UPDATE 5: Ernesto Strikes Carolinas; Heads Northwest

September 1, 2006

Tropical Storm Ernesto made landfall near Cape Fear along the coast of North Carolina at around 11:30 p.m. last night, lashing the region with high winds and heavy rains. More than eight inches/20.32 cms of rain reportedly fell around the Wilmington area.

The storm downed power lines and forced a number of road closures, but otherwise caused relatively minor damage. However, the heavy rains could cause substantial flooding and some tornadoes. The National Guard has been called to duty in both North and South Carolina, and Virginia’s Governor has declared a state of emergency. No evacuation orders have yet been issued.

Although not up to hurricane strength (above 74 mph/120 km/hr), Ernesto packed a punch with maximum sustained winds of near 70 mph/112km/hr. As it passes over land it is expected to weaken substantially. The 5:00 a.m. bulletin from the National Hurricane Center in Miami notes that “Ernesto is weakening over Eastern North Carolina, but still producing tropical storm force winds and heavy rains.”

When the NHC issued the bulletin Ernesto’s center was located about 20 miles/35 kms south-southwest of Kinston No. Carolina and about 150 miles/240 kms southwest of Norfolk, Va. The storm is moving toward the north at around 15mph/24 km/hr. “A continued northward motion with a decrease in forward speed is expected during the next 24 hours,” said the NHC. “This motion should bring the center farther inland over eastern North Carolina this morning and over eastern Virginia later today and tonight.

“Maximum sustained winds are near 60 mph/95 km/hr with higher gusts,” but the NHC bulletin indicated that “continued weakening is forecast as Ernesto moves farther inland today. Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 115 miles/185 kms, mainly to the east from the center. Surface observations indicate the minimum central pressure is about 990 mb/29.23 inches.”

Hurricane watches and storm warnings for So. Carolina have been discontinued; however a tropical storm warning remains in effect from north of Cape Fear to Currituck Beach light including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. The NHC also said, “gale warnings are in effect for the Atlantic coast and the Chesapeake Bay north of the tropical storm warning area due to a strong pressure gradient north of Ernesto.”

Rainfall of between 4 to 8 inches (10.16 to 20.32 cms.) is expected over the Mid Atlantic states, including the central Appalachians through Sunday. Higher amounts of rain are possible in some areas.

The NHC’s current 3-day forecast indicates that Ernesto should continue to move generally northwest over Virginia, Maryland, Western Pennsylvania and New York, and on into the Great Lakes region.

Topics Catastrophe North Carolina Virginia Human Resources

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