Hazardous weather: Tuesday morning update

Published 9:57 am Tuesday, January 9, 2024

From Chris Newkirk, Beaufort County Emergency Services:

This morning’s update from the National Weather Service (NWS) included minor changes to the timing of our forecasted impacts as well as a slight reduction in rain totals. These changes have been highlighted below.

Winds

  • A High Wind Warning has been issued for Beaufort Co., meaning sustained winds of 40+ mph for more that one (1) hour as well as gust of 58+ mph are expected.
  • Our winds are forecasted to transition through numerous directions and intensities as follows:
    • 8a – 2pm today: SE winds will begin to increase around 8am, becoming sustained between 15 and 25 mph with gust of 30 to 45 possible.
    • 3pm – 9pm today: South winds sustained between 20 and 35mph with gust of 40 to 60 possible. (The time under south winds was reduced by 2 hours, which may be a favorable change to the flood potential of areas along the Pungo River.)
    • 10pm today – 11am Wednesday: SW winds sustained between 20 and 30 mph with gust of 30 to 40 possible.
    • 11am – 5pm Wednesday: West winds sustained between 10 and 25 mph with gust of 25 to 35 possible.
  • Our highest winds are forecasted to occur between 5pm and 11pm Tuesday as the strongest part of the cold front passes through our area.

Flooding

  • A Coastal Flood Warning has been issued for Beaufort County, meaning coastal flooding is imminent.
  • Our water levels are expected to begin to rise by mid-morning and remain elevated through midnight. Water levels should begin to subside during the early morning hours on Wednesday as our winds begin to transition from the west.
  • 2 to 4 feet of surge is currently forecasted for our county’s waterways. Areas along our northern shorelines that are vulnerable to sustained SE and Souths winds could see locally higher surge amounts. (This will be especially true for Belhaven and other communities along the Pungo River.)
  • Here are few things to help put our flood risk into context.
    • River gauges near Belhaven reported about 4 ½ feet of water rise during the storm that occurred a few weeks ago.
    • Generally speaking, our county tolerates surge amounts of 4 feet or less relatively well, with localized issues only, to include water on our commonly impacted low-lying roadways in areas such as Belhaven, Pamlico Beach, Whichards Beach Rd, etc. While 4 feet of surge can be inconvenient, it generally does not cause widespread water damage to buildings. However, these impacts can quickly change as we approach 5 feet and beyond. Water at these levels can quickly create significant travel and access hazards associated with flooded roadways, and damage structures. Therefore, it will be imperative that we continue to monitor the forecasted wind conditions for today. Additional increases to the intensity of today’s SE and South winds will have the potential to increase our expected surge values. (This will be especially true for communities along the Pungo River.)

Rain

  • Rain chances will begin to increase after 1pm today, with rain likely for most areas by 3pm. Widespread rain is forecasted to continue through 10pm today with most areas receiving between 1 and 1 ½ of rain.
  • Our heaviest rains are expected to occur between 3pm and 9pm today.

Severe Storms

  • Beaufort County remains in an “Enhanced Risk” category for severe weather. This is a rare designation that we believe to have only occurred twice in the past 6 years. Both of those occurrences resulted in significant straight-line wind and / or tornado damage to parts of our county.
  • Severe storms capable of producing heavy rains, dangerous winds and isolated tornados are possible as the cold front passes through our area between 5pm and 7pm on Tuesday.

Please see below and attached briefing from the National Weather Service for more information.

We encourage everyone to take a moment today to ensure that you, your family , friends and neighbors have a means of being notified to any storm warnings that may be issued during this event. This could include tuning into local media outlets, weather radios, push notifications from weather monitoring phone apps, etc.

From National Weather Service, Morehead City:

Attached is the final briefing for this event.

Key Messages

– Very strong, potentially damaging winds this afternoon and tonight with near-hurricane force winds across portions of the Outer Banks

– Moderate to significant coastal inundation with rapid water rises likely (see briefing for specific impact areas)

– Enhanced risk of severe weather including wind gusts of 70-80 mph and a few tornadoes, potentially strong

– Dangerous marine conditions

NWS Morehead City Briefing #6 – Strong cold front Jan 9-10th, 2024