U.S. Geological Survey

Front cover of printed report

Two Months of Flooding in Eastern North Carolina, September - October 1999: Hydrologic Water-Quality, and Geologic Effects of Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, and Irene

Water Resources Investigations Report 00-4093
Raleigh, North Carolina 2000
By Jerad D. Bales, Carolyn J. Oblinger, and Asbury H. Sallenger, Jr.

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The combined effects of Hurricanes Dennis, Floyd, and Irene in September and October 1999 resulted in 2 months of flooding throughout most of eastern North Carolina. Hurricane Dennis battered the Outer Banks for almost a week in early September, resulting in severe shoreline erosion in some locations near Buxton and Rodanthe. Upon making landfall less than 2 weeks before Hurricane Floyd, Hurricane Dennis delivered 4 to 8 inches of rain to much of the Tar and Neuse River Basins, breaking a drought and saturating soils. Hurricane Floyd will likely be the second or third most costly hurricane to strike the United States in the 20th century, resulting in more fatalities than any hurricane to strike the United States since 1972. Rainfall amounts recorded during Hurricane Floyd (September 14-17, 1999) and accumulated during the months of September and October were unprecedented for many parts of eastern North Carolina during more than 80 years of precipitation records. Most recording stations in eastern North Carolina received at least half the average annual rainfall during the 2 months. Flooding was at record levels, and 500-year or greater floods occurred in all of the State's river basins east of Raleigh. More than half of the average annual nitrogen and phosphorus loads were transported in the Neuse and Tar Rivers by floodwaters during the 1-month period between mid-September and mid-October. Shoreline erosion from the passage of Hurricane Floyd was particularly severe along Oak and Topsail Islands; the effects of Hurricane Floyd on shoreline erosion and dune retreat were greater than the effects of Hurricane Bonnie in 1998. Fortunately, Hurricane Irene in mid-October did not make landfall in North Carolina, but rainfall from the storm did help ensure that several rivers in eastern North Carolina remained above flood stage for almost 2 months.

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