Tropical Storm Joaquin expected to stay off the coast but could bring more rain to area

The sun made a brief appearance Tuesday morning, but by the afternoon, the day proved the same as the previous seven – rainy.

The Havelock area has seen rain for eight consecutive days, and the forecast calls for more.

“It’s terrible,” said Alicia Collins, a Havelock resident who held onto an umbrella while attempting to load groceries into her car at Food Lion.

The total amount of rain varies by location but generally ranges from about 3 1/2 inches to nearly 8 inches since Sept. 22 in the Havelock area, according to the National Weather Service in Newport. Havelock’s last day without rain was Sept. 21.

Locations closer to the coast have had higher amounts, with the Beaufort airport reporting more than 11 inches.

Brian Cullen, meteorologist with the weather service, said a prolonged east to northeast wind has brought in moisture from the ocean.

“Systems normally move from west to east across the United States in the normal weather pattern, but in this particular pattern things have not been moving all that much,” he said. “There’s been strong high pressure locked up to the north and sort of weak low pressure off the Southeast coast, and the flows around those pressure systems bring in onshore moisture and that just really hasn’t changed over the last week or so.”

An approaching cold front is expected to keep Tropical Storm Joaquin off the North Carolina coast, but Cullen said the combination of the two systems is likely to produce more heavy rain Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Predictions call for about 4 to 6 more inches.

“That’s additional rainfall to what we’ve already had,” Cullen said. “And that could go either way depending on how the tropical system tracks. If it tracks closer to the coast, we may end up getting more rain than that. If it ends up going more out to sea, we’ll probably get less.”

Joaquin could bring winds of 20 to 30 mph to the area, Cullen said, but that depends where the storm tracks.

The persistent east and northeast winds have caused water levels in the Neuse River and area creeks to rise over the past few days, and that could happen again as Joaquin passes off the coast later in the week, Cullen said.

The high water levels prompted the N.C. Department of Transportation to suspend its ferry service between Cherry Branch and Minnesott Beach over the weekend. It resumed Monday but may have to be suspended again depending on water levels later in the week.