Will Hurricane Irma hit South Carolina?
That’s the question everybody living in the Palmetto State wants answered, especially with daily reminders of the damage inflicted to Texas, and Houston specifically, by Hurricane Harvey.
Late Monday afternoon it was announced that Hurricane Irma has strengthened into a Category 4 storm as it approaches the northeast Caribbean. That only adds greater concern and anxiety in South Carolina over Irma’s forecasted track.
The National Weather Service in Columbia did little to quell those worries, saying it’s still too early to tell what path Irma will take. But a significant number of models show Irma will impact South Carolina directly.
In a news release, the NWS says it has moderate confidence that Irma will reach The Bahamas as a major hurricane (Category 3 or greater) this weekend.
The NWS says there’s less confidence on the specific track of Irma early next week, when it is supposed to turn sharply northward into or near the Southeast and potentially South Carolina.
“The potential impact could be flooding, rainfall, strong winds and possible tornadoes,” NWS Columbia meteoroligist Whitney Smith said of what Irma could do if it makes landfall in South Carolina. “In the Midlands, we could see flooding rains and strong to hurricane-force winds.”
While it remains too early to predict Irma’s path, Smith said forecasters should have a better idea by Wednesday afternoon. If Irma impacts South Carolina, Smith said the models show it could begin anywhere from Sunday to the following Wednesday.
“Multiple models show an impact to South Carolina. Because of that, its got our attention and we are watching it closely,” said Smith, who added that it’s also too early to determine the possible duration of Irma’s impact.
South Carolina and the Midlands are no stranger to Mother nature’s devestation, suffering through the historic flooding of 2015 and the havoc wrought by Hurricane Matthew last year.
“Because of those events, people are more sensitive to the impact of major weather events,” said Smith, with a warning about Irma’s potential. “It could be the impacts rival Matthew’s from last year. It’s possible it could be worse. At this point, it’s too far out to know.”
Hurricane Irma is “expected to be a catastrophic major hurricane wherever it makes landfall,” the NWS said.
The storm’s center is 490 miles east of the Leeward Islands late Monday afternoon. It has maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and is moving west at 13 mph.
The Midlands are expected to see wet weather on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday’s forecast calls for a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1 p.m. On Wednesday, the forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 10 a.m. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch are possible.
While the threat is still unclear, NWS suggests that people prepare for a hurricane by stocking up on food and water, gas, having cash, ensuring there is medicine and first-aid kits available, and that extra batteries are stocked for radios.
“It’s never too early to prepare for a hurricane,” said Smith, who also warned of fake news. Forged weather forecasts have been posted on the internet surrounding coverage of Hurricane Harvey, and some early Irma reports have also been debunked. “There have been lots of false reports. We want to make sure people are getting their information from a credible source.”
Midlands 7-day forecast
Mostly clear, with a low around 69. Southwest wind 3 to 6 mph.
A slight chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1 p.m. Mostly sunny, with a high near 90. Light southwest wind increasing to 5 to 9 mph in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 20 percent.
Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 10 a.m. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 83. Southwest wind 3 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70 percent. New rainfall amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 82.
Sunny, with a high near 82.
Sunny, with a high near 81.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 79. At night, a chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 62. Chance of precipitation is 40 percent.
A chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 77. Chance of precipitation is 50 percent.
National Weather Service