A tropical system just formed in the Caribbean. How worried should the Carolinas be?

·5 min read
National Hurricane Center

Carolinians should “closely monitora tropical depression that formed in the Caribbean on Friday and could strengthen into a hurricane in Florida next week, National Weather Service meteorologists said.

On Saturday, NWS forecasters warned that Tropical Storm Ian could spawn tornadoes, heavy rains and coastal flooding when it’s expected to reach the Carolinas by Friday. Ian could arrive as a category 1 hurricane, NWS forecasters said.

The Carolinas were originally thought to have a “low chance” of experiencing hurricane-force winds and rains from the storm, meteorologist Doug Outlaw of the NWS office in Greer, South Carolina, told The Charlotte Observer at noon Friday.

That was because of a Canadian high-pressure weather system expected to move down from the Great Lakes midweek, he said. That system “is going to be a roadblock to the tropical system moving north from the Caribbean and the Gulf,” he said Friday.

“Of course, things could change,” Outlaw said.

On Saturday, Outlaw said it was still too early to predict how much rain the Carolinas could get and how high the winds might be, but lots of rain is now forecast Friday.

If the Canadian system shifts to the east or west of its predicted track, “we could get some rain and high winds” from the Caribbean storm, Outlaw said Friday.

‘Major hurricane’ potential

At 8 p.m. Friday, Tropical Depression Nine was 410 miles southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Its 35-mph winds were expected to strengthen over the Caribbean Sea, forecasters said.

Late Friday, the depression became Tropical Storm Ian and was packing 45-mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The government of the Cayman Islands issued a hurricane watch, including for Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, National Hurricane Center officials said. The government of Jamaica issued a tropical storm watch.

The storm is expected to be “a major hurricane” approaching the Florida peninsula by Tuesday, according to a National Hurricane Center bulletin at 11 a.m. Friday.

“Heavy rains may begin to affect South Florida on Monday,” according to a hurricane center bulletin at 5 p.m. Friday.

The N.C. Emergency Management office on Friday morning also urged North Carolinians to track the tropical depression.

“The forecast uncertainty beyond Sunday remains fairly high, and this system will need to be monitored over the weekend as forecast details and potential impacts to NC later next week become more clear,” the office posted on Twitter.

An Air Force Reserve “hurricane hunter” plane on Friday produced satellite imagery and data as its crew tracks the storm, Hurricane Center officials said.

Fiona’s ‘powerful swells’

North Carolina’s Outer Banks dealt with a different hurricane on Friday.

“Powerful swell from distant Hurricane Fiona continues to impact area beaches today,” NWS meteorologists in the Newport/Morehead office said on Twitter. “Overwash impacts could be significant with travel along some portions of NC 12 potentially impacted. “

Charlotte forecast

On Sunday, Sept. 25, severe storms could strike anywhere across the Charlotte region and the N.C. foothills and mountains, according to an NWS hazardous-weather bulletin early Saturday.

“Damaging winds and possibly large hail would be the main threats,” according to the alert.

Charlotte should otherwise remain sunny to mostly sunny through at least Thursday, according to the NWS forecast at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Daily highs are expected to climb and then dip through the week, from a high of 78 Saturday to a predicted 83 Sunday, 81 Monday, 76 Tuesday, 73 Wednesday, 71 Thursday and 68 Friday.

Triangle forecast

In the Triangle, the NWS says rain and thunderstorms are possible Sunday afternoon and evening, followed by several days of clear weather.

After high temperatures in the low 80s Sunday and Monday, a cooler spell is expected to set in with high temperatures in the low to mid-70s through Friday.

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