Flood warnings posted for several counties

The Free Press WV

Heavy rain over southwestern and central West Virginia Thursday evening prompted the National Weather to issue a flood warning for several counties stretching into late Thursday night.

The counties under the warning include Mingo, Kanawha, Lincoln, Wayne, Logan, Boone, Calhoun, Nicholas, Gilmer, Braxton, Roane and Clay.

National Weather Service meteorologists said by 5 p.m. between 1.5 and 2 inches of rain had already fallen over the area with another inch or more possible by 11 p.m.

Flash flood watch for many counties in effect into Wednesday

The Free Press WV

A flash flood watch is in effect through late Wednesday, as the National Weather Service monitors rain in northeast Kentucky, southeast Ohio and West Virginia.

The West Virginia counties of Braxton, Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Gilmer, Harrison, Jackson, Kanawha, Lewis, Lincoln, Mason, Putnam, Ritchie, Roan, Wayne and Wirt are under a flash flood watch through Wednesday afternoon.

“Soils across the area are nearly saturated due to previous rainfall,” the National Weather Service said. “Additional showers and thunderstorms, some with heavy rain, are expected to affect the area through late Wednesday.”

Much of the rest of West Virginia is under a hazardous weather outlook.

Florence rain pushes into West Virginia

The Free Press WV

Rain from Florence, the storm system that was a Tropical Depression as of early Sunday afternoon, was starting to fall in parts of southern West Virginia at the close of the weekend ahead of what was expected to be a wet Monday statewide.

“We’ve had plenty of rain this summer,” Tim Farley, director of the Mercer County Office of Emergency Management, told MetroNews on Sunday when his county became the first in West Virginia to be put under a National Weather Service Flood Watch due to Florence.

“It’s been very unusual, a very wet summer and we’re having trouble getting into a dry season. The cycle has just been continually wet all summer,” Farley said.

The weakening Florence dumped more than a foot of rain on parts of North Carolina and South Carolina after coming ashore as a Category 1 hurricane early Friday driving major rivers there to record levels.

As of Sunday, at least 14 deaths in the southeast U.S. were being blamed on Florence, according to ABC News.

For West Virginia’s lowlands, the Florence forecast was one to two inches of rain with two to three inches of rain possible in eastern West Virginia by Tuesday, including in mountain counties like Pocahontas County and Randolph County.

“On the eastern slopes we like it to call it, that’s where the more significant rains will fall — say from Mercer, Summers, Greenbrier counties, that’s where the two to three, maybe localized four inch amounts, will occur,” said Nick Webb, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Charleston office.

Those areas could see Florence’s heaviest rain by Monday morning before what was left of the storm shifted to the north and east on a track that will take it out of West Virginia via the Eastern Panhandle.

Localized flash flooding was possible out of any heavy bands of rain that could train through the day Monday in both southern and northern West Virginia, forecasters said.

In addition to potential flash flooding in Mercer County, Farley said mudslides and tree falls may affect power due to Florence’s rain on already saturated ground.

“It’s a wait-and-see game,” he said on Sunday morning.

Isolated tornadoes were also a threat along with high wind gusts.

“We’re still going to have winds, 30 to maybe 40 mph, especially across the higher elevations,” said Webb.

“Normally, we wouldn’t expect that to cause too many issues but, when you have saturated soils, it won’t take much wind to cause some isolated issues as far as downed trees are concerned.”

As of early Sunday afternoon, Webb said no major West Virginia rivers were forecast to go into flood stages due to Florence.

However, he noted, “We’re still paying attention to a couple of basins — the New River Basin and the Greenbrier (River Basin) as well — for any potential issues.”

Florence threatens heavy rain for West Virginia

The Free Press WV

Emergency officials in West Virginia continue to await the impact of what was originally Hurricane Florence. The storm which came ashore as a Category 1 storm was downgraded Friday night to a Tropical Storm and by the time it reaches West Virginia it is expected to be classified as a Tropical Depression.

The storm continues to pack a serious rain punch which should reach every county in West Virginia in some way.

“We are looking at the possibility of flash flooding, mainly in the areas where we expect the higher rainfall amounts,” said Meteorologist Dave Marsalek of the Charleston office of the National Weather Service. “But we’re going to watch all of the creeks, streams, and rivers. I believe at the very least we can expect some pretty good rises on all of these.”

The forecast for West Virginia calls for about 2 to 4 inches of rainfall concentrated over the West Virginia mountains and mainly on the eastern slopes and into the Eastern Panhandle. However, the rest of the Mountain State can expect a fair amount as well.

