Bloomberg News

Eastern U.S. Drenched by Weather Systems Threatening Floods

September 06, 2011

(Updates with Katia location in last paragraph.)

Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The eastern U.S., including New York, and parts of southern Canada are expected to get drenching rains from two different weather systems currently moving across North America.

The remains of Tropical Storm Lee are bringing heavy rains across the U.S. South, pushing streams and rivers out of their banks, while a slow-moving cold front is wringing out enough precipitation to prompt flood warnings throughout the Northeast, according to the National Weather Service.

“Primarily there is a slow-moving front across the area that is tapping into some of the moisture that is down there with the remains of Tropical Storm Lee,” Kyle Struckmann, a weather service meteorologist in Upton, New York, said by phone.

Flash-flood watches and warnings stretch from Maine to Mississippi in the U.S., according to the NWS. Rainfall warnings have been issued for southern Quebec and western New Brunswick, according to Environment Canada.

The U.S. Northeast, which was drenched by rains from Hurricane Irene 10 days ago, is saturated, Struckmann said.

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of opportunity for the ground to dry up at all,” he said. “The ground is pretty saturated and it doesn’t take much rainfall to lead to a flooding or a flash-flooding situation. That is why we have the watch up.”

Flash-Flood Warnings

Rain may fall at rates of one inch (2.5 centimeters) per hour in New York, the flash-flood watch issued for the city and parts of southern Connecticut and northern New Jersey showed.

Across the U.S. South, the remains of Lee, now a weakening low-pressure system, continue to drop heavy rain, according to the weather service.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, 8.16 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, an all-time high that broke the old mark of 7.61 inches set on March 29-30, 1886, according to the weather service. South Chickamauga Creek, in Chickamauga, Tennessee, the site of a U.S. Civil War battle, rose 15.6 feet in 17 hours, according to a weather service river gauge.

In Walnut Grove, Mississippi, 12.34 inches of rain fell in 24 hours and 10.68 inches at Jackson International Airport in Mississippi’s state capital, a weather service statement said.

The Pearl River in Jackson rose 22.74 feet in 24 hours, according to a weather service river gauge.

Continued Rain

Rain is expected to continue through the middle of the week across much of the south including Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina. It is expected to continue until Sept. 8 in New York and much of the U.S. Northeast.

As of yesterday at 11 p.m., one river gauge registered a flood stage in the Northeast, according to the weather service.

Struckmann said the wet weather in the Northeast may have one benefit in that it may help keep Hurricane Katia, which has maximum winds of 125 miles (205 kilometers) per hour, away from the U.S. East Coast. He said the frontal system bringing the rain may contribute to the “blocking mechanism” that is expected to keep the Category 3 hurricane at bay.

Katia became a “major” hurricane with winds above 111 miles per hour as it moved over open waters in the Atlantic, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 5 a.m. New York time today. The storm was 400 miles south of Bermuda and moving northwest at 10 mph, the center said.

--With assistance from Lananh Nguyen in London. Editors: Alessandro Vitelli, Randall Hackley

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at bsullivan10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bill Banker at bbanker@bloomberg.net


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