As Gordon’s rains depart, all eyes on Hurricane Florence and its potential impact on Western Pennsylvania
The good news is that a few dry days are ahead for Southwestern Pennsylvania.
But it remains too soon to tell whether another round of rain and flooding is on the way.
Hurricane Florence was upgraded to a Category 4 storm Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The Carolinas could start experiencing tropical storm-force winds as early as Wednesday night. Florence is expected to make landfall by Thursday evening.
The Pittsburgh region, which experienced three days of rain and flooding through Monday from remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon, could end up getting soaked by leftovers from Florence — though just how much will depend on how quickly the storm moves, said Shannon Hefferan, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Moon.
The hurricane is likely to fall apart as it hits the Appalachian Mountains, Hefferan said.
“It can’t deal with that type of terrain,” she said.
Florence’s potential impact varies depending on which model forecasters consult.
Forecasters use a variety of models to make predictions, and each one samples the atmosphere a little differently, said Ben Reppert, a research assistant with the Penn State meteorology department.
As the models start to show consistent results, forecasters can make a prediction with greater certainty, he said.
Even if remnants of Hurricane Florence don’t make it up to Southwestern Pennsylvania next weekend, the region could be in for some other challenges.
With many areas seeing several inches of total rain since Saturday, the ground is very water-logged. That makes the dirt weak and loose, Reppert said.
“It wouldn’t take a lot of wind to have an effect on say, maybe uprooting some trees or power lines, or power poles,” Reppert said.
Though rain from Gordon played a role in the subsequent flooding, the already elevated groundwater levels also contributed. Streams, creeks and rivers were higher and moving faster than usual due to the summer’s wet weather.
“It wasn’t going to necessarily take a whole heck of a lot of rain to start to create problems,” Reppert said.
Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jamie at 724-850-2867, [email protected] or via Twitter @Jamie_Martines.