winds during Floyd occurred generally east of the track of the storm along the coast of northeast North Carolina and over the open Atlantic east of the Virginia Capes. Duck Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Pier reported an extreme wind gust to 98 mph, while the Chesapeake Light Station reported an extreme wind gust to 85 mph.

The passage of Floyd through the region resulted in storm surges of 3 to 4 feet along the Atlantic coast and the lower Chesapeake Bay.  The northeast section of the Chesaepeake Bay bordering Accomac County, VA and Somerset County, MD reported storm surges of 5 to 7 feet with water described as coming in "tidal bore" fashion. This may have been due to a seiche effect, where water literally sloshes from one side of a body of water to another as in a bath tub due to sudden shifts in wind. The water levels rose to such heights in this portion of the Bay only after the winds switched to a northwest direction after the passage of Hurricane Floyd. The Sea Lake and Overland Surge Height (SLOSH) model forecast for a Category One hurricane underforecast the surge heights by several feet.  The surges were more typical for a Category Two hurricane.

In the Hampton Roads area, the tide levels reached 6.35 feet above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) at Sewells Point. The tide levels were much higher further down the tributary of the Elizabeth River, reaching 7.41 feet above MLLW at Money Point, VA in the city of Chesapeake. These levels were similar to those reached during the first of the twin nor'easters of 1998. These water levels coupled with the copius amounts of rainfall resulted in overall flooding which rivaled and in a few cases exceeded that of the second of the twin nor'easters on February 4, 1998 and was the most severe flooding since the Ash Wednesday Storm of March 1962.

Floyd will be remembered as an extremely wet hurricane for east central Virginia...interior northeast North Carolina and the lower Maryland eastern shore. The presence of a stalled frontal boundary across the region provided the focus for extremely heavy rains. Rainfall amounts averaged 10 to 20 inches in a 50-75 mile swath centered along a Northampton County, N.C. - Southampton County, VA. - Newport News, VA - Westmoreland County, VA axis. Some areas received rainfall amounts in the two days...September 15-16, 1999 which exceeded the 100 year 10 day total.

The Wakefield WSR-88D was utilizing the Tropical ZR relationship for rainfall estimation during this event. The Storm Total Precipitation from the WSR-88D agreed quite well with the actual observed Storm Total Precipitation amounts. The WSR-88D underestimated the precipitation by about 10 percent.

Click here for a tabular listing of the highest winds, lowest barometric pressure and rainfall during Floyd for various locations in northeast North Carolina. eastern Virginia and the lower Maryland eastern shore.

Click here for a summary of Floyd at NWS Wakefield, including many pictures of flooding and damage in the area.