Two powerful storms are threatening lives and livelihoods this week on opposite ends of the earth — Hurricane Florence, forecast to bombard the Carolinas in the United States with wind and rain, and Super Typhoon Mangkhut, which has whipped up 150-mile-an-hour winds on its way toward the Philippines.
A threat to the breadbasket of the Philippines
Mangkhut, the super typhoon, threatens to bring “ruinous rain” to Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Philippines, according to Richard Gordon, a senator and the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.
The storm was also expected to hit a region considered to be the country’s breadbasket, raising concerns that an agricultural sector already devastated by a series of typhoons would be pummeled once again, right at the beginning of the corn and rice harvest.
Curious why Mangkhut is called a typhoon while Florence is called a hurricane? It’s all about location.
(A super typhoon is defined as a tropical cyclone with sustained winds exceeding 150 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center, close to the 157-mile-per-hour minimum wind speed used to denote a Category 5 hurricane.)
Florence, a ‘monster’ of a storm
The first drips of Hurricane Florence had begun to fall over North Carolina on Thursday morning, with some areas forecast to be deluged by up to 40 inches of rain. Before the storm had officially even arrived, its winds had already begun lashing the Outer Banks.
For the latest, check out Thursday live updates and maps tracking the storm. (Florence was a Category 4 storm as of early Wednesday, but had been downgraded to Category 2 by Thursday. Here’s what the categories mean.)
Despite warnings from Gov. Roy Cooper against riding out what he called a “monster” storm, some North Carolinians — like Skippy Winner, an 84-year-old retired sea captain — planned to stay put. “I’m gonna be just fine, so let ’er blow,” he said.
Part of the reason that people ignore such warnings is that forecasts and risks are not always communicated well to the public, experts said. Here are three dangerous hurricane misconceptions that scientists want to clear up.
Like Hurricane Harvey last year, Florence was expected to forge ahead slowly, exacerbating its impact. Those storms aren’t alone: Researchers say that tropical cyclones, which include hurricanes, have become slower since the mid-1900s.
The recovery will pose a formidable test for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and President Trump, who oversaw a lackluster response to the hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico last year. On Thursday, Mr. Trump falsely accused Democrats of inflating the death toll from that storm, rejecting the official government estimate that it had claimed nearly 3,000 lives.
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The damage may also be magnified by policies in North Carolina that minimized climate change and allowed development in coastal areas vulnerable to such storms.
News reports about the storm may be laden with words like landfall, eyewall and flood plain. Here’s a guide to what the terms mean and here are some answers to reader questions about the science of forecasting hurricanes.
A dozen hurricanes have hit North Carolina since Hurricane Hazel made landfall as a Category 4 storm in 1954, but none have been as severe. Read more about that storm.