Hurricane Ian: Charlotte area under tropical storm warning

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Tracking Hurricane Ian

Ian could pack wind gusts of 35 mph to 40 mph, enough to topple trees in soil weakened by the tropical storm’s expected 4 inches to 6 inches of rain this weekend. This is the latest information on the storm.

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The Charlotte area is under a tropical storm warning with Ian expected to dump a deluge of potentially tree-toppling heavy rain on Friday.

Bands of rain are expected to arrive in the Charlotte area hours before the center of the storm is forecast to cross near the city, a National Weather Service meteorologist said Thursday.

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The Myrtle Beach area is expected to see the impact of Hurricane Ian through Friday with meteorologists predicting rain, strong winds and flooding. NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER

Ian could pack 20-30 mph winds with 60-mph gusts, strong enough to damage “porches, awnings, carports, sheds and un-anchored mobile homes,” according to the tropical storm warning issued at 11:17 a.m. Thursday by the NWS office in Greer, South Carolina.

Counties under the warning are Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Catawba, Chester, Davie, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Rowan and Union, and, in South Carolina, York County.

Gusts could snap “many large tree limbs” and uproot shallow-planted trees, according to the warning.

Even more deeply rooted trees are susceptible to being knocked over during Ian because of soil weakened by the storm’s expected 4 inches to 6 inches of rain this weekend, Andrew Kimball of the NWS Greer office told The Charlotte Observer at 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

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Hurricane Ian and its remnants are forecast to bring heavy rains to the Southeast, including the Carolinas, on Friday, September 29, 2022, and into Saturday. National Hurricane Center

Trees falling onto power lines could lead to outages, but flooding remains the greatest concern, and people should stay off roads, Charlotte-Mecklenburg emergency management officials warned Thursday.

The center of the former Category 4 hurricane was expected to move off the east-central coast of Florida later Thursday.

Ian is predicted to strengthen into a hurricane again before the storm makes landfall along the South Carolina coast on Friday, “with rapid weakening forecast after landfall,” according to a National Hurricane Center bulletin at 11 a.m. Thursday.

The center of the storm is predicted to move farther inland across the Carolinas on Friday night and Saturday, National Hurricane Center officials said.

At 5 a.m. Thursday, Ian’s former 155-mph winds fell to 65 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Kimball said the center of Ian could make landfall anywhere from Savannah, Georgia, to northeast of Charleston, given its wide projected-path cone.

The center of the storm is expected to reach Charlotte by roughly 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Saturday, Kimball said.

The concern for Charlotte is Ian’s bands of heavy rain expected Friday afternoon and evening, he said.

Expect flooding, he said. “Four inches of rain is a lot in such a short period of time,” he said.

Ian is forecast to weaken to tropical depression status or less by its arrival in the Charlotte area, Kimball said, but the expected rain and wind gusts still pose concerns, such as flooding and power outages. Tropical depressions carry winds of less than 39 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

In a weather bulletin just before 5:30 a.m. Thursday, the NWS Greer office said “widespread moderate to heavy rainfall and gusty northeasterly winds are expected Friday through Saturday” across the Charlotte region, North Carolina mountains and Upstate South Carolina.

“There is still some uncertainty in the exact track and timing of this system,” according to the NWS bulletin. “Continue to monitor the forecast for updates through the week.”

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Damaged homes and debris are shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. Wilfredo Lee AP

Where is Ian?

At 11 a.m. Thursday, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning for the entire coast of South Carolina.

A tropical storm warning or tropical storm watch also is in effect for a large part of the North Carolina coast, McClatchy News reported. A flood advisory for the North Carolina coast starts at 2 p.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm has left 2.5 million people without power in southwest Florida, The Associated Press reported. A chunk of the Sanibel Causeway fell into the sea, cutting off access to the barrier island where 6,300 people normally live, according to AP.

Ian hit the southwest Florida coast early Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds.

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An aerial photo shows damaged boats and debris stacked along the shore in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Fort Myers, Fla. Wilfredo Lee AP

At 8 a.m. Thursday, Ian caused ”catastrophic flooding” across east-central Florida, National Hurricane Center officials said.

At 11 a.m. Thursday, Ian packed 70-mph winds moving at about 9 mph some 25 miles north-northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and about 285 miles south of Charleston, according to the National Hurricane Center

The storm could produce “life-threatening flooding, storm surge and gusty winds” in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, according to the 8 a.m. Thursday National Hurricane Center bulletin.

CLT airport delays, cancellations

At least 126 flights were canceled between Charlotte Douglas International Airport and airports in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina by 1 p.m. Thursday, according to FlightAware.com, a flight-tracking site. Nearly 70 flights between CLT and Florida destinations scheduled for Friday have been canceled.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and other carriers are letting passengers rebook without change fees if their flights are affected by Hurricane Ian.

American, which has a hub in Charlotte, issued a travel alert for 20 airports in the western Caribbean and Florida on Monday, allowing for the no-change-fee rebookings.

American is the dominant airline at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Southwest and United also issued travel waivers for many Florida-bound passengers.

Anyone headed to CLT airport should allow extra time for dropping off or picking up passengers. The airport closed its upper-level roadway for two weeks Tuesday night so crews could begin work on a new canopy.

Drivers should expect to see safety fencing and signs directing them to the lower level for arrivals and departures, the Observer previously reported.

Charlotte forecast

Charlotte has an 80% chance of showers beginning after 11 a.m. Friday and continuing through Saturday afternoon, according to the NWS forecast at noon Thursday. Saturday night and early Sunday have a 40% chance of showers and Sunday morning and afternoon a 50% chance of rain, the forecast showed.

The chance of showers rises again to 60% late Sunday and early Monday before falling to 40% the rest of Monday, according to the forecast. Tuesday and Wednesday should be all sunshine, according to the NWS Greer office.

Highs are predicted to fall from 70 on Thursday to 60 Friday, and then climb to 65 on Saturday and 66 Sunday, the forecast showed. Monday’s high is expected to drop to 62 before Tuesday’s could jump to 66 and Wednesday’s to 72, according to the NWS Greer office.

This is a developing story.

This story was originally published September 29, 2022 8:23 AM.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.

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