What Natural Disasters Are Most Likely in North Carolina?

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Hurricanes are the most common natural disaster in North Carolina.
Hurricanes are the most common natural disaster in North Carolina. (Image: Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

North Carolina sits halfway down the Atlantic Coast of the United States between Virginia and South Carolina. As the state falls within a subtropical zone and is not on an earthquake fault line, almost all natural disasters are weather-related. The state is susceptible to several forms of natural disasters such as powerful hurricanes, devastating tornadoes, crippling storms called nor'easters and searing drought.

Hurricanes

Exactly 403 hurricanes have hit North Carolina in various stages of strength since 1851 when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began keeping track of all tropical storms. Thirteen of these storms have been given a Saffir-Simpson category greater than 3. The most powerful hurricane to hit North Carolina was category 4 Hurricane Hazel on October 15, 1954 with sustained winds of 140 MPH and a storm surge of 18 feet.

Tornadoes

Even though North Carolina sits far east of Tornado Alley, a part of the U.S.'s Midwest known for a large concentration of tornadoes, the state still receives an average of two to three per year mostly to the east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The state has never been hit by a massive F5 tornado but has had a total of 27 instances of F4 tornadoes since 1950. The deadliest of these was an F4 that touched down in Pitt County on March 28, 1984 resulting in nine deaths and 153 injuries as a part of a storm system which spawned a total of 24 tornadoes in a 24-hour period.

Nor'Easters

North Carolina is no stranger to snow systems and intense nor'easters. The state typically averages about 5 inches of snow per year. However, every once and awhile, they will receive a crippling winter storm. One particular famous storm system from 1993 dubbed "The Storm of the Century" dumped 4 feet of snow on Mount Mitchell with snow drifts as high as 14 feet.

Drought

With North Carolina being in a humid subtropical environment, the state is affected by drought of various degrees every year. Most droughts last only for a few weeks, but some have lasted several years. In the example of the drought in 1998, North Carolina had a continuous water shortage in portions of the state until 2002 due to recurring dry winters and springs.

Flooding

Flooding in North Carolina occurs quite often due to storm surges from hurricanes from the Atlantic Ocean. However, severe rain storms cause flash floods and overflowed riverbanks almost yearly. The most recent severe flooding occurred in September 2010 as remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole caused a flash flood in the Cape Fear region as 2 feet of rain fell in a three-day period.

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