After crossing Florida and leaving life-threatening rains, winds and flooding in its wake, Tropical Storm Ian left the state and is back over the Atlantic Ocean. Once a powerful Category 4 hurricane before making landfall and weakening, the storm is expected to strengthen again before approaching the South Carolina coast on Friday. As the storm continues its path, the possible impacts in Wilmington are clearer.
A Thursday afternoon update from the National Hurricane Center and Wilmington’s National Weather Service said the storm could bring stronger winds to the area, possibly with gusts of up to 70 mph. It also brings the threat of wind damage, downed trees and possible scattered power outages. The area can also expect heavy rain, flash flooding and storm surge, especially around Friday’s high tide around 11:15 a.m.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the entire South Carolina coast. Additionally, the tropical storm warning was extended north to include the North Carolina coast to Duck and Pamlico Sound. A storm surge watch has also been issued for the coast from Little River, SC to Duck, NC as well. Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency ahead of the expected impacts.
Rain and strong winds could start today but are expected to increase Friday over the southeastern North Carolina coast and northeastern South Carolina. Ian will also bring a chance of isolated tornadoes. Residents are expected to complete preparations for high-end tropical storms and potentially low-end hurricanes on Thursday.
Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa and Punta Gorda, Florida around 3 p.m. Wednesday with maximum sustained winds recorded at around 140 mph. It is now moving north-northeast at around 9 mph with sustained winds of 70 mph, with stronger gusts.
Ian is a big storm with tropical storm force winds extending out to 415 miles from the center. It is expected to revert to a Category 1 hurricane tonight. In the Wilmington area, tropical storm-force winds are expected to arrive early Friday morning, and a bit later for inland areas.
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Ian’s journey: the impact could be felt as early as Thursday
The Wilmington area can expect to see the first impacts of Hurricane Ian on Thursday as winds pick up with gusts of around 25 mph, according to Ian Boatman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington. But the bulk of the storm’s effects won’t be felt until later.
“The peak of activity really comes on Friday and Saturday,” Boatman said.
As the outer bands of the storm track into southeastern North Carolina, the region can expect strong winds and several inches of rain. Flash flooding and coastal flooding remain a concern Thursday through Sunday, Boatman said.
The storm’s track has fluctuated in recent days, making it “difficult” to predict, Boatman said.
“We are gaining confidence with each passing hour,” he added.
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Possibility of tropical storm winds
Even with the downgraded storm conditions, meteorologists said the odds of tropical storm conditions have increased in the Wilmington area.
Part of the concern over gusty winds is the result of a pressure differential between Hurricane Ian and an anticyclonic system to the north of the storm. These winds could knock down poorly rooted or weakened trees/limbs, causing isolated power outages
Ian should bring inches of rain
Wilmington can expect to see significant rainfall with the heaviest rains beginning Friday and continuing through Sunday morning. Coastal areas should be between 4 and 6 inches, but some areas might have more. The updated advisory now indicates that the heaviest precipitation is expected Friday and Friday evening. Drier conditions are expected to develop over the weekend
The weather service notes that this rainfall could lead to flash flooding, especially in low-lying areas.
Other impacts in the Cape Fear area
The Cape Fear area can also expect to see minor coastal flooding at each high tide. The risk of flooding and beach erosion will last from Thursday to Saturday. Storm surge flooding of 1 to 3 feet is expected from Surf City to Little River, SC
Boaters can expect to see dangerous sea conditions with choppy waves and rip currents Thursday through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.
How to prepare for the storm
In anticipation of impacts from Hurricane Ian, Boatman suggested residents bring loose items to porches or backyards indoors or tie them down to prevent items from being blown away by the wind. in bursts. He also recommended people to know the flood zone they are in to be prepared for possible flooding.
Local emergency management officials are urging Wilmington-area residents to plan for the storm and have access to an emergency supply kit and reliable weather updates. The National Weather Service office in Wilmington will provide regular updates as the storm progresses.