Saturday, October 3, 2015

As Expected, Epic Flood Underway In The Carolinas

Just the beginning. Flooding increasing last
evening in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Photo
from MyrtleBeachonline.  
Hurricane Joaquin has certainly been unpredictable, with all the different scenarios we ran through all week on where it might or might not make landfall.

As of this morning Joaquin was finally starting to move north away from the Bahamas, after crushing many of those islands with winds of over 100 mph for two days.

There's a lot of damage down there no doubt from wind, storm surges and flooding.

Certainly a big, sad disaster for the Bahamas.

At least now we know where Joaquin is going, which fortunately out to sea well east of the United States. Because we have enough of our own problems with weather in the good ol' U.S of A anyway.

Unlike Joaquin, what has been consistent for days now has been the forecasts for epic flooding in the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states.

That forecast of terrible flooding sure was coming true this morning.

Widespread flash flood and flood warnings were in effect for the Carolinas early this morning and the rain continued to pour down intensely. Things will undoubtedly worsen as the day goes on today.

Early this morning, all traffic was banned from the penninsula that houses Charleston, South Carolina because of the widespread flooding.

(Charleston residents probably knew this would get bad, not only because of the warnings before the storm, but also because The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore showed up in town. When he's around, you know the weather is going to get very, very bad.)

There have already been reports of over ten inches of rain in the Carolinas. Forecasts continue to say more than 20 inches could fall in some spots. Other forecasts call for a foot of rain in parts of South Carolina just today.

Television station WLTX in Columbia, South Carolina said residents in much of the area around that state are bracing for the worst flooding in at least 125 years. Gov. Nikki Haley is among several governors who have declared states of emergency.

Haley is already urging people to leave low lying areas, and is also telling people to pretty much not drive anywhere this weekend.

Overnight and this morning, the storm system in the Southeast was siphoning moisture straight from Hurricane Joaquin and spraying it as if it were a giant fire house into South Carolina and on into central North Carolina.

The deep tropical moisture and the storm system will linger in the Southeast all weekend so these heavy rains will continue. 
A house in Bermuda was swept away
by Hurricane Joaquin. 

Further north into Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, it won't rain as hard as it will in the Carolinas, but the problem there will be coastal flooding.

The contrast between strong high pressure over Quebec and low pressure over the Southeast will continue the strong east winds that are pushing water into the coast.

Usually, when there's a coastal flood on the East Coast, it's usually maybe just two high tide cycles that cause the problem.

But this is lasting FOREVER. It started in earnest yesterday, and each high tide through the weekend will bring flooding. The repeated battering from the Atlantic Ocean will cause massive beach erosion. And the repeated high water with each tide cycle is going to cause more and more damage to shoreline buildings and roads.

So this is really a disastrous weekend. Things should get better for everyone early next week, but the extreme damage will have been done.

Some people have asked if global warming is causing all this extreme weather. Those kinds of questions always pop up in big storms, and that's a good thing.

The best I can do is speculate that global warming might, just might have had an influence, but obviously wasn't the sole cause of all this trouble.

Let's break it down:

Hurricane Joaquin was stronger than forecast, having fed off record high water temperatures near Bermuda. The record high ocean temperatures are consistent with global warming, so there's that. Maybe Joaquin was stronger than it would have otherwise been without climate change.

However, there have been hurricanes this strong in the region in the past.

The epic flooding in the Southeast is also consistent with global warming, in that precipitation events are likely to become more extreme as the climate changes. Again, I won't say climate change is causing the flood disaster in the Southeast, but there's a chance it contributed.

In terms of the coastal flooding further north, I have no idea if the high tides themselves were influenced by climate change. But sea levels have been rising as ice caps melt, so if the sea level is a bit higher to begin with, then the coastal flooding we're getting now is probably worse than it would have been under similar weather patterns decades ago.

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