Dorian tropical storm probs

Roanoke is within the 5-10% zone for seeing tropical storm force winds (39 mph or greater) later this week as Hurricane Dorian moves northeastward. Only a significant western swerve from the projected track of the hurricane would get that kind of wind into our region.

The Bahamas are experiencing once of the most extreme hurricane nightmares our side of the globe has ever seen. Hurricane Dorian slowly meandered across the Abaco Island at powerful Category 5 strength with sustained winds of 180 mph and gusts exceeding 200 mph, and has now been stationary lashing Grand Bahama Island at Category 4 strength with winds up to 155 mph for over 24 hours. This is more than about wind, but also 20-foot storm surge waves rolling over flat land masses that barely rise from the ocean. The Bahamas have some of the most exceptional hurricane-resistant building codes on the planet, but there isn't going to be much standing still very much intact on the islands directly hit by the eyewall when Dorian finally moves on.

The next question is Dorian's next port of call as a low-pressure trough begins nudging it northward, the northeastward. It will brush dangerously close to a swath of the Eastern Seaboard from Florida's Space Coast all the way to Cape Hatteras, possibly affected Virgina's Hampton Roads region and the Delmarva Peninsula as well. The coastal region along that entire path will likely see, at the minimum, high surf chewing at the beaches, squally rains and at least tropical storm force winds topping 39 mph. There is a chance that any location along that stretch could also experience the western or northern eye wall, with winds possibly topping 100 mph, or a full-on hurricane landfall. This is why evacuations and closures are occurring this week at many of your favorite beach areas, far ahead of the storm's arrival in the Tuesday-Thursday time frame from south to north, and states of emergency are being declared by governors as far north as Virginia, to get valuable resources in place and ready to go should the worst happen. But something less than the worst could still be pretty bad.

For Southwest Virginia, Dorian isn't going to be our storm. A low-pressure trough and associated cold front might kick up a few showers or isolated storms as it swings by Wednesday, but it won't have much moisture to work with, so we'll likely continue our long almost-dry spell through this week. That same trough will act to nudge Dorian north and then northeast, roughly paralleling the southeast U.S. coast. Hurricanes that do this are not, historically, major players for our region, as we will end up on the back edge of its effects, with northerly winds and sinking air leading to dry conditions.

Barring an unexpected swerve inland, the most we might expect are a few gusts topping 30 mph, mainly east of Roanoke, possibly a little moisture banked against the mountains while Dorian is still southeast of us, pushing more easterly winds in, or maybe a dying feeder band working west across the Piedmont with a few light showers. As noted here before, as powerful as hurricanes are at the surface, they do not dominate weather patterns aloft, and get easily pushed around by run-of-the-mill weather features like high and low pressure systems. 

It should be noted that the National Hurricane Center is tracking three other tropical systems in the Atlantic, though none appear to be a likely threat to the United States or, in the short term at least, anywhere near the danger that Dorian has posed to any land mass.

After Dorian pulls away, a chance of showers may develop over the weekend into early next week along a stationary front. It's unclear at this range if this could be something fairly widespread and appreciable, which is needed with local dryness going into a fall season that will eventually bring the windy cold fronts and fire danger.  Odds are it won't be, just spotty, streaky rain like we've seen for weeks.

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Contact Kevin Myatt at kevin.myatt@roanoke.com. Follow him on Twitter @kevinmyattwx.

 

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