Category 4 Hurricane Michael will bring high winds, flooding rain to Charlotte area

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Hurricane Michael is now an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm, with 140 mph sustained winds as it heads from the Gulf of Mexico on a predicted path into North Carolina.

The storm’s biggest impact in the state will be felt south and east of Interstate 85, particularly in southern coastal counties, says the National Weather Service.

The Charlotte region will see inches of rain over the next three days and winds near 30 mph, experts predict. Heavier winds and rain are expected elsewhere in the state.

Rain will start in the region Wednesday (an 80 percent chance), but the heaviest winds and downpours will be Thursday (100 percent chance) as the storm passes, experts say.

A flash flood watch is in effect for the Charlotte region Thursday morning through Thursday evening. The National Weather Service is predicting 3 to 4 inches of rain could fall in the region Thursday.

“The greatest threat that Michael will pose for (the Charlotte) area currently appears to be flash flooding,” said the National Weather Service.

“The heaviest rainfall totals are expected to be along and south of Interstate 85. The Charlotte metropolitan area is at particular risk of flash flooding, due to very high rainfall rates developing tomorrow along with excessive urban runoff. Areas that flooded during heavy rainfall last month with Florence may flood again during Michael.”

Tornadoes are also a possibility, but mostly in eastern North Carolina as the center of the storm passes through Columbia, S.C., and heads over Fayetteville, N.C., on Thursday, says the National Weather Service.

Tropical Storm warnings and watches have been issued for multiple counties in northeast South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina, the same area hit last month by Hurricane Florence’s winds and flash flooding.

“The overly saturated ground and weakened trees will still allow for an elevated wind risk and some power outages will occur. Flash flooding will also be possible though the storm’s rapid motion should limit rainfall amounts,” said a National Weather Service statement.

Hurricane Michael is moving through the Gulf of Mexico at 13 mph and is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon on the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend area with “life-threatening storm surge, dangerous winds and heavy rainfall,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

Impact from the storm will be felt through the southeast into Virginia, including predictions of 4 to 10 inches of rain in parts of eastern North Carolina.

“Michael is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane (and) some additional strengthening is possible before landfall,” said a National Weather Center update.

Category 4 storm winds are in the 130 mph range to 156 mph. The Weather Channel is predicting the storm will maintain Category 4 strength until it makes landfall, then begin to weaken as it moves north.

Michael’s hurricane force winds are extending 45 miles out from the eye of the storm, and tropical force winds are being felt 185 miles away, says the National Hurricane Center.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs