7News looks at previous destructive storms that impacted the nation

(WSVN) - Words like historic or unprecedented were thrown around to describe Hurricane Irma’s wind and storm surge, or Harvey’s flooding, but forecasters say what folks in the Carolinas are facing is a combination of all of those storms.

Major hurricanes Irma and Maria brought damaging winds and waves. Harvey dumped devastating rains and Sandy’s pounding storm surge destroyed the Jersey shore.

Ken Graham, National Hurricane Center director: “It’s interesting with the storms, everyone of them are so completely different, so you look at systems in the past that stall and produce the heavy rainfall, others that have the high winds. This one has a combination of everything.”

And like storms of the past, it’s Hurricane Florence’s power and sheer size that has forecasters most worried for North and South Carolina

Ken Graham: “Look at the size of this, we have tropical storm-force winds extending 175 miles from the center.”

Irma was also a huge hurricane. While the lower Keys bore the brunt of her damaging winds, 160 miles north in Miami, Irma’s storm surge flooded Brickell and Coral Gables.

Her winds tore off roofs, uprooted trees and left most of State of Florida in the dark.

Florence’s winds are likely to leave a wide path of destruction. Like what was seen in Barbuda and St. Martin from Irma and in Puerto Rico from Maria.

Official: “This is the most devastating storm in modern history.”

Maria left a 60-mile wide path of devastation across Puerto Rico. Her Category 5 winds knocked out the entire power grid.

Her rains turned streets to muddy rivers. As a result, nearly 3,000 people died.

Stunned survivors took to the streets to find food and water.

Resident: “People have never seen epic devastation like this.”

But Florence is also like Hurricane Harvey which flooded Houston. Harvey dropped a staggering 60 inches of rain.

Survivor: “I never thought it would get bad like this. This is horrible.”

People were trapped in their homes as entire neighborhoods were left underwater. While the center of Harvey never actually crossed over Houston, his torrential rains still inundated the city.

And, like Harvey, Florence is expected to stall and meander along the Carolina coasts.

Ken Graham: “Look at this rainfall 20 to 40 inches potentially. And even inland, you go well inland in North Carolina, South Carolina, even Virginia and start seeing some of those high totals. As a result dangerous flash flooding associated with with rainfall.”

Many people ask why storms like Florence and Irma get so big, and the bottom line is they are forming and traveling in perfect conditions: Warm water, lots of moisture in the atmosphere and low wind shear.

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