Above: A man gets into his truck after evaluating the conditions of a flooded road in Wilmington on Sept. 14, the day Hurricane Florence made landfall. Photo by Justin Kase Conder


When a hurricane like Florence strikes, onlookers may ask, “Who saw the worst damage?”

But enduring a major storm is deeply personal. “If you’re a disaster victim and you’re affected, it’s the worst event for you,” says Jessica Whitehead, North Carolina Sea Grant’s coastal communities hazards adaptation specialist.

Damaged possessions practically obscured a home in Harkers Island, Carteret County. Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA

Powerful storm surges announced the hurricane’s arrival on Friday, Sept. 14. During Florence’s slow march, extensive rains inundated the Carolinas. Rivers poured over their banks and flash floods menaced.

“It’s not a coastal-only issue,” says Erik Heden, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s Newport/Morehead City office.

Florence’s impacts “are felt not just in Topsail, not just in Emerald Isle, not just in Wrightsville Beach. They’re felt in Kenansville — or Duplin County — inland. They’re felt in New Bern.”

The storm took 41 lives in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper reported in mid-November. Ongoing damage estimates were at $17 billion — more than from hurricanes Floyd and Matthew combined.

The photographs herein are just a small representation of what people and communities experienced during and shortly after Florence. Many will continue to face challenges, Whitehead says. “Recovery from a storm like this is counted in years, not months.”

Here’s a look at what areas in various southeastern and central parts of the state have endured.

Bladen County experienced flooding in many areas. Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA

Left: Pollocksville, in Jones County, saw historic flooding as the Trent River overflowed its banks. Photo by Gray Whitley/Sun Journal. Right: Flood waters from the Neuse River swamped parts of Kinston in Lenoir County. Photo by Ken Blevins/Star-News.

Hurricane Florence plunged Bald Head Island into a state of emergency. The island finally reopened to everyone on Oct. 1. Photo by Ken Blevins/Star-News.

On Sept. 15, a day after landfall, a line forms at a Speedway convenience store and gas station in Jacksonville, Onslow County. Photo by Justin Kase Conder.

Left: Oriental, in Pamlico County on the Pamlico Sound, suffered major damage from Hurricane Florence. Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA. Right: Friends, family and neighbors made quick work of gutting this house, one of many that flooded in a neighborhood off Oaks Road in New Bern, Craven County. Photo by Sarah Spiegler.

The greatest storm surge occurred in New Bern, in Craven County, swamping the riverside city. Photo by Gray Whitley/Sun Journal.

Waves slam the Oceanana Pier & Pier House Restaurant in Atlantic Beach on Sept. 13 as Hurricane Florence approaches the area. Photo by Travis Long/The News & Observer.

Flood waters from the Black River submerged houses in Currie, Pender County. Photo by Ken Blevins/Star News.

Left: Lt. Keith Ramsey with the Pender County Sheriff’s Office walks out to a boat while taking part in rescue operations in Burgaw. Photo by Matt Born/Star-News. Right: Two brothers remove debris from their family’s yard in Jacksonville on Sept. 15. Photo by Justin Kase Conder.

With Hurricane Florence in full swing and water waist-deep, some residents decided to self-evacuate in Washington, Beaufort County. Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA.

Weeks after Hurricane Florence, dishes and other belongings were stacked outside a storm-destroyed house in the Oaks Road neighborhood in New Bern. Photo by Gray Whitley/Sun Journal.

Left: Hurricane Florence affected inland counties including Harnett, where this poultry building was destroyed. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEMA. Right: Chaney Creek flooded into Phillips Park in Jacksonville. Photo by John Althouse/The Daily News.

A resident of Trenton, in Jones County, removes possessions from her flooded home. Water inundated hundreds of homes across the county. Photo by Travis Long/The News & Observer.

For more details on Florence, check out these summaries from the NWS offices in Newport/Morehead City and Wilmington, as well as this blog post by the N.C. Climate Office

This article was published in the Autumn 2018 issue of Coastwatch. For reprint requests, click here.