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Soaking rain poses flooding danger and slow travel in southeastern US

By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
December 15, 2018, 1:57:54 AM EST

While the storm moving into the eastern United States will be warmer when compared to last weekend's storm, it may create trouble in the South in the form of flooding as rain and thunderstorms into the weekend.

Wet end of week for southeastern US

In areas where there is little or no snow on the ground, the saturated state of the soil and a general 1-3 inches of rain forecast can be enough to cause urban and small stream flooding and lead to additional rises on some of the major rivers in the region.

Static Saturday SE

Rain from last weekend's storm has already forced some of the rivers in the Carolinas and Georgia out of their banks.

The Lumber River at Lumberton, North Carolina, which was hit hard by flooding Florence late this past summer, is forecast to reach major flood stage this weekend.

Expect travel delays to expand as the rain wets the roads, areas of fog develop and the cloud ceiling lowers around the airports, including Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Orlando, Florida, into Saturday.

Flash flooding and severe thunderstorms may occur

Heavy to locally severe thunderstorms are likely over Florida and may extend northward along the southern Atlantic coast into early Saturday.

"The greatest threats from the storms are expected to be flooding downpours and strong wind gusts," according to AccuWeather Lead Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker.

Static Severe Friday Night 3

"However, a few isolated tornadoes cannot be ruled out," Walker said.

Some of the heaviest rainfall from the storm may fall from Florida to the Carolina coast.

Low-lying areas in cities near the coast will be especially vulnerable, this includes Charleston, South Carolina, and Tampa, Florida. In these areas, the combination of onshore winds and heavy rain may cause runoff to collect on city streets and back up into neighborhoods.

"It is in the southeastern corner of the U.S., especially in parts of Florida, where downpours may train and lead to flooding on a more regional basis," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Maggie Samuhel.

Lingering snow to be a problem

Snow has been melting and will continue to disappear in some areas in the wake of last weekend's heavy snowfall.

However, enough will remain on the ground over the southern Appalachians and in many Piedmont areas as rain falls into Saturday.

At the very least, where snow is piled up and is blocking storm drains, urban flooding is likely.

Static Snow Mountain South

A man sits on a mountain of snow at a shopping center parking lot as he waits for his boss to pick him up after plowing in Greensboro, N.C., Monday, Dec. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

In some cases where the snow partially melted and turned to ice, it may take a long time for this wintry concoction to go away. Ice ruts on driveways and back roads may remain through the storm over the countryside in the mountains.

Where heavy snow remains on roofs, especially flat or shallow pitched roofs, there is the risk of collapse. Enough rain may fall at first to add a great deal of weight to the roof, since the snow may act like a sponge.

For example, one gallon of water weighs about 10 pounds. So, in some cases, there may be parts of the roof that have imaginary gallon jugs stacked 2 to 4 layers deep where snow has drifted. Often, it is the uneven snow load on a shallow roof that leads to failure as rain pours down.

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In terms of wintry precipitation, the storm may end as a bit of snow or snow showers in some of these same areas and others spanning Saturday night and Sunday.

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