Historical Weather Events on Topsail Island

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The Region & History

Topsail Island and surrounding communities are prone to tropical storms and hurricanes because of their location along the Carolina Coast. These severe weather events have proven to have a significant impact on the local community, often causing widespread damage and disruption.

Over the years, Topsail Island has been affected by a number of significant hurricanes, including Hurricane Floyd, Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Matthew, and Hurricane Florence.

Despite these challenges, the community on Topsail Island has remained resilient and continues to thrive. Learn more about the most recent severe weather events, below.

Hurricane Floyd

Hurricane Floyd was a Category 4 hurricane that impacted the Topsail area in September 1999. Floyd was large in size and brought maximum sustained winds with speeds up to 145 mph to the region.

Hurricane Floyd made landfall to the south of Topsail Island (near Cape Fear) on September 16, 1999. The storm caused widespread damage and flooding across Southeastern North Carolina but also affected coastal communities throughout South Carolina and Virginia.

Hurricane Floyd’s strong winds and heavy rainfall combined to create a significant storm surge on Topsail Island from both the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Intracoastal Waterway (ICWW). The resulting storm surge caused significant damage to homes and commercial properties all along the coast, but it was particularly destructive on Topsail Island.

The storm surge also forced many of the area’s residents to evacuate, while wind and debris from the storm caused widespread power outages and disrupted transportation to and from the island itself. The damage caused by Hurricane Floyd was extensive and it took months for most (and years for others) to fully recover.

Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene was a Category 1 hurricane that made landfall near Cape Lookout, North Carolina on August 27, 2011. While the storm passed to the north of Topsail Island before making its way on shore, it still delivered rain, wind, and storm surge to Topsail Island and surrounding communities. Like Hurricane Floyd, the sweeping impacts of this storm affected neighboring states as well, including Virginia and Maryland.

Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew was a Category 5 hurricane that made landfall near McClellanville, South Carolina on October 8, 2016. Category 5 hurricanes are the strongest measured, and Hurricane Matthew lived up to that billing by causing widespread damage and flooding across Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.

The storm’s strength caused significant damage to homes and businesses along the coast, and those destructive characteristics were certainly felt on Topsail Island as well as in the communities across coastal Pender and New Hanover Counties.

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence was classified as a Category 1 hurricane when it made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on September 14, 2018. The storm caused widespread damage and flooding across the region and left Topsail Island inaccessible for months for those not living on the island.

What made Hurricane Florence both unique and devastating for the Topsail area was the breadth of the storm, the heavy rainfall that it carried onshore, and the lasting impacts of water and erosion combined from a significant storm surge and periods of heavy flooding from local rivers draining out to the coast.

Major roadways stemming from Highway 17 in the Topsail area (and at times, US-17 itself) were closed for travel and at times inaccessible due to flooding across the area. While many residents opted to stay local as the storm approached, those who evacuated inland to the west were unable to return to the area because of these road closures for weeks.

Hurricane Florence also had a lasting impact on Topsail Island’s shoreline, leaving many large dunes leveled due to washout and erosion, and local boaters familiar with navigating the area and ICWW still notice changes in the channels and shoreline resulting from the storm.


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