Hurricane Ian is set to strike North Carolina on Friday and deluge the Triangle with 3 to 6 inches of rain over the weekend, possibly triggering flash floods and power outages from downed trees.
The storm will move in from the North Carolina coast and soak the state as it moves west, dropping more rain in the eastern sections.
The storm, downgraded during the day, became a hurricane again, the National Hurricane Center reported at 5 p.m. It will take “aim at the Carolinas and Georgia with life-threatening flooding, storm surge and strong winds.”
The National Weather Service in Raleigh said the storm will be felt across central North Carolina early Friday morning with the potential for flash flooding Friday afternoon overnight into Saturday morning.
The weather service’s Thursday afternoon update also cautions that “tropical storm force wind gusts” are expected across central, southern, and northwest Piedmont, Coastal Plain and Sandhills. Strong winds at 35 mph are expected in other parts of the state, the NWS reports.
Much of the state is waiting for Ian while under a tropical storm warning, including all of the Triangle counties. Public schools in those counties will be closed for in-person classes Friday, when Ian is expected to strike more forcefully.
While flash floods remain a threat from so much rain falling in a short period, forecasters say drought-level conditions in August and September have river levels low and ready for storm runoff.
Also, Ian is a faster-moving storm than some other hurricanes that swamped North Carolina in recent years.
“I don’t think it’ll be (Hurricane) Matthew kind of water because that just kind of parked over us,” said ABC11 chief meteorologist Don “Big Weather” Schwenneker.
Winds could be gusty Friday, even hitting tropical storm levels greater than 30 mph, but water accumulation is the biggest concern.
NC in state of emergency
Gov. Roy Cooper held a news conference Thursday to urge storm preparation. The governor declared a state of emergency Wednesday, and he stressed NC residents shouldn’t drive through water too deep to see the pavement.
“Ian has reminded us of the dangerous unpredictability of these storms as its path continues to change,” he said.
Cooper said search and swift-water rescue teams have been deployed statewide in advance of Ian’s arrival, particularly in the western counties where landslides are possible.
Forecasters said power outages are likely thanks to downed trees, but not in widespread numbers. The greatest risk for flash-flooding will come Friday afternoon and night.
N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said 1,500 chainsaws are available for cleanup and rescue, along with 11,000 barricades, 1,400 trucks and 400 backhoes.
But while the storm will not vanish by Saturday afternoon, it will likely have done its worst by then.
“By the NC State-Clemson game there may just be some showers,” Schwenneker said. “Although I think the field goal kickers could sure have problems.”
The No. 10 Wolfpack will face the No. 5 Tigers in Clemson, S.C., at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
This story was originally published September 29, 2022 1:13 PM.