BONNIE COMES HOME
August 26, 1998
Hurricane Bonnie hit North Carolina. The eye of the storm came ashore this afternoon at South Port Beach near Cape Fear. It brought intense thunderstorms and wind gusting up to 130 miles an hour along the North and South Carolina coasts. After a background report, Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane Center, discusses Hurricane Bonnie.
PHIL PONCE: Heavy winds and rain swept in this afternoon, downing power lines and uprooting trees as Hurricane Bonnie took aim at the North Carolina coast. Yesterday, highways took on the look of parking lots as more than ½ million residents and tourists evacuated the coastal Carolinas, leaving behind virtual ghost towns and messages to Bonnie. But some people planned to wait out the 400-mile-wide storm. They braced for the worst.
DONNA BEALE, Nags Head Resident: I have a cottage down here and came down last night to board up, and we made the decision to stay, to ride it out. And I hope it was the right decision.
PHIL PONCE: The military was taking no chances, though. It moved aircraft inland out of harm's way, and the Navy moved ships out to sea to weather the storm.
SGT. CHARLES RAMEY, U.S. Air Force: With any strong storm you have winds, you know, strong winds blowing things around, you know. That potential always exists for other things for the hurricane, such as a tornado, or something like that. These are 185 million dollar aircraft and, you know, we don't want the taxpayers' assets to get damaged in this type of storm.
PHIL PONCE: By mid afternoon the hurricane watch was still in effect from Savannah, Georgia, north to Cape Helopen, Delaware. But the more severe hurricane warning narrowed. Bonnie was expected to reach land anywhere across the 500 mile stretch of coast line from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Chincoteague, Virginia.
PHIL PONCE: And now once again an update from Jerry Jarrell, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami. I spoke with him a short time ago. Mr. Jarrell, what's the latest?
JERRY JARRELL, National Hurricane Center: Well, we have Hurricane Bonnie crossing the coastline near Cape Fear, North Carolina. It is moving on the northward course. Now we expect it to turn toward the East and come out up here close to Virginia Beach, Virginia. Unfortunately, it looks like this is going to be a rather slow track, and it may actually be over North Carolina for upwards of 36 hours. That's an enormous long time for rain, heavy rain, to be falling, and for the coastline to be taking a beating by those powerful waves on top of that storm surge. So it's not a pretty picture there.
PHIL PONCE: You just used the term "storm surge." What is that?
JERRY JARRELL: That's when the wind pushes the water up on the coastline and it causes the tides-think of it as a dome of water rising about, in this case, about ten or twelve feet, so the tide will be ten or twelve feet above normal. And on top of that will be huge ocean waves.
PHIL PONCE: So, Mr. Jarrell, you said that it's hitting around Cape Fear. Does that mean Cape Fear and that area is going to be getting the brunt of the storm, the hardest impact?
JERRY JARRELL: No. It's a huge storm, so all of the section of Eastern North Carolina will feel the effects of it, and the swath of hurricane winds are probably at least 100 miles wide, and so we're going to have a heavy damage through that swath, a little lesser damage on the outside of that.
PHIL PONCE: And you said that it could sit there for as long as 36 hours. Is that unusual?
JERRY JARRELL: Yes, it is. It probably was not sitting one place but it would be slowly moving across that end of North Carolina over that point, but because it is so huge, that whole section will be feeling the effect of it for that entire time.
PHIL PONCE: You talk about the size of Hurricane Bonnie. Is that the most unusual aspect of this hurricane?
JERRY JARRELL: Well, it probably was. It seemed like every hurricane has its unique personality, but it does seem like that the thing that is most unusual that makes it unlike other hurricanes is its enormous size.
PHIL PONCE: And again getting back to the question of how long it might sit over the area that it's going to hit, even after it moves out, is there-are there some lingering effects of continued rain, or anything like that?
JERRY JARRELL: Well, there will be-the wind's still behind it, and the rain shield is well behind the eyes, so even once the eye has cleared, it will take it still some hours for the weather to clear up behind it.
PHIL PONCE: So you're saying there could be rain even after the bulk of the hurricane moves on?
JERRY JARRELL: Yes. In addition to the 36 hours, you have time before and time after that it will be making a very messy weather situation.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Jarrell, Hurricane Bonnie has been called a Category 3 of hurricane. What is that?
JERRY JARRELL: Well, we use the Sanfer Simpson Hurricane Scale, and it's a five-point scale, so that's right in the middle, and anything three, four, or five we considered to be a major hurricane, and it means that it has winds in excess of 110 miles per hour. In this case we think it's about 115 miles per hour.
PHIL PONCE: And what gives you an indicator as to where Bonnie might be heading next?
JERRY JARRELL: Well, we have a group of models that is simulations, model simulations of the atmosphere, and the nice thing about those models is you can play them fast forward and see how it will play out, and most of them are describing a picture that says it will start out to the north, then begin to turn across North Carolina, out by Virginia Beach, and then out over the ocean, and go pretty much East, so we don't expect it to be bothering a lot of folks after it leaves Virginia.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Jarrell, you obviously have a lot of tools at your disposal-satellite imaging, the kinds of computer models you're talking about. How predictable are those tools? How predictable-how good of an indicator do they give you?
JERRY JARRELL: Most of the time they're very consistent, that is, all of them telling the same story, and they're pretty accurate. Every once in a while they are not very accurate, and, in fact, Bonnie, a couple of days ago, when it was stalled, they were telling us almost everything. You had every possible answer from them. So at that point they really were not very valuable to us, but by and large, in the long run, they are extremely valuable tools.
PHIL PONCE: Are you saying that there's greater agreement with the different indicators as to where Bonnie might be headed now than what you were getting earlier on in the life of the hurricane?
JERRY JARRELL: Yes. That's true. Not in the very recent past history but in the history a couple of days ago they were all over the map. Then they came together, and they're still pretty much together now. They're telling us a very uniform story now.
PHIL PONCE: And how about Hurricane Danielle, is there a possibility that that hurricane can wind up following the same path as Bonnie?
JERRY JARRELL: It has so far. It's a long ways out in the Eastern Atlantic, and one really doesn't expect to be able to predict how a storm will behave a week from now, and it's about a week behind Bonnie, so there are lots of things that could happen, but up to now it's following fairly the same path, nearly the same path, and it's not unusual for two hurricanes to follow one another.
PHIL PONCE: But at this point it's still too early to say that Danielle is going to be doing the exact same thing as Bonnie.
JERRY JARRELL: It's definitely too early, and it will almost never be the exact same. The two are distinctly different. Danielle is very small, as opposed to this huge Bonnie.
PHIL PONCE: Mr. Jarrell, thank you very much.
JERRY JARRELL: Okay. My pleasure.