October 2, 2015

Joaquin headed out to sea, but coastal flooding still a threat


Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center, who for several days wrestled with models that brought powerful Category 4 Joaquin ashore along the U.S. East Coast, said today they were feeling confident that the storm would head out to sea.

Residents, visitors, and emergency managers on the Outer Banks are breathing a big sigh of relief, but we're not in the clear yet. Hatteras and Ocracoke islands are in for more heavy rain and punishing surf between now and Monday.

"There's an upper low, a northeaster-type low, that would have affected us anyway, even without Joaquin," Jim Merrell, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Newport, N.C., said this afternoon.

At the 2 p.m. advisory, Hurricane Joaquin was still pounding the Bahamas. It was located 10 miles north of Rum Cay and moving ever so slowly north at 5 mph with winds of 130 mph and barometric pressure at 942 mb.

The storm's winds are expected to peak on Saturday at 140 mph as it heads north and northeast out into the Atlantic, passing the Outer Banks well offshore on Sunday into Monday. At this point, forecasters say there is little or no chance that the storm will track back toward the East Coast.

Meanwhile, an upper level low over the southeast coast, a cold front just offshore, and a heap of tropical moisture have combined to bring heavy rains to the area yesterday and today.

The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood warning and a high surf advisory that are in effect until 8 p.m. on Monday north of Cape Hatteras.

Two to 4 inches of rain are forecast today on the Outer Banks, and Merrell said we may get a brief respite on Saturday before more heavy rains develop over the region as the low moves off the coast Sunday into Monday, dragging a cold front behind it. Another 1 to 3 inches are possible.

The winds, which have been only breezy from the northeast today, will pick up Sunday into Monday as the pressure gradient tightens between the coastal low and a high to the north and are forecast to blow from the northeast at 20 to 30, with perhaps some gusts to 40 mph.

A combination of the northeast winds and swell from Joaquin will whip up the seas to as high as 15 to 20 feet north of Hatteras, resulting in minor to moderate beach erosion and ocean overwash, especially in vulnerable spots on Highway 12 and at times of high tide, which are in the afternoon over the weekend.

The Weather Service warns that there is also a high threat of rip currents and dangerous breaking waves. Dare County recommends staying out of the ocean.

The Weather Service's Merrell said today that no soundside flooding is currently anticipated for Hatteras and Ocracoke.

Dare County's Control Group met yesterday and again this morning when they decided that an evacuation was not necessary.

Hyde County's Control Group issued a mandatory evacuation for Ocracoke Island yesterday, which remains in effect for all but residents.

The National Park Service closed its campgrounds, visitor centers, and lighthouses yesterday, and closed ramps to off-road vehicles at 5 p.m. today.

Emergency managers and weather forecasters says that residents and visitors should stay informed on local weather forecasts and road conditions.

For the most up to date information regarding road conditions along Highway 12, visit the NCDOT NC 12 Facebook Page at facebook.com/NCDOT. For other road conditions, call 1-877-DOT-4YOU or 1-877-638-4968, or dial 511.

For the latest weather updates, warning, watches, and advisories, go the local Weather Service website at www.weather.gov/mhx.


comments powered by Disqus