Sea level rise, development contribute to greater Florence storm surge, study shows

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The storm surge of Hurricane Florence came ashore in Carolina Beach earlier this month. (Source: WECT)

Sea level rise since 1970 contributed to thousands of additional homes being affected by the storm surge of Hurricane Florence earlier this month, according to a study released Monday morning from a national non-profit group. 

Scientists with the First Street Foundation estimate an additional 11,000 homes felt the effects of the storm surge, compared to the potential effects if that same size storm hit in 1970. Overall, storm surge touched more than 51,000 homes during Florence. 

The study estimates that if a hurricane with the power of Florence hits in 2050, the impact would double to more than 100,000 homes.

First Street states tidal data in eastern North Carolina shows the sea level has risen about six inches since 1970. The higher sea level provides more water to be picked up by hurricane winds. 

The scientists also cite changing housing development patterns for increasing the number of homes affected by storm surge, with more properties being developed on wetlands, farms and conserved areas. The executive director of First Street Foundation, Matthew Eby, says sea levels and coastal development will only contribute to greater storm surge impacts in the future.  

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