“The forecast is holding true. We’re still looking at max potential of 2 to 4, that’s generally going to run from southern West Virginia and up into the mountains,” Marsalek explained. “That’s primarily going to be on those eastern slopes.”

The storm is moving faster now and shouldn’t linger for too long over West Virginia. Four straight days of fairly dry and sunny weather have also allowed for swollen waters from last weekend to recede.

“Anytime we can get a few days to allows those waters to get the flows and levels down that’s going to be a good thing when we’re getting set for a significant rain maker,” Marsalek explained.

The early arrival of Florence will be late Saturday night. Heavier rain will move into the state on Sunday morning and increase in intensity throughout the day as it travels north. Monday will see the heaviest rain and by Tuesday, Marsalek expected the system would be out of West Virginia.

The State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management along with the West Virginia National Guard remain in a state of preparedness as the storm nears.

Meteorologists Predict El Niño Event This Year

The Free Press WV

A storm’s a-brewin. According to the World Meteorological Organization, there’s a 70 percent chance of the potentially destructive weather event forming by year’s end.

An El Niño system is created by increased warming in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which can lead to drought in some regions but heavy rain in others.

This year is likely to be one of the warmest on record, the organization noted, although it predicts a 2018 El Niño — while having “considerable impacts” — won’t be as powerful as those observed in 2015 and 2016.

Learn More:      Al Jazeera

West Virginia remains in possible Florence path

The Free Press WV

As the effects of Hurricane Florence started showing themselves Thursday along the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina, storm response preparations continued in West Virginia ahead of what could be a lot of rain into next week.

“The latest tracks show that it looks like it’s going to come over a good part of West Virginia, but the track is pretty wide so the storm could go anywhere from Cincinnati to Washington, D.C., ” said Jimmy Gianato, director of the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security.

The National Weather Service provided this update on Thursday:

“The potential continues to exist for significant rainfall to return to our region early next week.  However, the path of Florence and, hence, where the heaviest rains may occur still remains uncertain.”

The West Virginia Emergency Operations Center, bringing together government representatives, non-profits and other organizations for storm response in cooperation with the West Virginia National Guard’s Joint Operations Center, remained activated Thursday.

Florence marked the first time for such on-site coordination in one facility, according to state officials.

“It’s a good thing,” Gianato said. “It allows for better coordination, quicker coordination and allows our response to be better coordinated between all the agencies.”

Daily 2 p.m. briefings on Hurricane Florence were being organized there involving the National Weather Service and local county emergency managers.

Appalachian Power officials were preparing for heavy rain and high wind gusts out of Florence throughout its service areas, especially in southwestern Virginia.

Gusts of 40 to 45 miles per hour were possible, company officials indicated, along with 2 to 4 in. or more of rain depending on location.

Plans were in place to move employees and contractors into areas likely to experience damage and outages from the hurricane with workers available out of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.

“Historically, we’ve reliably helped other utilities when they need help and we want to be in a position to do that with this storm, but we want to make sure that our own service territory is taken care of first,” said Phil Moye, spokesperson for Appalachian Power.

He told MetroNews they were particularly concerned about possible rainfall totals for southwestern Virginia.

On Thursday morning, Florence was a Category 2 hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 110 mph. It was moving slower as it neared the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina.

Landfall was projected for Friday.

As of Thursday morning, projections indicated a possible inland track for Florence and acceleration into the southern Appalachians overnight Sunday into Monday, according to meteorologists with the Charleston National Weather Service office.

Much like the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon that dumped rain on the Mountain State earlier in September, Florence was expected to be a rainmaker — putting down a projected average of two to four inches of rain with higher amounts in local locations.

By early Tuesday, forecasts showed the storm and its rain could potentially be in the Mid-Ohio Valley and Upper Ohio Valley Region, roughly the U.S. Route 50 Corridor with the largest rain totals expected in the highest elevations.

“Our biggest concern would be for the storm to come up and dump a lot of water in either the Southern Coalfields or the Ohio Valley which is already at or near flood stages in a lot of areas,” Gianato said.

Next Wednesday or Thursday, what’s left of Florence may be moving to the north of the Mountain State.

The American Red Cross West Virginia Region had no emergency shelters open in the Mountain State as of the morning on Sept. 13.

To help with the Hurricane Florence response, training for volunteers was being planned through the weekend at the regional office in Kanawha County covering topics that included disaster assessment.

As for power, “We have been looking at this storm, like most people, a good part of this week and we’ve been making pretty strong efforts to plan for it,” Moye said.

“Whatever rain and wind we might get in our service territory, we do have people in place that are ready to move in, respond and get those outages taken care of quickly.”

~~  Shauna Johnson ~~

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