Weather turns wet for R-C area

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2006

We’re dry, but we won’t be for long.

Tropical Storm Ernesto along with a stalled out frontal boundary have combined to place many counties in northeastern North Carolina and southside Virginia under a Flash Flood watch through Friday evening. All local counties n Bertie, Gates, Hertford and Northampton n are included in the National Weather Service’s Flash Flood advisory.

NWS officials are predicting 3-5 inches of rain to precede the arrival of what’s left of Tropical Storm Ernesto, a system that is expected to track over central North Carolina as early as Friday morning. Rainfall amounts could be higher in isolated areas.

The rain from the stationary front actually began yesterday (Wednesday). Some of that came in the form of heavy downpours.

With Ernesto’s track to the west of the R-C area, local emergency management directors do not think the storm will be of great impact in the northeastern counties.

“The storm is becoming more and more ragged,” Hertford County EM Director Charles Jones said on Wednesday morning. “We’re not looking at any significant winds from Ernesto, maybe in the range of 20 mph for us.”

Jones did say Ernesto could gain a bit of strength if and when it moves back over the open waters of the Atlantic before coming ashore again sometimes on Thursday near Charleston, S.C.

“We’re expecting the center of circulation to be somewhere near Raleigh by 8 a.m. on Friday,” Jones said. “Basically, the storm will track north from Charleston and remain over the central part of our state. We can expect rainfall from Ernesto in the 2-to-4 inch range, but we can use it, we’re as dry as a bone.”

The biggest weather culprit is the stationary front. That, coupled with Ernesto and a dome of high pressure currently moving across the New England states, is expected to drive moisture westward off the ocean into the Mid-Atlantic area.

“If there’s anything to this, it will be the pressure gradient between the stationary front, Ernesto and the high pressure to our north,” Jones noted. “That will set up a scenario that we often experience with nor’easters, with the only exception that it’s summer rather than winter.”

The NWS office in Wakefield, Va. is predicting heavy rain for our area today, tonight and into Friday. That sets-up the chance for flash flooding to occur. That heavy rain may lead to a rapid rise in the levels of area creeks and streams. The flooding of poor drainage areas as well as on local roadways is possible. If the latter occurs, motorists are urged to use extreme caution when driving through these hazardous areas.

Meanwhile, the 5 p.m. Wednesday location of Ernesto was 55 south-southwest of Cape Canaveral, Fla. with maximum sustained winds at 35 mph. It was moving north at 14 mph and is expected to make a gradual turn towards the north-northeast. That would move the center of circulation back out over the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean where it could strengthen.

NWS officials posted a Tropical Storm Warning from Sebastian Inlet, Fla. northward to Cape Lookout, NC.