Florence dipped to Category 2 hurricane strength with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph on Wednesday evening.
"Minor fluctuations in strength are likely to continue with factors related to nearby land areas, warm waters, wind shear and the overall large size of Florence," said Marshal Moss, AccuWeather vice president of forecasting and graphics operations.
Even though Florence is moving to the northwest at this time, AccuWeather meteorologists believe that the hurricane will stall and meander near the Carolina coast from Thursday night to Saturday. The forward speed of Florence has dropped from 17 mph on Wednesday to 12 mph on Thursday.
Despite the hurricane losing wind intensity since its peak as a Category 4, it has grown substantially in overall size and its predicted deceleration in forward speed will take a costly toll.
“AccuWeather estimates that Hurricane Florence will cause $30 (billion) to $60 billion in economic impact and damage. To put this in context, we correctly predicted the full extent of Hurricane Harvey’s economic damage to be $190 billion last year,” AccuWeather founder and president Dr. Joel N. Myers said. While we expect an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 40 inches of rain, extensive inland flooding and storm surge flooding from Florence, Hurricane Harvey unleashed more than 60 inches of rain locally centered around the United States’ fourth largest city, Houston, which has a population of 2.3 million.”
“For further context, we accurately estimated the total economic impact from Hurricane Irma would be $100 billion. Additionally, Florence’s projected toll is less than Hurricane Sandy's toll of $69 billion and Katrina's cost of $161 billion,” Myers said.
"Other sources are predicting a financial toll for Florence of up to $170 billion, and we think that is extreme when looking at Florence’s track and impacts to people and their lives,” Myers said. “Florence is forecast to make landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina, as a Category 2 or Category 1 storm Friday morning. Storms of this magnitude have struck the U.S. coastline in the past, in some cases causing $10 billion or less in total damage.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Alex Sosnowski is an AccuWeather senior meteorologist.