August 19, 2008

Hopes for Deluge From Fay Fade With Latest Forecast


A key to the Triad's water supply this year changed direction off the coast of Florida on Monday evening, leaving it unlikely the area will see any beneficial rain.

Tropical Storm Fay has the potential to drop much-needed rain across the Southeast as it comes ashore. But a change in the forecast track for Fay suggests what's left of the storm later this week won't dump desperately needed rainfall on North Carolina as initially expected.

"It appears now that the chances are less that central North Carolina will get beneficial rains form the system," Brandon Vincent, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Raleigh, said in a telephone interview Monday night. "The mountains still have a chance, but it will be later in the weekend."

The latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center shows Fay heading northeast through Florida toward its northeast border with Georgia.

Vincent said a high-pressure system settling in over the eastern United States will block Fay from moving much farther north. Fay could stall over Georgia, he said, and likely will steer away from central North Carolina.

Local water officials still love the idea of a tropical soaker to help with reservoirs.

"Leave the winds behind, and 3 to 5 inches of rain over 12 to 24 hours would be fantastic," said Allan Williams , head of Greensboro's water resources department.

The storm wouldn't pack much of a punch in terms of windfall -- it would be a tropical depression long before it made it to North Carolina on Saturday -- but despite spending so much time over land, it was hoped that it could bring substantial rain.

That's something Greensboro, which is under voluntary water restrictions, hasn't seen for a while.

The year was already dry when the bottom fell out in recent weeks. Just a third of a inch has fallen in August, pushing the total for the year to more than 8 inches below normal , according to the National Weather Service. Guilford County is now in severe drought, the third-worst category.

It's a situation that looks eerily like last year, when a parched August took a dry year and turned it into a crisis.

The city isn't in terrible shape, Williams said. Residents have been using less water, and the city's reservoirs are still about three-quarters full.

Still, it's not fun to watch the lakes drop and to search the sky in vain for rain.

"It would be great to just not have to worry about it," Williams said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact Jason Hardin at 373-7021 or at [email protected]

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