What If Katrina Comes to Cape Fear?

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WILMINGTON -- One year ago, Katrina was bearing down on the Gulf Coast, and we know the impact that storm had on an entire region. But what if that region was here?

"What people saw Katrina do on the Mississippi coast, where all those casinos were driven on the beach and all those homes were just blasted by storm surge," said meteorologist Tom Matheson, "it would be every bit as bad around here when that happens."

And the Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service warned it will happen.

Meteorologists constantly talk about preparing for a landfall of a major hurricane in the Cape Fear region -- for good reasons. Depending on the strength and speed of a system, wind damage would be likely. Trees would be blown down, windows blown out. Power lines and telephone poles would go down as well.

Heavy rains with a slow moving system would also cause severe inland flooding. And the storm surge from a category 3 storm or higher would cover much of the coastal regions with water.

"The storm surge inundates the immediate coastlines, but it certainly runs up all the creeks in the area," Matheson added.

Creek front homes would certainly be affected as waters would flow out of the banks of area creeks.

Buildings in downtown Wilmington would also suffer wind damage. Flooding would become a major concern because of the Cape Fear River, with the majority of the storm surge flooding taking place on the Brunswick County side of the river.

It is important to note, in a major hurricane, all of the conditions above would be met, if not exceeded. A major hurricane of category 3 or higher would have to make landfall at high tide during a full moon in order for the worst flooding to take place. If this happened, significant parts of New Hanover and Brunswick counties would be under water.

Reported by Craig Carnesi