“We’ve got (river) conditions right now that we don’t typically see prolonged at this time of year over a large area where it just makes us more susceptible to flooding than we would normally be at this time of year,” Hal Klingenberg, Lead Forecaster at the National Weather Service in Jackson, Kentucky told CNN Friday morning.
“For most areas, we’re looking at an inch and a half to two inches of rain to occur in a relatively short time within one to three hours to start causing significant problems once again,” Klingenberg said.
Storms on Friday will be capable of producing very heavy rainfall rates, prompting the Weather Prediction Center to issue a slight risk level of excessive rainfall for the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys into the Mid-Atlantic.
For portions of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, WPC says Friday is “more of a higher end slight risk with isolated to scattered flash flooding likely, but less confidence on a more widespread/organized risk.”
Klingenberg, who had several coworkers directly impacted by the devastating floods said, “You tend to pay a lot closer attention once you’ve been hurt and once you’ve been hit by something like a natural disaster.”
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear gave an update on Friday, the eighth day of flooding in the state, confirming that the death toll of 37 across five counties has not increased.
“While we have thousands that lost their home that we need to stabilize, steady progress is being made and real, significant progress — especially over the last eight days,” he said.
The governor said officials were focused on conducting wellness checks Friday due to concerns about slow moving thunderstorms that could lead to heavy rainfall on Saturday. He added that nine cooling centers remain open in different counties as heat conditions are expected to increase after the storm.
Beshear said President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit east Kentucky on Monday to meet with families affected by the devastation of the flooding and survey recovery efforts at the local Disaster Recovery Center, operated by the Kentucky Division of Emergency Management and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Flood watches are in place for most of Kentucky, southern Ohio and Indiana, stretching eastward to Maryland as heavy rain over the next two to three days could lead to flash flooding.
An area of heavy rain is moving through Kentucky and Tennessee Friday, with the bulk of the activity expected to reach the flood damaged areas of eastern Kentucky Friday afternoon into evening.
“One of the high resolution models is indicating the possibility of up to nine inches of rainfall in the next 48 hours across a part of southern Kentucky. The precise location of that event will certainly shift as time goes by, but it is an indication of the tropical nature of the potential downpours and their severity,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers explained.
In the longer term, even more rain is forecast for residents in eastern Kentucky Sunday into Wednesday, as a cold front approaches the region bringing renewed rounds of thunderstorms heightening the threat for even more flooding.
Flood threat from Ohio Valley into Appalachians
A nearly stationary boundary stretches all the way from the Central Plains through portions of the Ohio Valley and up into eastern Canada, creating the focus of heavy rainfall over the next few days.
“Although the latest models are significantly different as to the location of the heaviest rain, all are showing more pockets of flooding possible through Sunday across the entire Ohio Valley,” Myers said.
Another area to watch this weekend will be the Appalachians in West Virginia, western Virginia into South Carolina for what are called terrain-locked storms.
“Most of the current flood events have occurred from training thunderstorms, this weekend storms could become locked in one place as the topography prohibits their movement and enhances their accumulation” Myers said.
Given the recent wet conditions, heavy downpours or repetitive rounds of rainfall could lead to localized flash flooding.