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Frances' impact still up in the air

September 07, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Amateur weather forecasters attempting to predict how the remnants of Hurricane Frances will affect the area probably shouldn't quit their day jobs.

Even the experts are not sure.

Two weather prognosticators gave slightly different versions Monday of how the Tri-State area will be affected.

Trina Heiser, a technician with the National Weather Service's Washington-Baltimore office, said there's a 50 percent chance of rain over the next couple of days.

She said that what remains of Hurricane Frances likely will miss the area, although 2 to 4 total inches of rain is possible from tonight through Thursday night.

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By midweek, the storm's remnants should be in southeast Ohio. Remnants of the storm, plus a cold front moving in from the west, will combine to cause the rain, Heiser said.

The National Weather Service is not predicting any flooding at this time, Heiser said. However, a NWS weather outlook issued for the area indicates that if the path of the storm changes, heavier rain and flooding are possible. Isolated tornadoes always are possible near the center of tropical storms, according to the outlook issued on the NWS' local weather page on the Web, www.crh.noaa.gov.

Although Frances devastated Florida, by the time it lumbers its way to this area, it probably will not seem atypical of a summer storm. Heiser said that, for now, people do not need to treat the storm any differently.

Michael Sager, a meteorologist with AccuWeather, agreed that the exact path the storm's core will take is, literally and figuratively, up in the air.

"At this point, it's a little tough to tell," he said.

Wherever Frances goes, the area will see a lot of moisture. Areas east of the Appalachian Mountains are "probably going to get a good amount of rainfall," he said.

The worst-case scenario, Sager said, is that 4 to 7 inches of rain will fall, although some areas could see up to 10 inches of rain.

Most likely, the area will see 2 to 4 inches, Sager said.

"Which is enough ... to cause flooding problems," he said.

Those who live in flood-prone or low-lying areas should keep an eye on the water and weather forecasts, and be prepared to move to higher ground.

Sager also issued a common caution whenever flooding is possible: "Don't drive through flooded areas."

It's impossible to tell how deep the water is and cars might be swept away, he said.

People also might want to stock up on drinking water in case local water sources are affected, but Sager said nobody needs to run to the bread and milk aisles of grocery stores.

Wind gusts could peak at 20 to 25 mph - not enough to cause any serious damage, Sager said.

As for when the rain will start and when it will end, Sager agreed that it probably will start today and possibly extend into Thursday.

Of course, he couldn't say that for sure.

"That's where things get a little uncertain," he said.

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