Forecasters: Will Fay falter in Tar Heel track?

Posted August 18, 2008

— The Triangle’s weather will be dry and will gradually get warmer this week, but meteorologists are watching to see if any remains of Tropical Storm Fay will reach the area.

"It is too early to rule anything out, but it appears Fay may never have a great impact on North Carolina," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

A high-pressure area building into the South from north will determine if North Carolina gets any rain from Fay when it moves away from the Florida Peninsula.

"Global models are in unanimous agreement" that the high pressure will bring Fay to "a grinding halt" over the Atlantic, Fishel said. Where the storm might stop moving is uncertain, but near the Florida-Georgia state line is a probable location, he added. The storm would then shift to the west.

If that scenario plays out, North Carolina "might not see a drop," Fishel said. "It looks like we could get off scot free."

The National Hurricane Center gives the state a 5 percent to 10 percent chance of getting tropical-storm force winds in the next five days.

At 3 p.m. Monday, Fay's center made landfall over Key West, Fla. It had maximum sustained winds of 57.5 mph, with higher gusts.

Earlier Monday, the National Hurricane Center had forecast that the high-pressure system would push Fay to the west as it tracked north inland. That would place the storm's center in western North Carolina early Saturday, possibly dropping several inches of rain in the mountains.

Officials said that so far this year, 20.16 inches of rain have fallen at Asheville Regional Airport. The normal amount is 30.57 inches.

State water-planning official Linwood Peele said drought conditions in western North Carolina came earlier than last year, and 2007 saw a record drought. The state's drought monitor lists 18 western counties in the most severe category, exceptional drought.

"Western North Carolina is much worse off," Peele said. "Stream flows and groundwater are much lower this year than last. This year, it's starting much earlier."

Tropical storms are good drought-busters, said Doug Miller, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

"We would almost have to have a repeat of the fall of 2004 to have a hope to get back to normal, and that was an exceedingly rare event," Miller said. That year, remnants of two hurricanes caused extensive flooding in western North Carolina.

If the westerly track predicted by most global models comes true, though, dry conditions could prevail over the Triangle for this week.

"If Fay stays away, we could have rain-free conditions here for the next week," Fishel said. He added that in an "ironic" move, Fay could bring remnant rainfall to the state in six to seven days.


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  • Skywatch_NC Aug 18, 2008

    Quite a disappointment on the substantial rainfall front ... :(

  • bs101fly Aug 18, 2008

    somebody owes me $10, maybe a few of you, cause I said earlier today these guys are lost! and so is their forecasting!!!

    Getcha bread and milk, it's the end of time!

  • teach4er Aug 18, 2008

    The weather forecast is almost like a horoscope - if it happens, so be it but like Energyman says, it is only partially science and a lot of guessing. And, if anyone wants a good laugh, check out accu-weather's 15 day forecast. What a joke.

  • nodoginthisfight Aug 18, 2008

    My weather rock says Greg is wrong as usual. This scientific evaluation comes from minutes of study of weather data on another internet site. This wimp of storm is going to creep up the eastern seaboard.(sarcasm)

  • SaveEnergyMan Aug 18, 2008

    Even though I am an engineer, I have had enough fluids and heat courses to keep up with Greg Fishel most times. Predicting this stuff is like trying to exactly predict the outcome of each of 20 coin tosses. Oh, and the lives and livelihoods of thousands to millions of people ride on your result.

    Truth is weather is as much art as science. Models today cannot hope to predict minute detail required to track hurricanes, which form and operate in areas where there are little to no steering currents to begin with. It's much like a spinning top on perfectly flat gound, who knows where it will go.

    It's comforting to know that Greg and the WRAL weather folks will show us the uncertainty, rather than produce a definite fan and central track like the hurricane center. If someone else thinks they can do better, then I invite you to try. Weather forecasting is still imperfect.

  • WRAL is joe_dirt Aug 18, 2008

    Either it will or it won't. I prefer to keep my weather predictions as scientific as possible so I flip a coin. Currently, my hit vs. miss average is around 50%. That's pretty close to Lizzy Gardner's percentage. If I'm out of change, I do what NBC 17 does and just look out the window.

  • ProudConservative2 Aug 18, 2008

    What irritates me is that they ALWAYS hedge their bets. Be a MAN. Make a forecast and stick with it. If you're right, then great. If not, then great. We all know it's a guessing game anyway. Now Fishel is trying to make it sound like not getting the rain is a good thing. "We may get off scot free." Yayyyyyy Greg!!!!

  • Tom Morrow Aug 18, 2008

    itls -

    Actually, I don't think Greg is trying to tell you anything about what's going to happen to the Arctic ice mass. It is two separate fields of study, so it is not the same "experts".

  • Tom Morrow Aug 18, 2008

    "Well, it'd be nice if we got some rain, now that the governor and General Assembly have used the drought for political cover to take away even more property rights in NC"

    jsanders, are you referring to the right to suck up as much water as one wants without regard for the common good? Have you ever heard of the Tragedy of the Commons? Where, exactly, do you think that well water comes from? Do you think it's possible to obtain water through a well only from directly below one's property? Remember "There will be blood" when he explained how he sucked up all the oil from around that one piece of property? Well, water works the same way as that, and just because I stick a well on my property doesn't give me the "right" to consume more water than those on city water. Water is a finite resource and is [should be] shared by everyone!

  • WHEEL Aug 18, 2008

    The same "experts" that cannot tell us where a tropical storm is headed in 3 days can tell us what is going to happen to the Arctic ice mass in 30 years. Gimmy a break!!