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Southeastern US to face more flooding downpours regardless of tropical development

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
May 22, 2018, 2:46:31 AM EDT

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Regardless of whether an organized tropical system takes shape in the Gulf of Mexico for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the southeastern United States will remain at risk for flooding downpours.

There is no end in sight to the unsettled weather pattern that has developed over the Southeast.

Showers and thunderstorms will continue to jeopardize sporting events and outdoor plans in most communities on a nearly daily basis through the end of May. As is typical, the afternoon and early evening hours will be the most active times of the day.

SE Tuesday May 21


A disorganized system in the western Caribbean is expected to be the culprit behind residents facing more storminess instead of welcoming bright sunshine through the holiday weekend.

"There is some chance this system might become better organized later this week," AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

The window for the system to form into a tropical depression or minimal tropical storm will open if the system tracks over the central Gulf of Mexico, where Kottlowski states water temperatures are warm enough to support some tropical development.

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In the scenario of the system taking shape, the risk of seas building and becoming rough for small craft will increase.

Conditions may be less conducive for development if the system targets Florida.

"Regardless of development, this system will continue to produce heavy rainfall that will lead to flooding over parts of Florida and the rest of the southeastern United States during the next several days," Kottlowski said.

New tropical May 21


"This system has already brought over 10 inches of rain to parts of Florida during the past few days, and there are indications that rainfall during the next seven days could total at least another 10 inches," according to Kottlowski.

One weather reporting station near McIntyre, Florida, measured 8.79 inches of rain in just six hours on Sunday night.

The scenario of the system targeting Florida, with minimal development potential, would yield the highest rainfall totals for the state's peninsula.

A track across the central Gulf of Mexico would shift the area of heaviest rain toward the upper Gulf Coast, including Mobile, Alabama, and New Orleans. However, flooding downpours may still stream across the Florida Peninsula in this solution.

In either scenario, tropical moisture may still spread across the East during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The resultant showers and thunderstorms that erupt can spoil holiday festivities.

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While the rain is erasing the drought in the Southeast, repeated downpours can do more harm than good.

“There can continue to be instances where too much rain will fall too quickly and lead to localized flash flooding,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller said.

Low-lying and poor drainage areas that have recently been hit repeatedly by heavy rain will be most at risk for flooding incidents.

Even where flooding does not ensue, the downpours can create hazards for motorists by reducing visibility and heightening the risk of vehicles hydroplaning when traveling at highway speeds.

Flight delays may result, impacting those heading to their Memorial Day holiday destinations.

Residents and visitors are reminded to seek shelter as soon as thunder is heard. The danger of being struck by lightning is then present.

The prospect of an organized tropical system developing before Memorial Day should serve as a good reminder for those in the South that now is the time to review hurricane preparedness tips with the season set to ramp up in the coming months.

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