August 23: Severe storms late today

Weather
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WEATHER

One last hot and humid day, before relief from the heat and humidity arrives this weekend! The price we’ll pay for that relief is a good chance of strong to severe thunderstorms late this afternoon and this evening. Before those storms develop and move in, high temperatures will still reach the upper 80s and low 90s:The humidity will make it feel like near or even above 100°:That’s the easy part of the forecast…the hard part is figuring out exactly how the storms will behave. The big-picture forecast is clear — thunderstorms start developing by mid to late afternoon, then become widespread this evening into early overnight:But the forecast models are having a hard time with the details. The HRRR model’s radar simulation from noon today through 6:00am Saturday shows a line of storms moving in, then stalling out over the Triangle and the northern half of central North Carolina:The North American Model’s simulation for the same time frame shows a similar storm arrival time, but it pushes that line of storms north-to-south across the whole region:Right now I lean toward the latter solution, but severe storm setups are tricky this time of year — the upper-level winds aren’t very strong, so the storms kind of do what they want. Either way, damaging winds will be the primary threat…and a few storms could drop some hail before sunset:Regardless of severity, EVERY storm will produce some heavy rain and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning. Stay weather-aware this afternoon and this evening — we’re likely to see numerous severe thunderstorm warnings. That includes you high school football fans…the peak severe weather threat will coincide with those games, unfortunately. Just know where you’ll go if the weather turns nasty — you’re safe from lightning in a car or truck (just don’t be in contact with the frame), but you’ll want sturdier shelter from the wind threat.The Storm Prediction Center has included the northern half of central North Carolina in a “Slight Risk” (level 2 of 5), which is an elevated threat for this time of year. With the storms more likely to wait until after sunset farther south, the threat level there is slightly lower:The SPC’s forecast model is really focusing on our northeastern counties and southern Virginia for the greatest threat, but it’s an attention-grabbing risk for everyone:I’ll keep this post updated with the latest information throughout the day, and I’ll be sharing stuff on social media throughout the day as well.

Now for the good news…check out this weekend’s temperatures!Northeasterly winds will kick in behind tonight’s storms — not only is that a cooler direction, but it’s also a direction that traps the clouds up against the higher terrain to our west. Gray skies and lingering light showers are likely on Saturday, and we’ll see plenty of cloud cover again on Sunday (with a slight lower shower chance).

One of the factors in this weekend’s forecast is a developing tropical system off the coast of south Florida. The National Hurricane Center now estimates a 70% chance that this becomes at least a tropical depression by early next week:The European forecast model’s ensemble estimates a 70% chance we’re looking at Tropical Storm Dorian by Monday (but a near-zero chance it becomes a hurricane):Both the NHC projection and the European model show the system — regardless of strength — remaining centered offshore. That means plenty of rain along the coast this weekend, while we just get lingering light showers here. That offshore track will also reinforce our northeasterly wind flow — those winds will try to drag drier air to our north down into central North Carolina:The humidity will drop noticeably for a few days, before we climb up the Muggy Meter again by the middle of next week:We’ll keep a close eye on this potential tropical system over the weekend, in case it does something unexpected.

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