CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In some significant respects, yes it was. As hurricane Joaquin slowly rolled from east of the Bahamas toward Bermuda, it is certainly true the Carolinas missed the damaging hurricane force winds, but 75% of all hurricane deaths are not from wind, but from water, and we certainly had more than enough of that over the past several days.
Many deaths are historically caused by the storm surge along and near the coastline, about half the total. However, one out of every four people killed in a hurricane dies from inland flooding. And that was our major issue during this rare event.
The inland flooding is a direct result of the heavy tropical rains that fall. A typical rainfall forecast for a land-falling major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) is 10" – 20" of rain which is dependent on the size of the storm and the forward speed which determines how long the rain will fall. See the accompanying picture from Hurricane Hugo which roared ashore in Charleston, SC as a Category 4 hurricane in 1989. You will see very few areas even reached 10" of rainfall. Granted, Hugo was moving along quickly but we still took a direct hit from a Category 4 hurricane.
Compare the 5" to 10" of rainfall Hurricane Hugo produced to this past weekend where over two feet of rain fell in parts of South Carolina. Remember, this all happened with Hurricane Joaquin hardly getting closer than 700 miles from our coastline. But the other accompanying pictures will show you how the upper level low over the Southeastern United States sucked the moisture from Joaquin and channeled it directly into the Carolinas setting up the staggering rainfall and catastrophic flooding. And tragically, as you might expect from a widespread flood like this, the Carolinas experienced numerous fatalities.
So while we are thankful we missed the hurricane force winds, high wind typically only accounts for 5% - 10% of storm fatalities. Therefore, even in the absence of a land-falling hurricane, we clearly still got the worst of it!