Modern meteorological data collection gives us an unprecedented view into the real-time growth, track, and death of tropical cyclones. Recently, we watched as Hurricane Florence started as a tropical wave off the west coast of Africa, grew into a storm with Category 4 winds, and then made landfall on September 14 near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. At that point, with sustained winds down to 90 miles-per-hour, Florence was classified as merely a Category 1 storm. But after moving rapidly across the Atlantic, Hurricane Florence had slowed to a crawl before hitting the Carolina coast, turning the storm into a rain bomb that dropped more precipitation — 36 inches in one town — than all previous U.S. tropical cyclones save one, last year’s Hurricane Harvey. Fears of coastal flooding were rapidly replaced by the reality of prolonged, inland flooding.
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