N.C. may see 15 more inches of rain

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - AFTERMATH OF FLORENCE - By Greg Porter and Ja­son Sa­menow

De­spite its weak­ened sta­tus to a trop­i­cal storm, Florence has del­uged parts of the North Carolina coast­line with tor­ren­tial and historic amounts of rain. Many ar­eas in south­east­ern North Carolina have en­dured 15 to 30 inches of rain and up to an­other 15 inches could fall.

The rain is re­sult­ing in a cat­a­strophic flood­ing in south­east North Carolina which is spread­ing into the in­te­rior, reach­ing even into the pop­u­la­tion cen­ters of Raleigh and Char­lotte. Al­ready, the event has bro­ken North Carolina’s state record for most rain in a trop­i­cal storm or hur­ri­cane, with a pre­lim­i­nary re­port over 30 inches.

The flood­wa­ters are ex­pected to push many rivers to all-time record high lev­els and, to­ward the moun­tains of western North Carolina and south­west Vir­ginia, may spur life-threat­en­ing land­slides.

The As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports the storm may un­load 18 tril­lion gal­lons of rain on the South­east and Mid-At­lantic. “Florence’s 18 tril­lion gal­lons is as much wa­ter as there is in the en­tire Ch­e­sa­peake Bay,” its ar­ti­cle says. “It’s also enough to cover the en­tire state of Texas with nearly four inches of wa­ter.”

Onslow County, lo­cated about 50 miles to the north­east of Wilm­ing­ton, has been hit par­tic­u­larly hard. The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice of­fice in New­port, North Carolina, (lo­cated on the east­ern edge of Onslow County) recorded a storm to­tal of 23.75 inches just af­ter mid­night.

A cit­i­zen weather ob­server posted a to­tal of 30.58 inches of rain in Swans­boro, which is in Onslow County, and would be a state a record for a trop­i­cal storm or hur­ri­cane if ver­i­fied. While the amount is un­of­fi­cial, it would shat­ter the old record of 24 inches — set near Wilm­ing­ton dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Floyd in 1999.

Florence is fore­cast to “drop al­most dou­ble” the vol­ume of rain over the state com­pared to Floyd, tweeted Ryan Maue, me­te­o­rol­o­gist for weath­er­mod­els.com.

Since mak­ing land­fall at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina on Fri­day morn­ing, Florence’s for­ward speed has slowed down dra­mat­i­cally, with the storm’s cen­ter of cir­cu­la­tion only about 100 miles away from Wrightsville Beach a full 24 hours af­ter land­fall. The storm’s slow and par­al­lel move­ment to the coast­line created sev­eral bands of heavy rain, ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing 2 to 4 inches of rain per hour, sit­ting over the same lo­ca­tions for es­sen­tially the last day and a half.

Florence will con­tinue to move very slowly to the south­west on Satur­day, which in turn will drag the axis of heavy rain bands to the south­west as well. That should spell some re­lief for the in­un­dated ar­eas of Onslow County, but un­for­tu­nately puts the city of Wilm­ing­ton, south­east coastal com­mu­ni­ties of North Carolina and north­east ar­eas of South Carolina in the line of fire in­stead.

Most of the rivers in north­east South Carolina and east­ern North Carolina are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing mod­er­ate to ma­jor flood­ing and, in some cases, many con­tinue ris­ing well into next week as flood­wa­ters from the in­te­rior flow down­stream.

The Cape Fear River in Fayet­teville, North Carolina, is fore­cast to rise an as­ton­ish­ing 45 feet by Tues­day.

Flood­ing con­cerns ex­tend be­yond the coast of North Carolina as well. Flash flood­ing has spread into Raleigh and will ex­pand over Char­lotte as well, where flash flood ad­vi­sories are in ef­fect.

As the storm cen­ter shifts fur­ther in­land, coun­ter­clock­wise ro­ta­tion around the cen­ter of cir­cu­la­tion will con­tinue to pull in loads of trop­i­cal mois­ture from the At­lantic ocean and push­ing up against the more rugged ter­rain of cen­tral and western North Carolina.

The el­e­va­tion will serve as a forc­ing mech­a­nism for the abun­dant low level mois­ture be­ing dragged in by Florence, es­sen­tially cre­at­ing an ideal en­vi­ron­ment for tor­ren­tial rain and the pos­si­bil­ity of mud­slides, es­pe­cially to­day into Mon­day. Through Tues­day, 5 to 10 inches of rain, and iso­lated 15-inch amounts, are fore­cast to fall across cen­tral and western North Carolina and south­west­ern Vir­ginia.

Florence will ul­ti­mately lose its trop­i­cal des­ig­na­tion, but the storm will con­tinue to be a dan­ger as it starts to turn north by this af­ter­noon. How­ever, there re­mains a un­cer­tainty in the ul­ti­mate track of what will be­come post trop­i­cal storm Florence.

Com­puter mod­els mostly show the rem­nants of Florence track­ing into western North Carolina this af­ter­noon, be­fore mak­ing a sharp turn to the north/north­east as the storm be­gins to get picked up by the jet stream over North Amer­ica. How­ever, there is still some dis­agree­ment among the mod­els as to how much of the storm cen­ter mo­tion is to the north ver­sus to the north­east.

If the storm tracks fur­ther to the west and up into the Ohio River Val­ley, the worst of the heavy rain and as­so­ci­ated im­pacts of the storm would be cen­tered to the west of the Wash­ing­ton area and more fo­cused to­ward western Penn­syl­va­nia and even­tu­ally in­te­rior New Eng­land. How­ever, if the storm takes a more east­erly track, much of the Mid-At­lantic would be ex­posed to a pe­riod of heavy rain and even the threat of some se­vere weather late on Mon­day and into Tues­day.

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