Ian’s impacts will be felt most on Friday as the center of the storm makes its closest approach to the Charleston metro area. Ian, once again a hurricane with 85 MPH maximum sustained winds, has seen several shifts in its forecast track throughout the day, moving the forecast landfall point from Beaufort this morning to Georgetown this evening. Charleston now sits on the western fringe of the error cone — a more southerly landfall cannot yet be ruled out — but it increasingly looks like we will spend time on the western side of the storm. This will reduce the tornado threat to nearly zero and should act to blunt the impacts of storm surge as well (but may not totally eliminate it, either). However, as Ian has started to take on a more hybrid structure — less of a tropical cyclone and more of a cold-core low — it is likely that the wettest and even windiest part of the storm may be the northwest side. So, while we might miss out on more of the severe storm surge impacts, the specter of more residence time with heavy rain certainly looms large.
Based on the 11PM advisory, here’s what you can expect for Friday:
- Heavy rain for much of the day, especially in the morning through early afternoon. Several inches of rain are anticipated, with the possibility of some unlucky spots exceeding 10″. This heavy rain should be enough to overwhelm drainage in downtown Charleston without much assistance from the tide. Heavy rain won’t be limited to the coast, either; be ready for freshwater flooding issues in places like Summerville and around Northwoods in North Charleston.
- High tide around 11:41 AM should add salt water flooding to the mix. The extent is highly dependent on the center. For now, the NWS forecast is 9′ MLLW — it would be only the fifth time on record that the water level exceeds 9′ in the harbor — but given current trends, it is possible this may be revised downward. (The opposite is true if the landfall point once again looks to be a little further south.)
- Ian’s massive wind field will produce tropical storm-force wind gusts for many of us especially as the center passes by, with sustained tropical storm-force winds possible for a few hours at the coast as well as in downtown Charleston and on barrier islands. The highest winds will be found at the coast, where hurricane conditions are possible. Generally speaking, prepare for 40-50 MPH wind gusts across inland areas, and gusts approaching 70-80 MPH at the beaches. This wind will certainly cause some power outage issues — be prepared for these to last a little while as winds could be too high for crews to come out until later.
- The tornado threat across the Charleston area has diminished substantially. Unless the track shifts back southward, we should be tornado-free on Friday. 🎉
Overall, cautious optimism is key. If the center should shift back a little more southwestward toward our location, we could see an increase in these impacts, particularly when it comes to surge.
Ian will wind down quickly after landfall, and by Saturday dry air will be punching in, shutting off a vast majority of the rain (a shower or two can’t be ruled out) and bringing the sun back out, with highs in the upper 70s expected.
Bottom line: Hunker down tomorrow and hang in there — it’ll be over before you know it.