On guard for Ernesto

It’s been nearly two years since the area felt the effects from the remnants of tropical system Ivan and now drenching rains from the remnants of another tropical system may impact the area today and tomorrow.
The Associated Press reported that Tropical Storm Ernesto slogged into North Carolina just shy of hurricane strength, flooding roadways, forcing evacuations and promising more of the same as it moved northward.
AP said the system made landfall just before midnight on the heels of thunderstorms that had drenched the state for more than a day.
AP reported the governors of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia each declared a state of emergency because of the storm.
“The forecast has improved somewhat, though we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Laura Ramburg, a spokeswoman West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who declared the state of emergency for 13 counties on Friday.
The National Weather Service forecast 3 to 6 inches of rain for the eastern part of West Virginia as the storm moved through on Friday.
AP said the storm weakened as it moved inland but still had 50 mph sustained winds at 8 a.m., well above the 39 mph threshold for a tropical storm.
Ernesto’s center was inland, just east of Rocky Mount and about 100 miles southwest of Norfolk, Va., moving north at nearly 15 mph with maximum sustained winds at 8 a.m. It was expected to turn to the north and slow down during the next 24 hours, weakening to a tropical depression.
A flash flood watch issued by the National Weather Service remains in effect through Saturday morning for many counties in the region including Blair, Huntingdon and Cambria and Bedford Counties locally. A flash flood watch for Centre County will go into effect later tonight and continue until Saturday evening there.
The NWS said a very moist easterly flow ahead of tropical storm Ernesto would bring a steady rain to the region today. Locally heavy rainfall is likely from mid afternoon through early Saturday morning as the remnants of Ernesto move across the region. Widespread rainfall totals of 3 to 5 inches are expected. Totals in areas to the north such as Centre County could be in the range of 2 to 3 inches and the heaviest rains are expected to begin there later this evening and last into Saturday afternoon.
The NWS said flash flooding may develop if these rainfall totals are realized.
The NWS said residents along streams, creeks and smaller rivers as well as low lying or poor drainage areas should remain alert for rapidly rising levels as heavy rainfall begins.
A flash flood watch means that conditions are favorable for locally heavy rainfall, which may lead to flash flooding. The NWS statement said flash flooding is a very dangerous situation. The statement advised residents to monitor later forecasts and to be prepared to take action should flash flood warnings be issued.
On Thursday evening, the NWS projected the Little Juniata River at Spruce Creek to rise to 6.8 feet by 8 p.m. on Saturday. Flood stage is 8 feet. The river forecast indicated the largest rise in waters would occur throughout the day on Saturday.
The American Red Cross Southern Alleghenies Chapter issued a press release earlier this week urging people to take safety precautions ahead of possible flooding. Executive Director Barb Taylor advised, “if you experience flooding and need assistance, call your local authorities immediately and please follow the directions of emergency officials.”
The American Red Cross advised residents to prepare a disaster supplies kit, make evacuation and communication plans and to stay informed about changing conditions.
The general NWS forecast for northern Blair County calls for steady rain along with an isolated thunderstorm possible this afternoon. Rain may be heavy at times late with highs in the mid 60s. Northeast winds of 10 to 15 mph are expected.
Tonight, the rain may be heavy at times with an isolated thunderstorm possible in the evening. Lows in the mid 50s are predicted with northeast winds from 10 to 15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.
On Saturday, the rain will gradually diminishing in the afternoon. Highs in the mid 60s are expected with northeast winds 5 to 10 mph.
The forecast calls for a chance of rain in the evening with mostly cloudy skies and lows in the mid 50s. Sunday should be mostly cloudy with highs in the mid 70s.
The Labor Day forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a high in the mid 70s.
Editor’s note: Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.