Tropical Storm Nicole forecast to bring wind, rain and surge to Palmetto State late week
Tropical storm watches have expanded inland and storm surge warnings are in effect for coastal South Carolina as Nicole brings significant impacts later this week.
Tropical storm watches have been issued for coastal counties from the mouth of the South Santee River to the South Carolina-Georgia border. For coastal waters, tropical storm warnings went into effect Monday and will likely remain in place through most of this week. Storm surge watches extend from the South Santee River to the South Carolina-Georgia border as 2 to 4 feet of coastal inundation could be possible.
The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows Tropical Storm Nicole with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour as the system moves south and west at about 10 miles per hour. Tropical-storm-force winds, which are between 39 and 73 miles per hour, extend outward nearly 800 miles. The official forecast places Nicole anywhere from I-95 to the Upstate by Friday afternoon. Regardless of where exactly Nicole goes, significant impacts are expected across the state.
Sustained winds of between 39 and 73 miles per hour will inch closer to coastal areas Thursday morning. The long fetch of onshore winds through the latter half of the week will result in water piling along the coast of South Carolina Friday and Saturday, aided in part by those strong easterly winds. The latest advisory has tropical-storm-force winds potentially overspreading the Midlands and Pee Dee by Friday morning before possibly moving toward the Upstate through Friday. By this point, tropical-storm-force winds will likely come in the form of gusts and not sustained winds.
Rain will likely be heavy at times as Nicole moves through the state ahead of an approaching cold front, further squeezing the atmosphere of its moisture. Rainfall of several inches could fall and it could result in localized flash flooding, noted by the Weather Prediction Center's Day 5 Excessive Rainfall Outlook. Across much of the state, 2 to 4 inches of rain are possible. While those rainfall amounts may not seem overly problematic, if a few inches fall within a short time, it can lead to issues with localized flash flooding. Much of the state is in drought, resulting in hard soil that is unable to absorb as quickly a heavy, tropical rainfall.
Another aspect to keep in mind with landfalling tropical systems is the risk of a few spin-up tornadoes. Tropical tornadoes tend to be short-lived and weak, but they can develop with little to no advanced notice. Residents are encouraged to have multiple ways to receive weather alerts in the days ahead to help them stay prepared and ahead of warnings that may get issued.
Nicole is still another 24 hours or so from making landfall, so potential impacts to South Carolina are at least three to four days out. Keep a close eye on the forecast in the days to come, as the track of Nicole will be fine-tuned over the next 24 to 36 hours.