Damp Delmarva braces for Hurricane Irma's rains
WARNING: This video contains foul language. Viewer discretion is advised. Video by Edward Scheitlin Jr.
Cars drive past a downed tree on Dogwood Drive in Salisbury after a possible tornado touched down near Salisbury University. Video by Ralph Musthaler
Trees, power lines down and cars turned over Liz Holland
Cleanup crews begin work after a potential tornado touchdown Aug. 7 in Salisbury. Video by Ralph Musthaler
A possible tornado touched down near Salisbury University damaging cars. Video by Ralph Musthaler
More footage on the scene of a possible tornado in Salisbury on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. Video by Rose Velazquez
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More than 3½ months remain in 2017, yet many parts of Delmarva are nearing or have surpassed their typical helping of rainfall for a full year.
As of Saturday, nearly 44 inches of rain had dampened Salisbury since the beginning of the year, about 1 inch shy of the city's average rainfall total for an entire year, according to the National Weather Service.
A weekend of sunny skies offered a rare opportunity for that water to drain and seep into the ground. But the reprieve doesn't look like it will last long.
A low-pressure system tied to Hurricane Irma is expected to usher in another prolonged period of rain for the soggy peninsula.
Arriving early Tuesday, the system is forecast to leave behind only up to a half-inch in the Salisbury area, said National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Rusnak. But then the remnants of Irma are expected to wash into the area toward the end of the week.
Possibly waiting in the wings: Hurricane Jose.
Its course remains a mystery. The Category 4 storm stalled Sunday over the Atlantic Ocean well east of the Bahamas. Its forecast track showed the hurricane veering off its northwest path by Monday evening and heading northeast, then southeast.
“Every day the model runs are showing a different solution," Rusnak said.
While meteorologists said it was too early Sunday to predict how much rain the weakening Irma would dump on Delmarva, the prognosis looked far less dire for the area than it did just a few days earlier.
The hazards were exponentially greater for Florida and the Southeast, which lay in Irma's direct path. But with the storm predicted to trek farther westward into the Tennessee and Ohio valleys, the threat of rain and wind all but evaporated on Delmarva.
“For the Mid-Atlantic region, the track of Irma is favorable," Rusnak said. “It’ll just be a showery day on Tuesday with a breeze off the ocean, but that is not atypical for this time of year.”
While the area appears to have dodged the brunt of Irma, it is still vulnerable to future deluges, given how saturated it already is, Rusnak added.
“The last two months in Salisbury have been very wet," he said. "July and August were pretty much above normal."
August, in particular, was an outlier, with Salisbury picking up 12.23 inches of rain, just 0.8 inches shy of the August record set in 1933. More than half the month's drops fell within a single 24-hour period, according to the weather service: the 6.56 inches on Aug. 12.
To the east, the Ocean Pines Association warned residents to prepare for possible flooding from Irma.
“The ground is already saturated from rain earlier this week,” said Marketing and Public Relations Director Denise Sawyer. “Ocean Pines has experienced off-and-on torrential rain in a short period of time. When heavy rain is coupled with saturated soil, flooding usually is a result.”
The Aug. 12 rain represented a 25-year rain event in the community, the association said in a statement. At the time Ocean Pines was first developed in the 1960s, no drainage plans were drawn up showing how much rainfall its infrastructure could withstand.
“I will say that the infrastructure that is in place worked as efficiently as it could (Aug. 12) because of the improvements that have been completed in the recent years,” said Ryan Presock, a Worcester County natural resources inspector.
On Twitter @Jeremy_Cox