Hurricane Irene continues her path north and westward, and the storm watch continues. NC State Climatologist, Dr. Ryan Boyles says that predicting rainfall out of a storm such as Irene is all dependant on the ultimate track of the storm:
“The biggest concern right now, is along those coastal counties. And because of the size of the storm and the extent of the hurricane force winds, we’re expecting a good bit of wind damage, and the storm surge to be pretty substantial. There’s going to be substantial erosion and over wash, there may be some new inlets formed.
It’s difficult to know exactly how much rain is going to fall, it's very, very challenging to predict how much rainfall and where that rain is going to fall. Right now, that forecast is very type-gradient, between of Raleigh getting on the order maybe a quarter to half an inch of rain, which isn’t much at all, to the Outer Banks, Cape Hatteras getting ten inches or more.
And small changes in the track of the storm can dramatically change the rainfall patterns. The biggest factor is how fast is the storm going to move, it’s supposed to pick up speed as it moves to higher latitude, as it gets closer to our coast, it’s going to pick up speed. The faster the storm moves the less rain we’re likely to see, if the storm slows down we’re likely to see more rainfall.”
The drought stricken South Carolina coastal counties could see beneficial rain as Irene passes off the coast according to Ryan:
“They’re expected to see a little bit of rain, but most of South Carolina isn’t going to see much. The latest outlooks from the Tropical Prediction Center and from Weather Service,is suggesting that maybe the far north and eastern counties of South Carolina could see rainfall, but much of central South Carolina would see little to no rainfall, again numbers on the order of one-quarter of an inch, potentially, in parts of central. And as you get towards the coast. And then they have the potential to seeing some substantial rainfall, you know, several inches, potentially, but not the 10 or 12 inches that they’re predicting for the Outer Banks, and then up into New England, New Jersey and Long Island.”
Also for North Carolina’s drought stricken coastal counties, rain would be welcome, however, wind would not:
“That’s true, in some of the counties, Carteret County is a good example, they just cannot seem to get any rain, and this is going to give us a lot of rain, potentially. Unfortunately, for some of the crops, certainly, it’s not going to do much good, I mean, if it’s associated with high wind, that’s not very good either. I mean, corn was gone weeks ago, this rainfall isn’t really going to do much, for some of the crops that could really benefit from some of the rain, they might be able to take advantage of it, certainly no one wants any of the wind damage that could come with it. That could cause as much loss as the drought.”
And most of all, Boyles strongly suggests that residents be prepared:
“For everyone to remember that they have their own household plan as to what to do, and make sure that they communicate that with their friends and family. So that if power does go out and communications do go down there’s not any undue anxiety.”
NC State Climatologist, Dr. Ryan Boyles