As Hurricane Florence hovers offshore menacing large swaths of the Southeast coast, experts can offer few specifics in terms of the amount of rainfall Beaufort County can expect.
The National Weather Service said on Wednesday that Florence could bring anywhere from a half-inch to as much as 10 inches.
Weather experts can’t give exact numbers because of the storm’s unpredictability, said meteorologist Bob Bright of the National Weather Service in Charleston. Everything depends, he said, on where Florence makes landfall and the path it follows thereafter.
Regardless, Bright said the “overall threat for flooding rain has gone up from yesterday.”
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Bright said there has already been “minor flooding” along South Carolina’s coast near Charleston, and that Beaufort could expect tides to bring in some flooding “in the next two days.”
The biggest threat to residents is the possibility that Hurricane Florence will make landfall and then fail to dissipate, much like Hurricane Harvey did in Houston in 2017, resulting in prolonged rainfall and higher flooding levels, according to Bright.
Bright called Hurricane Florence “pretty much the worst case scenario: a hurricane approaching the coast and then stalling out.”
If the county gets rain in any significant amounts, that water will have nowhere to go, Bright said. He said the county has seen a “wet summer,” meaning soil moisture and ground saturation are already high, and the ground simply can’t absorb more water.
Beaufort County has had a relatively wet year, with upward of 30 inches of rain so far in 2018, National Weather Service records show. That figure is consistent with the last five years, where total rainfall has been between 60 and 70 inches each year.
Bright also said tide cycles are a factor in any potential flooding. Hilton Head tides charts show high tide on Saturday coming in at 1:29 p.m.
“If you have high tide, and coastal flooding and you dump a ton of rain on there, it has nowhere to go,” Bright said.