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Relentless Rains -- A look back at a record breaking week

A classic case of "Be careful what you wish for!" The amount of rain bordered on absurd at times last week in Mother Nature's cruel joke on the Carolinas. A near 16 inch rainfall deficit turned into a 6 inch suplus in just four short days -- an event that will be talked about for years to come.

In sheer numbers, the amount of rain was just as bad and sometimes worse than the storm to which all rainfall records are measured, Hurricane Floyd. Over 20 inches fell in many places in Southeastern North Carolina throughout the week, in a weather pattern that did not even include a true tropical system. Instead, it was simply a persisent flow of tropical moisture northward around a large upper level low in the southeast that created the deluge of rain up and down the East Coast.

This weather pattern was established during the afternoon Sunday, and remained in place until Thursday afternoon with only a few slight shifts east and west. As you already know, Wilmington was the bullseye on the map - the spot poised to get the most rain from this type of scenario.

Many records fell here in the Port City. Brand new 3-day, 4-day, and 5-day rainfall records were set -- breaking marks from Hurricane Floyd back in 1999. Monday, September 27 goes down as the second rainiest day on record at ILM with over 10" of rain. Rain was recorded for 42 straight hours between 12AM Wednesday and 6PM Thursday, not to mention that it was raining 84/101 hours between Sunday at 2PM and Thursday at 6PM. The month of September goes down as the second wettest month on the books at ILM, falling short only of September of '99. That's a pretty remarkable stat considering before this event we only had 0.18" of rain, and were poised for one of the driest months on record.

Whenever you see an historic amount of rain like this, there are going to be problems. In our area, most of the problems resulted in road closures, a few flooded homes, and coastal flooding. But considering we got over 20" of rain in such a short time, the amount of damage is certainly less than what it could have been. The effects are not near as bad as they were during Floyd, when we actually received less rain. The reason? Our drought.

We were wishing for rain for a reason! Just over a week ago, we were in the middle of a serious dry spell and had only seen .2" of rain in September. When the rains came and made up for lost time, there were lots of places for all that water to go. Creeks, rivers, lakes, and streams had low water levels - giving them 'extra' room to stretch and hold the flood water. Also, the ground was bone-dry, letting it suck up as much water as it could. If we had entered this event with above normal - or even near normal rainfall, the flooding would have been much worse.

Even today, we are still left with some serious flooding problems. The NE Cape Fear River near Burgaw in Pender County has been among the hardest hit. The river is over 15' (five feet above flood stage) Monday morning, and is expected to crest today before heading slowly downward throughout the week. Some homes along the river are flooded, and many highways including Hwy 210 / Hwy 53 / Shaw Hwy / Whitestocking Rd have had reports of standing water.

Thankfully, no rain is in the forecast. It will however be cool and cloudy to start the week. These cool fall-like temperatures will remain in the air until mid-week when we'll see a return to more seasonable weather.

That's all for now! Enjoy that rare High School Monday Night Football!

- TB



By: Tim Buckley