Panovich: 'Everybody should be ready for flooding' Thursday

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A large storm system is going to dump heavy rain across the Charlotte area Thursday, with flash flooding likely and a threat of severe weather in the Carolinas. 

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for the entire Charlotte area effective 6 a.m. Thursday. The mountain counties were already under a flash flood watch as storms will roll into the region late Wednesday and overnight. 

First Warn Chief meteorologist Brad Panovich says the threat for severe weather does exist, but there’s pretty much a guarantee at least one area will see flooding during Thursday’s storms. 

“I don’t want to discount that threat, but flooding is by far our biggest issue. You’re 10 times more likely to see flooding than any other severe weather,” Panovich said.

As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, Panovich said the Charlotte area is around a 2% chance of seeing tornadoes. Further south, the Midlands of South Carolina are at a higher risk of seeing rotating storms with tornadoes and damaging winds. 

“They’re small, but for this time of year, it’s elevated, I’m not going to lie,” Panovich said. “For February, that’s a pretty significant tornado threat, especially areas south of Charlotte, like Columbia, South Carolina.”

Flooding outlook


So when will the storms get here? It depends where you live, but there’s likely to be widespread rain across the region Wednesday evening before the heavier rain reaches the mountains around midnight. Panovich expects the first wave of heavy rain and storms to reach Charlotte around 4 or 5 a.m. Thursday. 

“Just wave after wave of heavy rain,” Panovich said. “There will be a lull at some point. It will be cloudy, but the clouds will be thin and we’ll be getting warm, humid air from the south. A backdoor cold front will be pushing in, and these winds are probably going to be rotating in the higher elevations, so the storms could produce higher winds.”

The second wave of storms Thursday afternoon will bring the biggest risk of severe weather. Panovich says the worst will likely be from around 3 p.m. through about 7. There will be heavy rain and thunderstorms across the Carolinas until the early hours Friday morning. 

“There will be a ton of rain. That’s a given,” Panovich said. “The only question is how widespread the severe weather is. Really strong winds are mixing down to the surface, and are we going to have rotating storms? We don’t have a real good handle on where the rotation might occur just yet.”

Once the storms clear, Panovich expects a pretty big snow event for the mountains. By Friday, skiers will have plenty of options to hit the slopes in the high country. 

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The bottom line? 

“There’s a 100% chance we’re going to see some flooding somewhere,” Panovich said. “There will be heavy rain for everybody, the question is how widespread the damaging winds and severe weather are.”