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‘Chances are increasing’ that Dorian will affect the Hilton Head area next week, forecasters say

While all of Beaufort County is now inside Hurricane Dorian’s “cone of uncertainty,” according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest update, forecasters are still unsure what effects the massive storm system could bring to the Hilton Head region next week.

The “cone of uncertainty” is a five-day outlook based on historical data projecting a 60-70 percent chance the tropical cyclone will remain within the track during that time frame.

Considering that one-third of hurricanes fall outside of these projected cones, it’s important to note that Dorian’s projected path is still widely unknown.

However, “chances are increasing” that South Carolina’s Lowcountry will see “ more significant direct impacts” mid to late next week from the storm that upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane Friday afternoon, according to Ron Morales, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Charleston.

The latest forecast has Dorian’s movements trending slower with a stronger and larger wind field, Morales said. Where the massive storm system takes a turn to the north, after traveling westward over the next three to four days, will give forecasters a better idea for what it will bring to Hilton Head and Savannah areas.

Dorian’s slow movement could mean bad news for the Georgia and southeast South Carolina coasts, Morales said. As the massive, intensifying hurricane moves slowly through the Atlantic, it has a better chance of taking a sharp turn north before the Florida coast.

“More and more solutions show it scraping up the Florida coast and not making landfall,” Morales said at the media briefing. “But we’re still a ways away from this. We are many many days away from seeing direct impacts from Dorian.”

The NHC’s current model tracks Dorian hitting the southern portion of the east coast of Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday, but forecasters say that could change greatly, depending on where the storm turns.

The 5 p.m. update showed the storm moving north closer to the coast of Florida Tuesday afternoon and creeping along the Sunshine State’s eastern edge before moving over Jacksonville Tuesday afternoon. Earlier models projected the storm would move up central Florida.

Even if Dorian makes landfall in Florida, Morales said the Hilton Head-Savannah area could see tropical storm force winds that could cause power outages, ongoing tidal flooding and rainfall by middle of next week.

There is a 40-50 percent chance coastal Beaufort County would see 39 mph and higher winds beginning Monday evening at the earliest. Morales said due to the slowing of the storm, it’s likely those winds wouldn’t arrive until the middle of the week, but probabilities for hurricane force winds may continue to increase late next week.

A news release from the South Carolina State Climate Office said that the slow-moving Dorian — if it turns to generally follow the I-95 corridor as some models project — would be over the Georgia/South Carolina border next Thursday.

That forecast says Beaufort County could see 6-18 inches of rain starting Wednesday, with the heaviest rain on Thursday.

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While watching the storm’s projected track over the next few days, Morales said it’s important to know that dangerous wind and tornadoes can occur “hundreds of miles ahead of the storm.”

Asked if the tracks and possible impacts of Dorian could be compared to Matthew or Irma, Morales said it’s too early to tell.

“We are not out of the woods, by any means. It’s only just the beginning,” he said. “This is a long event, especially if we get flooding early on.”

As of 5 p.m. Friday, Hurricane Dorian was moving northwest at 9 mph through the Atlantic with maximum sustained winds at 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. It became the second named hurricane of the season Wednesday afternoon.

Moreles urged people living in the Lowcountry to watch the forecast throughout the holiday weekend and have plans in place by the end of the weekend.

Flooding Labor Day weekend

While forecasters are still unsure how much rain Dorian could dump on the Beaufort County next week, ongoing coastal flooding is a big concern as tides will be abnormally high through the middle of next week, according to a report by the National Weather Service in Charleston.

“Moderate to major levels of tidal flooding are expected to continue at least through the middle of next week, even if Dorian remains well away from the area,” the NWS reported.

The NWS has issued a coastal flood warning for Beaufort County from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday, with high tide around 9 p.m. This flooding could make numerous roads impassable Friday evening and properties near the coast may also flood.

A separate front moving in this weekend could bring several inches of rain to the Hilton Head, Bluffton and Beaufort areas, with heavier precipitation expected along the coast, according to the NWS. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast from Friday night through Labor Day, and continuing into next week.

Heavy rainfall could cause inland flooding starting on Sunday — the rainiest day of the holiday weekend, Brittany Macnanara, meteorologist at the NWS in Charleston, said.

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.

Hilton Head forecast

Today

Mostly sunny, with a high near 85. Northeast wind 14 to 16 mph.

Tonight

A 50 percent chance of showers, mainly after 9 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76. Northeast wind 7 to 11 mph. New precipitation amounts between a 10th and quarter of an inch possible.

Saturday

Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 84. Northeast wind 9 to 13 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Saturday Night

A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 77. Northeast wind 10 to 13 mph.

Sunday

Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 85. Northeast wind 11 to 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent. New rainfall amounts between a 10th and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Sunday Night

A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76.

Labor Day

Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 84. Chance of precipitation is 60 percent.

Monday Night

A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 76.

Tuesday

Tropical storm conditions possible. A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 84.

Tuesday Night

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 77.

Wednesday

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

Wednesday Night

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 77.

Thursday

A 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86. Windy.

Source: National Weather Service Charleston

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