Hurricane Ian could dump heavy rains on the Charlotte area despite weakening to at least a tropical depression by its arrival in the Carolinas this weekend, a National Weather Service meteorologist said Tuesday.
“Saturday is essentially going to be a washout,” meteorologist Justin Lane in the NWS Greer, South Carolina, office, told The Charlotte Observer on Tuesday morning.
Parts of the Charlotte area could see roughly 4 to 6 inches of rain over two days, Lane said. Some areas could flood, although showers will spread out over 48 hours, and the region has been dry, Lane said. That reduces the flooding threat, he said.
At 7 a.m. Wednesday, an updated rainfall prediction map from the National Hurricane Center showed uptown Charlotte and Rock Hill getting 2-4 inches, along with the area to the north and northeast of Mecklenburg County stretching to Raleigh.
Like a horseshoe ringing that Rock Hill-to-Charlotte-to-Raleigh stretch, every other part of the Carolinas could see 4 to 6 inches, the map showed. That includes the North Carolina foothills, mountains and eastern part of the state.
The heaviest rain is forecast to spread east to west across North Carolina beginning Friday afternoon and continuing into Saturday night, according to North Carolina Emergency Management.
“The best chance of gusty winds, potential coastal flooding, and isolated tornadoes will also be during this timeframe,” the state agency said on Twitter at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday.
#Ian looks to bring impacts to the western Carolinas and northeast Georgia Friday into the weekend. Make sure to stay updated with the latest forecast information on #Ian as timing and impacts still have time to change. #ncwx #gawx #scwx pic.twitter.com/QfvFQFXq8P
— NWS GSP (@NWSGSP) September 27, 2022
Tuesday #ncwx update:
• Hurricane Ian became a major hurricane overnight and is now a category 3. Ian is now expected to make landfall across portions of west-central Florida late Wednesday or early Thursday morning. pic.twitter.com/GRcVp11UW3
— NC Emergency Management (@NCEmergency) September 27, 2022
American, other airlines issue travel alerts
Concerns over Ian prompted American Airlines on Monday to issue a travel alert for 20 airports in Florida and the western Caribbean. That means passengers can re-book without change fees, if Ian curtails their travel plans, according to the airline.
American is the dominant airline at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Duke Energy mobilizes 10,000 workers
Charlotte-based Duke Energy on Tuesday reported mobilizing nearly 10,000 line workers, tree professionals and damage-assessment and support workers to safe locations in Florida to restore power.
Additional Duke Energy line and other workers were arriving from the Carolinas, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, and Kentucky throughout the day.
When will Ian reach the Carolinas?
Ian’s outer bands are forecast to reach the Carolinas after nightfall Friday, with rain persisting throughout Saturday, Lane said.
“Confidence is increasing that windy conditions and heavy rainfall may impact the western Carolinas and northeast Georgia, mainly late Friday through Saturday, but there is still some uncertainty in the exact track and timing of this system,” according to a bulletin by the NWS Greer office just before 5 a.m. Tuesday.
The storm could weaken to “extra-tropical” status by its arrival in the Carolinas, Lane said, meaning far less intense winds than a tropical depression. Tropical depressions carry winds less than 39 mph, according to the National Weather Service.
Ian leaves Cubans without power
At 8 a.m. Tuesday, Ian battered western Cuba with top sustained winds of 125 mph and “life-threatening storm surge,” according to the National Hurricane Center.
Ian made landfall in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province and left 1 million people without electricity, The Associated Press reported.
Three hours later, Ian had emerged as a “powerful hurricane” into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, with 115-mph winds, National Hurricane Center officials reported.
New watches and warnings were issued for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, including a storm-surge watch for the Palmetto State’s south Santee River.
At 7 a.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center warned that Ian was “rapidly intensifying” and expected to cause “catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding in the Florida Peninsula.”
Ian was a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, packing 155-mph winds about 65 miles southwest of Naples, Florida, and about 80 miles southwest Punta Gorda, Florida, National Hurricane Center officials said.
The storm moved at 9 mph, down from 10 mph Tuesday and 13 mph Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The slowdown only fueled concerns over storm surge, and where Ian would make landfall along the Florida coast remained uncertain.
The center of Ian is expected to approach the west coast of Florida on Wednesday morning and move onshore later in the day, National Hurricane Center forecasters said.
“Weakening is expected after landfaIl,” according to the 7 a.m. National Hurricane Center update.
The center of the storm is forecast to move over central Florida Wednesday night and Thursday morning and then over the western Atlantic by late Thursday, the National Hurricane Center predicted.
Here are the 11 AM EDT Sep 27 Key Messages for Hurricane #Ian. Residents in the Hurricane and Storm Surge Warning areas should rush all preparations to completion and follow the advice and evacuation orders of local officials. More: https://t.co/tW4KeGdBFb pic.twitter.com/iT2nCxb4O3
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 27, 2022
Wednesday’s partly sunny skies in Charlotte are predicted to give way to clouds on Thursday, a 50% chance of rain Friday morning and afternoon and a 70% chance of showers late Friday and throughout Saturday, according to the NWS forecast at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
As Ian moves from the region, rain chances drop to 50% Sunday morning and afternoon, 40% Sunday night and 30% Monday, the forecast showed.
Temperatures should continue to drop, from a high of 77 Tuesday to 70 Wednesday, 71 Thursday and 66 Friday. Then we’re expected to warm again, from a high of 67 Saturday to 69 Sunday and Monday and 72 Tuesday, according to the NWS forecast.
This is a developing story.