Usually, the weather report is just about the most boring thing you can see on TV, but in the case of this particular report, that couldn't be further from the truth. It starts out pretty normally, with meteorologist Erika Navarro highlighting areas in North Carolina at risk from Hurricane Florence's storm surge. The storm surge, which could reach above 9 feet (2.7 meters) in coastal and inland riverside areas, is probably the most dangerous aspect of the hurricane.
But not long after that, the magic starts to happen: the screen behind Navarro becomes the surge itself, and suddenly, we're transported into the middle of the hurricane, seeing a sci-fi-like section of what the damage will likely look like. You have to see it for yourself.
— The Weather Channel (@weatherchannel) September 13, 2018
Aside from being a really impressive technical feat, this Weather Channel animation is more than just a pretty picture -- it could very well save lives. Most weather reports and news focus on the wind and rain aspects of storms, but, according to data from the US National Hurricane Center, the storm surge is what's most likely to kill people.
The problem with storm surges is that they can cause devastating floods on very short notice, right after (or sometimes, even before) the actual hurricane hits. Sure, that may not sound as scary as crazy wind speeds, but this is exactly where this segment helps: it shows how easy it is to get trapped by the incoming water, and how it feels to be suddenly in the middle of it all.
For instance, a 3-foot (0.9-meter) surge could easily knock you off your feet, and even start moving cars around, Navarro explains, surrounded by the virtual water. At 6 feet (1.8 meters), the water is enough to cover her, and things really get dangerous: the surging water could contain dangerous debris such as chemicals, exposed wires, or pieces of infrastructure.
Hurricane Florence is expected to cause surges of up to 9 feet (2.7 meters). That's absolutely a life-threatening scenario which should be avoided if at all possible.
"If you find yourself here please get out," says Navarro. "If you're told to go, you need to go."
If you think that sounds unrealistic, you probably haven't heard of 1954's Hurricane Hazel, which caused 17-foot (5.2-meter) floodwater lines, killing 400 people in Haiti, 95 in the US, and 81 in Canada.
Florence is not a storm to be taken lightly, and there's a very good chance that it's reached its current magnitude thanks to a boost from climate change -- as this global shift continues to unfold, we can likely expect many storms like Florence in the upcoming period. Please, everyone, stay safe!