Storm churns off Atlantic coast

Volunteer organizations on alert for torrential rains, flooding, tornadoes that could develop


"We know for sure there is going to be a lot of rain and they're talking about winds of 40 miles per hour,. That in itself could cause damage."

—Charlie Moeller, North Carolina VOAD

Emergency officials along the Mid-Atlantic coast are keeping a wary eye on a large storm that is off the coast near the South Carolina-North Carolina border.

The storm, which hurricane officials are saying is "likely to be either a tropical storm or a sub-tropical storm" by the time it makes landfall on Thursday night near Wilmington, is expected to bring between four to eight inches of rain and pack sustained winds of 40 miles per hour. Gusts up to 50 miles per hour were being recorded to the north and northwest of the storm on Wednesday night.

"I don't think anyone is too anxious about this right now," said Charlie Moeller, president of the North Carolina VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) and a volunteer with Lutheran Disaster Response. "Emergency managers are keeping a real close eye on this and we've been in contact with our members to be ready to go if there is anything that comes of this."

According to hurricane officials, a subtropical storm means it is not technically a tropical storm but is causing tropical storm-like conditions.

Moeller said he is paying particularly close attention to the potential for tornadoes that might be spawned by the storm.

"We know for sure there is going to be a lot of rain and they're talking about winds of 40 miles per hour," he said. "That in itself could cause damage."

Julia Jarema, director of public affairs for the North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety, said emergency officials throughout the state are on a heightened state of alert, but that they are not taking any actions at this time. Emergency personnel are keeping an eye on the storm and when there is a clearer picture of its strength and expected path, further decisions will be made.

On Wednesday morning, the storm, which has not developed any cyclonic motion and has no eye, was pushing toward the north and northwest from about 200 miles southeast of Wilmington, NC. On Wednesday afternoon, the storm began to intensify and surface pressure began falling, which is a sign that the storm would continue to gather strength while it moved toward the coast.

A large area of rain associated with this storm will stretch to the west over parts of South Carolina and much of North Carolina on Thursday and into Thursday night. Tropical storm force winds are predicted to be felt from the northern South Carolina coast northward to the Virginia Capes and further north to coastal New Jersey by late Thursday night and early on Friday morning.

"This storm is probably going to weaken after it makes landfall Thursday, but it isn't expected to travel too far from the coast once it's on land," meteorologist Dan Kottlowski of Accu-Weather, said. "There will be strong winds and heavy rains that accompany this system from where it comes ashore on Thursday until it moves up to New England on Saturday."

After moving over the coastline, the system is expected to grow weaker and to become a tropical depression when it passes near Charlotte, NC, just after dawn on Friday morning. During the day on Friday, the storm is predicted to move more directly to the north and then switch to a more northeasterly course by Friday night. By then, meteorologists said, it will be nothing more than a heavy tropical rainstorm.

Kottlowski said the storm is likely to cause some isolated flooding in some areas and that there would be a potential for wind damage from the gusts that could top 50 miles per hour even after the storm comes ashore. He said the storm is not expected to become a hurricane, but that conditions would be favorable for the development of tornadoes.

The area most likely to be affected by this storm is still recovering from the rain and wind damage cause by Tropical Storm Hanna which rumbled through the region at the beginning of this month. While damage was not severe, there were many homes that are still being repaired from that storm.

"We're just watching and waiting," Moeller said. "Right now, we're not too worried, but we're ready. We'll just have to wait and see what it brings."

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