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Ian's heavy rain coming to Virginia

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5pm NHC - Ian - 20220929

5pm Friday advisory on Hurricane Ian from the National Hurricane Center

After briefly dipping below hurricane status as it crossed the Florida peninsula, Hurricane Ian will come onshore for the second time during Friday. The center will come inland along the South Carolina coast.

Unlike the first landfall near Fort Myers, Fla., winds will not be as strong, but they will still be capable of scattered damage at the coast. More broadly, heavy rain, rough surf, and coastal flooding will impact areas from Charleston, S.C., northward through Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Wilmington, N.C.

The storm is transitioning from a fully tropical one to an extratropical one, meaning the source of its energy is shifting away from warm ocean water to a hybrid of warm ocean water and strong winds in the upper atmosphere. Those strong winds several miles up induce upward vertical motions in the storm, leading to more cloud formation and additional heavy rain.

For Richmond, the impacts from the storm will be most dramatic on Friday and Friday night. Rain will move in during the morning, becoming especially heavy at times during the afternoon and evening. During the evening, there will also be some individual stronger squalls embedded in the larger area of rain, and some of the winds in those squalls will be near 40 mph.

However, the large area of damaging winds with Ian will continue to decay as the storm pushes north. In central Virginia, away from those squalls, winds will be about 15-25 mph for most of the time on Friday and Friday night.

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Steadier and heavier rain should be done by around daybreak Saturday, and most of the daylight hours Saturday will actually be dry. But a general 2-3 inches of rain are expected by daybreak on Saturday, so be on the lookout for high water in streams, creeks, and poor-drainage areas through Saturday morning.

Ian will be a shade of its former self by Saturday morning, but the weak and meandering steering winds will keep what’s left of the storm nearby until Tuesday. A few spells of light to moderate rain will push through on Sunday, and some smaller lingering showers will last as late as Monday. But for Virginia, at least half of the total rain from Ian will come during Friday and Friday night. As a broad estimate, a total of 3-6 inches of rain is the idea between Friday morning and Monday night across central Virginia.

There will be similar rain totals farther west toward the Shenandoah Valley and the Interstate 81 corridor. Precisely how much rain falls in those upstream locations will determine if there is flooding on the James later next week. It is too early to determine right now, but that is something to keep in the back of your mind after the weekend.

Despite the system having tropical origins, this will not be an especially warm rain. Temperatures during the day will be in the 60s, as a large cell of cool high pressure has been anchored to our north over the last couple of days, preventing the normal warmth from a tropical system from pushing this far north.

And this will effectively all put an end to the relative dry spell we have had for the last several weeks.

The rest of next week looks relatively quiet, with no additional rain expected Wednesday through Friday. Afternoon temperatures for the second half of next week will hover between the upper 60 to lower 70s, and most signs point to a reinforcing surge of cool air to move in for next weekend. So if you are looking for a final surge of temperatures in the 80s this fall, you’re going to have to wait a little longer.

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