NOTE: Information about impacts and timing for Hurricane Ian have been updated. Please click here to see the latest details as this story is no longer being updated.
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – Hurricane Ian strengthened into a Category 3 storm before making landfall in La Coloma, Cuba early Tuesday morning. The storm will continue to intensify as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico where it’s expected to make a second landfall along Florida’s west coast, possibly as a Category 3 storm.
Here at home, all eyes will be on Ian later this week as it brings an increased risk of rain, gusty winds, flooding and isolated thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service (NWS) said the greatest impacts on our area will likely happen Thursday night into Saturday.
Rounds of moderate to heavy rainfall is likely Thursday night through Friday. Flooding is likely from localized heavy rainfall, especially in those low-lying and poor drainage areas. The greatest risk for excessive rainfall is near the coast.
Storm Team 2 is tracking two distinct possibilities for storm impacts across the Lowcountry over the next couple of days.
Scenario 1 is a slightly inland track that would move the storm system into south Georgia and eventually into central South Carolina.
“If that’s the case, it’s going to give us flooding rain – several inches likely, coastal flooding because we’ll keep that on-shore wind, gusty wind with wind gusts up to 40 mph, and a tornado risk,” said Storm Team 2 Meteorologist Josh Mathers.
Scenario 2 would be one that brings the storm a little more across the Florida peninsula and hugs the South Carolina coastline. Threats include heavy rain and coastal flooding.
Marthers said this track would lower our risk of tornadoes, but it would keep our heavy rain and coastal flooding threat intact.
“Either way, we’re not going to get out of this situation where we have to be concerned about flooding by Friday,” Marthers said. “We just have to see- does this go a little further inland, and if it does, that’s going to add a tornado threat to that flooding risk. If it goes a little further to our east and stays off the coast, that would be a lower tornado risk. Those are the details we’re trying to work out.”
Marthers said the probability of tropical storm force winds for our area has increased as well over the next five days. “We can see now in the Lowcountry its at a 30% to 40% probability, that would come in the form of a gust. I would not be surprised if a Tropical Storm Watch is issued Tuesday morning.”
The National Weather Service said tides could reach moderate to major coastal flood levels Thursday morning, that evening, and into Saturday. “Any rainfall that coincides with high tide will exacerbate coastal flooding,” NWS forecasters said.
High surf, dangerous rip currents and beach erosion are also a possibility.
Gusty winds – which could reach tropical storm force – will likely begin to develop Wednesday night through Friday. “Winds will be highest over the coastal waters and along the immediate coast. Gusty and saturated ground could contribute to localized downed trees.”
Isolated brief tornadoes and waterspouts are possible late Tuesday night into Friday.
Now is a good time to review your family’s hurricane plan and download the Storm Team 2 Hurricane Ready Guide for tips and important information you may need. You can also download the News 2 and Storm Team 2 apps for the latest weather and breaking news alerts.