Wet Is Wonderful, and More Is Coming

Posted October 24, 2007 8:00 a.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2007 6:51 a.m. EDT

— Parts of the Triangle liked the look, the feel, the smell and the sound of it Wednesday – rain that had been far too long in coming. Other sections were hoping to join the excitement as a weather system promised more rain Thursday and Friday.

Most of central and eastern North Carolina could see anywhere from 1 inch to 3 inches of rain by Saturday, and there was a chance that more than 5 inches might wet down the dusty Triangle – though even that much would leave the area with ongoing water problems.

"Precipitation forecasts can never be taken literally down to the tenth or hundredth of an inch, but it does give you an idea that the potential here is for a real, real soaking and a lot more significant rain between now and the time it cuts off on Saturday morning," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.

There were some severe storms and wet-road accidents as usual, but the rain generally brought good rather than ill. The weather system that delivered the gift combined a cold front that was in Virginia and slowly moving south into warm, moist air off the ocean.

Slow was good as forecast models showed showers continuing on Thursday and Friday, sometimes heavy ones, while the weather factors danced over Carolina.

Wednesday, weather stations reported anywhere from a trace of rain to more than an inch. Totals measured 1.15 inches in Chapel Hill, 0.80 inches in Raleigh, 0.59 inches in Siler City and 1.32 inches in Rocky Mount as of 10:30 p.m.

Other areas had received less or no rainfall, however. Louisburg got 0.35 inches, Fayetteville 0.39 – and areas farther east had none. Areas north and west of the Triangle saw the most rain – Burlington with 2.15 inches and South Hill with 1.73 inches.

"Over the course of the next couple of days, (there is a chance) that these differences will even out, at least to some degree, as the have-nots today end up being the haves tomorrow, and perhaps Friday, as well," Fishel said.

"It's not a solid coverage, but by the time you get through a two- or three-day period, just about everybody is likely to see some heavy downpours," Fishel added.

The last time the Triangle had substantial rainfall was on Sept. 14, when the gauge at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport recorded 1.91 inches.

North Carolina needs at least 15 inches of rainfall to ease statewide drought conditions, however, state officials said.

“The forecasts are for below normal rainfall during the winter and spring, and historically, that's when North Carolina has gotten most of its rainfall for the year. So, it's entirely possible that we'll be in worse shape next year than we are this year,” Syd Miller, water resources manager for the Triangle J Council of Governments, said.

Miller briefed the council's executive committee Wednesday night on the area's drought status. He said current conservation measures are helping, but the drought started long before this past summer and will likely take years to go away.

Earlier Wednesday, Gov. Mike Easley sent a message to TV meteorologists around the state asking them to help encourage viewers to conserve water by sharing "drought-busting tips" during their on-air forecasts.

"The rain we are getting this week, while welcome, is not going to be enough to get us out of this drought," Easley said in the letter. "We cannot make it rain as much as we need, although I know you would if you could, so we must do even more to conserve the water we have."

Easley and Representative Bob Etheridge will meet Thursday with the House Agriculture Committee. They are trying to get immediate help for farmers affected by the drought.

WRAL's Dan Bowens will report live Thursday from Washington.