Meteorologists: Florence could be 'disaster' for Pennsylvania

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Pennsylvania meteorologists say York County could be in trouble if Hurricane Florence moves northward this week.

Florence is predicted to make landfall Thursday, Sept. 13, on the coast of North and South Carolina as a Category 3 storm.

Barry C. Lambert, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College, said several models show Florence moving over southern Virginia and continuing northward Friday, Sept. 14, and into Saturday.

"If it gets this far north, it’s going to be a record event in many respects," he said.

Meteorologists predict Florence could make landfall at a perpendicular angle, an unusual track that Lambert said hasn't occurred since Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, South Carolina, in 1989. 

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This enhanced satellite image made available by NOAA shows Tropical Storm Florence, center, in the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at 2:45 p.m. EDT. (NOAA via AP)

Lambert said if the storm moves through the Carolinas and into the Washington, D.C., area, inland residents could easily see wind gusts up to 70 mph.  

For an area such as York County, which is already saturated with water, the combination of heavy rainfall and strong winds could cause significant damage, including uprooting trees.

Lambert said the best-case scenario would be for Florence to continue to move to the  west after making landfall, without dumping too much rain on any one location.

"If it stalls out and keeps pumping a lot of moisture right up into the Appalachian Mountains, there’s going to be widespread destruction from flooding and wind up into the central Appalachian Mountains, especially across Virginia," Lambert said.

Dave Samuhel, meteorologist with AccuWeather State College, said it's difficult to predict at this stage how Hurricane Florence will impact York County.

"If it were to turn north and bring heavy rain to Pennsylvania, it could be a disaster because we’re seeing all this rain this week," he said. 

Samuhel said it's too early at this point to make a solid prediction, and there's still a chance the storm won't move northward, but he and other meteorologists will be watching closely.

Short term: As for the short-term forecast, Lambert said York County can expect about 1 to1.5 inches of rain by midday Monday, in addition to the total rainfall over the weekend.

Between Thursday and Sunday, the northeast part of the county absorbed about 1.5 to 2 inches, with the southern and western parts of the county getting as much as 2.5 to 4 inches, Lambert said. 

The added moisture will keep streams high and could cause minor to moderate flooding in urban areas, lower elevation areas and places with hilly terrain or poor drainage.

Samuhel said the rain should taper off  Monday.