A Climatology of Tropical Cyclone Impacts across the NWS Newport/Morehead City County Warning Area

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Sunday, 2 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Zachary P. Sefcovic, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN; and D. A. Glenn

Eastern North Carolina is a particularly vulnerable area with regards to tropical cyclones (TCs) and their impacts. According to the National Hurricane Center, eastern North Carolina is a frequent location for hurricane strikes and has a hurricane return rate of 5-7 years. The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Newport/Morehead City (MHX), North Carolina is responsible for many of the coastal areas of eastern North Carolina including the Outer Banks and the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. While the climatology of TCs is known across the region, less is understood about their impacts. Thus, a climatology of tropical cyclone impacts was created for the MHX county warning area (CWA) to obtain a better understanding of previous TC events and aid in public education across the region.

The National Hurricane Center's hurricane database (HURDAT) was the primary source of tropical cyclone data. This data was supplemented using the Hurricane Research Division's Atlantic Hurricane Database Re-analysis Project, which provided updates to HURDAT for TCs that occurred prior to 1945. The TCs were categorized by maximum intensity, time of year, storm path, inland flooding, coastal flooding, and storm surge. Furthermore, a chronology of the impacts for each TC was created, utilizing many additional documentary sources which discussed localized impacts across the region.

Statistical tables and charts were created to illustrate information on TC intensities and impacts by month, decade, and coastal county. Using the combination of HURDAT and historical sources, 167 TCs were found to have affected the MHX CWA since 1851, resulting in a return interval of about one TC impact per year. Of these 167 TCs, 51.5% produced tropical storm strength impacts, 15.5% produced category one hurricane strength impacts, 9.6% produced category two hurricane strength impacts, and 4.2% produced category three strength impacts with the remaining TCs bringing tropical depression or post-tropical cyclone impacts. Inland and coastal flooding impacts were categorized in coordination with the NWS Tropical Cyclone Impact Graphic thresholds. The resultant climatology will be used as an important reference and aid in understanding the impacts from different TCs across eastern North Carolina.