Weather News

Heavy rain, flooding possible in Hilton Head area as Hurricane Dorian moves closer

This story has been updated. Click here to read the latest news on Dorian’s possible effects in the Lowcountry

While forecasters are still unsure what threats Hurricane Dorian could bring to the Lowcountry next week, the Hilton Head- Bluffton region should prepare for a wet Labor Day weekend with abnormally high tides and flooding from a separate front ahead of the strengthening storm system projected to land in southern Florida as a Category 4 hurricane.

“Regardless of Dorian, we’re looking at coastal flooding Thursday evening through this weekend,” said Brittany Macnanara, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Charleston. A coastal flood watch and a hazardous weather advisory for moderate rip currents has been issued for Beaufort County through Thursday evening.

A separate front moving in this weekend could bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to the Hilton Head, Bluffton and Beaufort areas, with heavier precipitation expected along the coast, according to the NWS.

“Moderate to major coastal flooding is expected with the evening high tide,” the Charleston-based weather service reported at 6 a.m. Thursday.

Heavy rainfall could cause inland flooding starting on Sunday — the rainiest day of the holiday weekend, Macnanara said. Beaufort County could see pockets of inland flooding throughout next week as abnormally high tides continue.

Starting on Sunday, “the potential for dangerous surf, rip currents, and beach erosion will be increasing,” NWS Charleston reported. So if you do get the chance to go to the beach in between storms this weekend, be very careful in the water.

Dorian in the Lowcountry?

As of 5p.m. Thursday, Hurricane Dorian was moving northwestward through the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds at 85 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It became the second named hurricane of the season Wednesday afternoon. It’s expected to intensify over the next few days and become a major hurricane by Friday.

Though the latest models look better for the Lowcountry as projections continue to move southward and reduce speed, meteorologists warn that it’s still too early to tell where the storm could land.

“Confidence is still very low when it comes to the storm’s path, and especially low as far as what happens after it makes landfall,” Macnanara said.

Latest models track Dorian hitting the southern portion of the east coast of Florida as a Category 4 hurricane around 2 p.m. Monday, but forecasters say that could change greatly, depending on where the storm turns. Some models showed the storm making landfall near Jacksonville, while others project a landing near Miami.

Higher wind speeds and tropical storm conditions from Dorian could arrive in Beaufort County as early as Sunday morning, reaching up to 20 mph on the coast.

In an update Thursday morning, NHC Director Ken Graham showed a map highlighting all of Florida, parts of Georgia and South Carolina (including all of the Lowcountry and Beaufort County) and said these regions should be “ready” with a plan, supplies, and everything prepared.

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“With tropical-storm force winds arriving on Sunday, it’s too dangerous to be outside,” he said. “You can’t be holding a piece of plywood outside. By Sunday, you need to be getting things ready and need to be done.“

Ron Morales, warning coordination meteorologist at NWS Charleston, said that Sunday is the earliest possible time tropical storm force winds could be in the Lowcountry region, but chances are higher by mid-week, especially for coastal Georgia.

While confidence is low in the storm’s path, as it’s still over 1,000 miles away, forecasters say it could bring damaging rain to the Lowcountry next week, even if it makes landfall in Florida.

After landfall, some projections track Dorian moving northward over Florida, “following I-95, reaching the Georgia- South Carolina border by Wednesday night with heavy rain and 30-45 mph sustained winds along the coast,” according to Mark Malsick of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources climate office.

“Rainfall amounts of 6-16 inches ... is a conservative forecast for southern SC counties,” he said in a news release. “Throw in some abnormally high tides next week and the easterly winds, flooding will be an issue next Thursday and Friday.”

“Even if Dorian stays well to the south, we’re still looking at potential threats, mostly heavy rainfall, coastal flooding and marine hazards, ” Morales said.

He said dangerous wind and tornadoes can occur “hundreds of miles ahead of the storm.”

At least one gated community on Hilton Head has already started preparing for the increased rainfall. Hilton Head Plantation will be draining lagoons starting Thursday.

Ahead of the potential storm, Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner and members of the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Management Division began working with state leaders for preparation earlier this week.

As Dorian nears, the sheriffs office encourages local residents to download the Emergency Management mobile app to help prepare for the storm.

NWS forecast for Hilton Head

Today

Sunny, with a high near 87. Northeast wind 11 to 13 mph.

Tonight

Mostly clear, with a low around 74. Northeast wind around 9 mph.

Friday

A 20 percent chance of showers after 3 p.m. Mostly sunny, with a high near 86. Northeast wind 10 to 16 mph.

Friday Night

A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 8 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 74. East wind 10 to 15 mph.

Saturday

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 84. East wind 9 to 14 mph. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Saturday Night

A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 77.

Sunday

Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 85. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Sunday Night

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 75.

Labor Day

Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a high near 83. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Monday Night

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 75.

Tuesday

Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 85. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Tuesday Night

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76.

Wednesday

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 87.

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Mandy Matney is an award-winning journalist and self-proclaimed shark enthusiast from Kansas. She worked for newspapers in Missouri and Illinois before she realized Midwestern winters are horrible, then moved to Hilton Head in 2016. She is the breaking news editor at the Island Packet.
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