Bouts of heavy rain to raise risk of river flooding from Arkansas to Pennsylvania into next week
By Alex Sosnowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
February 16, 2018, 4:48:53 AM EST
There is the potential for flash and small stream flooding to escalate to river flooding from Arkansas to West Virginia and Pennsylvania by the middle of next week.
As storms track from the Plains to the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, rounds of drenching rain are forecast from central Texas to New England when and where warm air is present. Warm air will be present with only a couple of exceptions through next week.
The greatest risk for rain to fall multiple times over the same area will extend from the Ozark Mountains to the middle part of the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys as well as the western slopes of the central Appalachians.
"Quick bouts of moderate rainfall on Thursday night and again on Saturday may help to prime the terrain ahead of a more robust area of rainfall that is projected next week," according to AccuWeather Lead Storm Warning Meteorologist Eddie Walker.
Much of the area from the southern Plains to central Appalachians can expect rainfall on the order of 2-4 inches over a five- to seven-day period.
"Locally higher amounts are likely," Walker said.
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Each round of rain will heighten the chances of street and small stream flooding. Mudslides and other debris flows may occur in the hilly terrain, since the landscape has not yet greened up.
Many locations across West Virginia and western Pennsylvania exceeded 1 inch of rainfall on Thursday alone, reportedly leading to street flooding and mudslides.
The cumulative effect of the rain may lead to flooding along some of the tributary rivers of the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio rivers, Walker stated.
Areas at greatest risk for flooding will be unprotected, low-lying areas along these waterways.
Current long-range river level forecasts for next week may not be capturing the full scope of the potential rainfall and melting snow that may occur. Some streams and rivers are already running high in the wake of last week's rainfall in part of the South Central states.
The risk of stream and river flooding may also extend into the Northeast states. This risk is somewhat dependent on the amount of snow that falls from a storm this weekend.
Should 6 inches of snow quickly melt during drenching rain and a surge of warm, moist air, the rapid meltdown could bring an escalation from small stream to river flooding in the mid-Atlantic and New England.
Locations more specifically at risk in the Central and Northeastern states will be revealed once the exact track of each storm has been determined.
The wet pattern will be generated by a temperature contrast zone between building warmth in the Southeastern states and chilly air over the central and northern Plains, the upper Great Lakes and northern New England. Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will fuel the rainfall.
AccuWeather will continue to provide updates on the storm and flooding potential through next week.
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