This is a public information and discussion forum on Eastern NC and coastal beaches hurricane threats each year. In this article, we discuss how often they hit, which county beaches and cities are most often hit, what frequency they hit, what time of the year they often threaten the NC coastline, and their intensity (Category level).
Our hope is in a few years we will have a considerable historical record of tropical cyclones that impact the eastern portion of North Carolina, and this will allow us to do research. Additionally, we hope the public will enjoy using this resource to learn more about hurricane education.
This historical record will be updated as new tropical cycles are threatening Eastern NC, and we encourage the public to subscribe to and use the discussion form below to ask questions. Furthermore, please consider sharing this resource with friends and family on social media sites so that others can learn about this topic.
Current Storm Updates
Currently, there are no tropical cyclones threatening any beaches in North Carolina.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How often do hurricanes threaten the coast of NC? According to the local National Weather Service, our state sees at least one threat per year, with that threat being a system that skirts the coast while the center of circulation stays offshore.
How often do hurricanes hit the coast of NC? According to the local National Weather Service, the average works out to one landfall every 3 years. Some seasons will see no landfalls, while others see several systems where the eyewall crosses land.
When is hurricane season and when is it most active during the season? For the Atlantic Basin, hurricane season runs from June until October. During these months, atmospheric conditions and water temperatures are such that benign low pressure systems can turn in to tropical cyclones. During this season, the most active period is August, September, and early October. This is when sea surface temperatures are at the warmest which helps to provide the fuel for development.
Considering hurricanes that hit Eastern NC coastal beaches, where do they form and what path do they take to reach the coast? Cyclones that hit North Carolina typically form between the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean and the African Coast. However, some storms form near the Bahama Islands, and even near the coast of FL before moving parallel up the East Coast.
As for track or path, cyclones that hit NC typically come through the Caribbean Islands and curve, then move from Southwest to Northeast along the coast making landfall in the state. On rare occassion, a storm will form due East of the state and make landfall moving East to West.
What category level or intensity is most common for Eastern NC beaches? Hurricanes that threaten or make landfall (hit) the coast of our state are on average weakening Category 2 or Category 1 systems. This is mainly due to waters off the coastline transitioning from Caribbean waters to waters of the Northeast and are cooling which takes some intensity out of the storm. While storms greater than Category 2 have hit the state in the past, it’s rare.
What NC beaches are most hit by landfall? Coastal areas around Wilmington, Cape Hatteras, and the Crystal Coast see the largest threats because their land mass tend to extend out in to the Atlantic Ocean making them more susceptible to near-miss storms.
Eastern NC hurricane historical record.
September 2018: Hurricane Florence approached the coast as a Category 1 system from an unusual angle which allowed this cyclone to scrape the coastaline with it’s upper right quadrant (strongest) from the Crystal Coast all the way to the Topsail Island beaches in Pender County, then moving in to the New Hanover county area where Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington.
While Florence was only a Category 1 cyclone, the fact that our coast got the right side of this hurricane compared to the left side we normally get caught many people off-guard and created significantly more damage and flooding compared to other storms.
September 1996: Hurricane Fran was a rare Category 3 storm that hit the Cape Fear region near Oak Island causing catastrophic damage and flooding.
October 1954: Hurricane Hazel is the only recorded Category 4 to hit the NC coast near the border with SC.
September 1999: Hurricane Floyd hit the coastline as a Category 2 and then went inland and caused catastrophic flooding with 20 inches of rain in just about every Eastern NC town and city.
August 2016: Hurricane Matthew struck the coast in Eastern NC as a Category 1, but like Floyd packed a rare amount of rain causing catastrophic storm surge as far North as Cape Hatteras.