Hurricane Florence could bring an inch or two of rain to the Pittsburgh area early next week after it pummels the Carolinas.
The storm is expected to turn northeast after it makes landfall, National Weather Service meteorologist Myranda Fullerton said Thursday. It comes on the heels of Tropical Storm Gordon, which dumped more than five inches of rain across southwestern Pennsylvania last weekend.
“The ground is so saturated, river levels are high, so it doesn’t take much to give us some flooding concerns as the remnants of Florence make their way up this way,” Fullerton said.
In anticipation, the Pittsburgh District of the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing water that accumulated last weekend in its 16 reservoirs throughout the Upper Ohio River Basin to make room for more rain.
“The rivers are going to stay artificially high and artificially fast, so it’s very important for people to know that even on a sunny day, these rivers can be very dangerous,” Corps spokesperson Jeff Hawk said.
The weekend is expected to be dry, with temperatures in the 80s, according to the National Weather Service.
“People think because it’s a sunny day, let’s go out, get the kayak and go down the river,” Hawk said. “It’s fast, and if you fall out, your buddy isn’t going to catch up to you.”
If rain from the hurricane makes its way up to Pennsylvania, he said residents near waterways should monitor the forecast and directions from local emergency managers about precautions or evacuations.
“These isolated storms are really what threatens people,” Hawk said. “That little creek that is beside your house that has swollen in the past is what you have to watch. Those can come up very quickly.”
While the Corps manages the region’s waterways, 14 personnel from the Pittsburgh District will be in the Carolinas at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They will help install generators at critical facilities such as hospitals, water treatments plants or fire departments if the power goes out.
The Pittsburgh District manages the National Temporary Power Emergency Operations Center, which assists with providing electricity to areas struck by disasters. It’s been particularly busy the past year, responding to storm after storm.
It has operated continuously for 13 months, beginning with Hurricane Harvey in Texas last year, followed by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, among other disasters.
“That is historic,” Hawk said. “In the past, our longest duration for the continuous operations of this emergency center was 61 days for Hurricane Sandy [in 2012].”