Idalia Brought Needed Water, Minimal Damage to Carolinas

The Carolinas largely dodged a bullet when the remnants of Hurricane Idalia sped through the southeast Wednesday and Thursday. Mike Davis talks with NC Assistant State Climatologist Corey Davis about the impact.

Well, Mike, you know, when we talked last week, it wasn’t even a named storm. It actually wasn’t even a tropical depression yet. So it has been a very active and busy week in terms of the development of Idalia. It formed in the Gulf late last week and move northward. Kind of on a similar track to Ian and last year and also some similarities to Hurricane Michael back in 2018. Both of those storms are major hurricanes when they made landfall in Florida, and they basically kept heading due north across the central part of the Carolinas so they cause pretty widespread damage, especially with downed trees and power lines. In this case with Idalia it did continue northward, but we got some help from a cold front that moved in from the west. That helped kick it down. You’re further off to the east back out to sea. And I think that really prevented a lot more serious damage across especially the midlands of South Carolina and the Piedmont of North Carolina. Most of those high winds were kept to the east or even offshore and the heavier rainfall totals also were generally further east. So instead of seeing widespread flooding or power outages or tree damage, it was pretty well confined to some of those far eastern counties.

And you’re talking about some of the similarities to previous storms. One unique thing about this storm is I’ve heard four different pronunciations of the name of Idalia, you name it, it there’s all kinds of different pronunciations. So at any rate, looks like South Carolina took more of a direct hit. But fortunately, this was more of a rain event, wasn’t it?

That’s right. You know, we talked a week ago, Mike about how the Columbia area had been getting a little bit drier. They picked up about two and a half inches of rain from this storm down in Charleston. Also they had two and a half to three inches. There was some damage right along the coastline, especially in the Charleston area, a combination of the winds and the storm surge from Idalia along with the high tides, these king tides that they’re happening this time of the year. That added a little bit of extra height to that water. So there was some flooding right along the streets in the Columbia area. We’ve also seen across Brunswick County, North Carolina, some of those southern beaches in the south port area, add some localized flooding, but again, we’re fortunate that it wasn’t a more widespread flooding event. And I think part of the reason that we were saved from some of the flooding was because so many of the streams and rivers had been low. They had been getting pretty dry over the last month and we have seen a nice rebound in those streamflow levels just over the last day since the storm move through. So we’re hoping with the streams nice and recharged. That’s also going to represent a nice recharge for the soils as well and sure the farmers will be happy with that after some very dry conditions to smoke.

Yeah, we’ve talked about previously how these systems late summer early fall systems are sometimes just what the doctor ordered to to give us the soil moisture that we’re lacking.

Yeah, no doubt. You know, we look at places like say it well, they were actually added into moderate drought on this week’s Drought Monitor map. They had only had a little over an inch of rain through the entire month of August. They picked up about three inches just in the last couple of days from a dahlias. So I think coming along at the last day of the month. It was kind of a saving grace for some folks prevented them from having an even drier and even more impactful August as we head toward the end of the growing season.

And this was a fast moving system too. So that prevented some of the flooding that we were worried about. Right?

That’s right. I think it prevented some of the long lasting winds and again, it’ll take a couple of days before we really get a feel for what the winds damage was like to crops like corn that are out in the fields. But one thing that was surprising even though it was fast moving was how heavy some of those rainfall totals were from Marion County, South Carolina up through Columbus County, North Carolina. Even up toward Carteret County, the Morehead City area, we had pretty widespread totals of six to 10 inches. That was very well forecast for this system. Those areas all expected those types of amounts, but again, for a storm that takes less than 24 hours to move through. That’s a lot of rain in a single day.

No, you’re not kidding. Anything else that you’d like to point out, Corey?

Well, Mike, you know, we’re still a couple of weeks away from the typical peak of the hurricane season, and there’s still activity out there now even though a dahlia is moving out. We’ve still got hurricane Franklin out dear Bermuda. We’ve also got Tropical Storm Jose right behind it. And there’s another system that’s just come off the coast of Africa. Looks like it’ll probably become Tropical Storm Katia over the next few days. But all of these systems are moving away from the US for the most part, curving off to the north, so there’s no immediate tropical threats for us in the next few days to week. One thing we are looking at is nice cooler temperatures behind that cold front that kicked in yesterday. We’re only going to be up around 80 degrees today and tomorrow. We’ll finally start warming up again later this weekend and onto our Labor Day but looking at nice sunny conditions. So for the farmers who need to get out of the fields to continue doing the harvest. It looks like next week will be a great opportunity for that.

Sounds like great news. Maybe this is just what the doctor ordered. We will find out as we move forward, Assistant State Climatologist Corey Davis with the North Carolina climate office. Corey, thanks so much. We appreciate the update and we will talk to you again soon.