Bertha brings more rain to western Vir­ginia

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - RTD WEATHER DESK - BY JOHN BOYER Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch Check Rich­ for John Boyer’s fore­cast updates. Con­tact him at JBoyer@times­dis­

As quickly as Trop­i­cal Storm Bertha sorted it­self to­gether in the warm water off South Carolina on Wed­nes­day morn­ing, it dis­si­pated into a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion by the af­ter­noon af­ter com­ing ashore.

Bertha’s sta­tus as the sec­ond named storm of the At­lantic hur­ri­cane sea­son was easy come, easy go.

But all along, the rain as­so­ci­ated with it has been of far more con­cern than the wind.

That soggy low pres­sure sys­tem was due to spread ad­di­tional rain across al­ready-soaked south­west Vir­ginia by Thurs­day morn­ing and re­new the risk of flood­ing.

The six-hour trop­i­cal storm

Bertha emerged from a mass of rain and storms that plod­ded up Florida’s At­lantic coast­line since the week­end, but odds of a proper trop­i­cal storm spin­ning up still seemed slight as late as Tues­day evening.

But af­ter the low pres­sure formed a co­her­ent cir­cu­la­tion and winds ramped up, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter chris­tened Trop­i­cal Storm Bertha shortly af­ter 8 a.m. Wed­nes­day.

About ninety min­utes later, it came ashore near Mount Pleas­ant, S.C., just east of Charles­ton.

Bertha’s winds were min­i­mal in both size and strength: peak­ing at 50 mph within a com­pact zone stretch­ing just 25 miles from the cen­ter.

By 2 p.m., Bertha had weak­ened to a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion over cen­tral South Carolina with sus­tained winds of 35 mph.

Un­wel­come rain for western Vir­ginia

As of Wed­nes­day evening, Bertha’s swirling clouds and rain were on a course to spread 1 to 3 inches of rain into the foothills and moun­tains of North Carolina and Vir­ginia overnight, along with lo­cally higher amounts up to 5 inches.

For ar­eas al­ready drenched by up to 10 inches of rain last week, it could be the trig­ger for creeks and rivers to once again rise into homes and roads.

A flash flood watch was posted un­til Thurs­day morn­ing for the re­gion sur­round­ing Roanoke, Lynch­burg, Danville, Martinsvil­le, Blacks­burg, Lex­ing­ton, Wytheville, Galax and Blue­field.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice in Blacks­burg also cau­tioned that the sys­tem’s weaker 20 to 30 mph winds could still bring down trees in the sat­u­rated ar­eas.

The east­ern fringe of that rain was poised to bring lighter to­tals into metro Rich­mond and cen­tral Vir­ginia.

For­tu­nately, it’s mov­ing faster than last week’s stalled wet weather pat­tern.

That rem­nant trop­i­cal low will be scoot­ing well into On­tario by late Thurs­day, but the sticky air mass it leaves be­hind across Vir­ginia will fuel scat­tered af­ter­noon thun­der­storms, and pos­si­bly a few se­vere ones.

Land­falling trop­i­cal sys­tems, even the weak ones, usu­ally bring along an ex­tra bit of spin and buoy­ancy in the at­mos­phere that can trans­late to a fleet­ing risk of tor­na­does or strong thun­der­storm winds.

But the rain chances con­tin­u­ing into our fore­cast for Fri­day and Satur­day will be due to a front sweep­ing in from the west and en­coun­ter­ing that sticky air mass from the south.

The ex­tra rain fall­ing in the up­per James River basin will keep the river lev­els higher than usual. By the week­end, Rich­mond’s Westham gauge might flirt with mi­nor flood­ing for the third time this month, and the fifth time this year.

Sun­nier skies — and a less trop­i­cal feel to the air — will re­turn by Sun­day.

The 2020 sea­son strikes early ... again

Bertha’s short-fused ex­is­tence is an­other in­ter­est­ing and early de­vel­op­ment in the 2020 sea­son, fol­low­ing Trop­i­cal Storm Arthur’s brush with the Outer Banks on May 18.

Only a hand­ful of years have seen two named storms de­velop be­fore the con­ven­tional June 1 start date to the At­lantic hur­ri­cane sea­son.

Just in the past decade, 2016 brought Hur­ri­cane

Alex in Jan­uary and Trop­i­cal Storm Bon­nie in late May, while 2012 saw Al­berto and Beryl form in the sec­ond half of May.

In re­cent years, the ear­li­est ap­pear­ance of the “B” storm was Beryl on May 26, 2012. His­tor­i­cally, the ear­li­est known in­stance was on May 17, 1887.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter, the av­er­age date for the for­ma­tion of the sec­ond named storm is Au­gust 1.

Look­ing past th­ese early storms, large-scale con­di­tions are still ex­pected to fa­vor above-nor­mal ac­tiv­ity in the At­lantic when the sea­son’s peak ar­rives in late sum­mer and early au­tumn.

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