Ian becomes tropical rainstorm after making final landfall as a hurricane
Damaging winds and flooding rainfall will continue to pummel the southeastern United States as Ian pushes inland.
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Ian roared ashore on the South Carolina coast Friday afternoon as a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, thrashing the Palmetto State with dangerous storm surge, high winds and flooding rainfall. Within three hours, Ian had lost enough wind intensity, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, for AccuWeather meteorologists to designate Ian a tropical rainstorm.
AccuWeather meteorologists warned that despite that, Ian will still pack a punch and unleash life-threatening impacts as it pushes inland into Friday night.
This image shows wind contours associated with Hurricane Ian as of 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.
Earlier in the day, before Ian slammed the coast, hurricane-force winds extended outward from Ian’s center to 70 miles out and its tropical-storm-force winds reached as far as 485 miles out from the center, mainly to its north. Satellites showed that Ian’s cloud shield stretched as far away as Pennsylvania and New England.
“Ian’s structure is similar to that of a powerful nor’easter, with most of the storm’s rain and wind focused to the north and west of the center,” AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said. “But, make no mistake, Ian will hit with the force of a hurricane in the Carolinas, especially along the upper half of the South Carolina coast.”
Ian made landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina, at 2:05 p.m. Friday and continued to move northward at 15 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Dangers will continue to spread northward across the Southeast as Ian moves inland across South Carolina. Hazards will include flooding rainfall, dangerous storm surge, damaging winds and severe weather as Ian makes that trek.
Drenching rain extended several hundred miles to the north of Ian's center Friday afternoon and was reaching as far away as Boone, North Carolina, Staunton, Virginia, and Cape May, New Jersey. Severe thunderstorms were occurring to the northeast of Ian's track with the risk of quick spin-up tornadoes and waterspouts from coastal South Carolina to eastern North Carolina on Friday.
Ahead of Ian’s arrival and as the storm pummeled Florida, states of emergency were declared across Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
"After pushing onshore in South Carolina, Ian's center will track into central North Carolina, southwestern Virginia and perhaps into West Virginia this weekend," AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.
The combination of torrential rain and storm surge will lead to a water rise of several feet along beach communities and cities that sit slightly inland.
Cities such as Wilmington, North Carolina, will be at risk for a water level rise of 3-6 feet with locally higher levels from Friday afternoon to Friday evening. The worst conditions will be near and just to the north of where the eye moves inland from near the Georgetown to Myrtle Beach areas of South Carolina.
"The Outer Banks of North Carolina are particularly vulnerable to coastal erosion, and some areas have not recovered following a destructive storm back in the spring and ongoing impacts from climate change and rising seas," AccuWeather Meteorologist Reneé Duff said.
As Ian drifts inland over the Carolinas this weekend, heavy rain will be pushed and pulled along as well. The risk of flooding rainfall is likely to stretch hundreds of miles away from the coast.
The greatest amount of rain, 8-12 inches with local amounts to 18 inches, can occur along the Carolina coast, according to AccuWeather meteorologists. A secondary maximum of rainfall of 4-8 inches with is possible over the mountains and foothills of North Carolina, Virginia, western Virginia, and the eastern parts of Tennessee and West Virginia this weekend into early next week.
Rainfall of this magnitude is likely to trigger flash flooding of urban areas and small streams. Significant rises on some of the major rivers are possible as well. Even the major cities of Columbia, South Carolina, and Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh in North Carolina will run the risk of flash flooding.
AccuWeather forecasters say the storm is likely to lose wind intensity while over the Southeastern states, but it will remain a dangerous rainstorm.
The AccuWeather forecast team will continue to analyze the storm's future movement with the potential for different scenarios to play out. It's possible that Ian will completely diminish over the southern Appalachians, or that it will loop over the Southeastern states and perhaps even emerge over the ocean and develop once again off the mid-Atlantic coast.
The projected rainfall from Virginia to Georgia assumes that Ian will continue to take a steady track and lose wind energy, becoming a tropical depression and rainstorm. However, should the storm stall for several days, inland rainfall could double, and flooding problems could become widespread and potentially life-threatening.
Farther to the northeast, impacts from Ian will be significant along the mid-Atlantic coast.
"Areas from northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia to coastal Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey will be subject to stiff easterly winds that will lead to above-normal tides, beach erosion and coastal flooding from Friday through Sunday," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said.
"To potentially make matters worse, there is a chance that Ian finds a way to reach the mid-Atlantic coast and strengthens again, or perhaps a second new storm forms along the mid-Atlantic coast early next week, which would continue onshore winds and drenching rains with flooding and beach erosion problems for additional days," Lundberg said.
The setup could lead to another pocket of heavy rainfall in the mid-Atlantic mainly south of Pennsylvania and New Jersey in either scenario. People in New York City may want to have an umbrella handy, as the metro area will end up on the northern edge of the rain this weekend. However, it is possible for steadier and heavier rain to shift northward early next week, forecasters say. A north-south distance of a few miles could mean the difference between a few sprinkles and torrential downpours for a time.
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