"The worst-case scenarios are very worrisome, and the best-case scenario is pretty bad even without a landfall because of the rain threat."
Even as storm-trackers and meteorologist struggle to predict if and how Hurricane Joaquin will make U.S. landfall in the coming days, that comment is what Marshall Shepherd, a University of Georgia meteorology professor and host of the TV show Weather Geeks, told the Associated Press overnight. Meanwhile, NOAA called the storm "extremely dangerous" and warns that rainfall could be intense enough in the Carolinas and elsewhere to be classified as a "1-in-1,000-year" event.
A powerful Category 4 storm that has already caused devastation in the eastern Bahamas and other islands, experts are warning that due to the record-warm temperatures in the mid-Atlantic—coupled with the amount of moisture and energy Joaquin is holding— there remain serious concerns that the storm has the potential to replicate so-called "Super Storm" conditions, like Hurricane Sandy did in 2012.
As Climate Nexus, a group that tracks weather patterns associated with global warming, detailed in a briefing on Thursday, "Sea surface temperatures in the vicinity of Hurricane Joaquin are currently the warmest ever recorded. Hurricanes are fueled by warm water, contributing to an increase in the frequency of the most intense hurricanes, and an exponential increase in damage. Virtually every measure of hurricane activity in the Atlantic has increased substantially since the 1970s, due to the combination of human-caused climate change and natural variation."
Due to those fears, as CNN reports, "officials from South Carolina to New England have issued dire warnings to residents urging them to be ready. A lot could still happen with Joaquin; but one thing they don't want to happen is another Superstorm Sandy."
As expert meteorologists at the WeatherUnderground report in their briefing on Friday morning:
An extremely strong conveyor belt of moisture will stream into the Carolinas over the next several days, aided by moisture from Hurricane Joaquin as it turns to the north in the Atlantic Ocean. While the higher elevations of South Carolina will experience the most rain, upwards of 18 inches of rainfall will fall on parts of the Carolinas. This could create an historic flooding event that NOAA is calling a 1 in 1000 year event. Residents are urged to take precautions to protect life and property.
The National Hurricane Center on Friday morning release its latest advisory on Joaquin which included warnings about high winds, serious storm surges in coastal areas, and—in what many are saying could result in the highest level of devastation—those very large amounts of rainfall. According to AP:
Ryan Maue, a meteorologist at the private Weather Bell Analytics, is predicting the entire state of South Carolina will average 10 inches of rain, while North Carolina and Maryland will average 7 inches. Novak is a little less rain-heavy, saying parts but not all of South Carolina will get 10 inches.
Some forecasts see spots with nearly a foot and a half of rain, enough to cause extremely dangerous flooding, the kind that can push cars around, Maue said.
“This is as bad as it gets. This is going to be historical flooding,” he said.