What looked like a state record for rainfall overnight in Atlantic Beach may not be a record after all.
While a United States Geological Survey rain gauge reported more than 30 inches of rain from Hurricane Florence in a 24-hour period, which would smash the North Carolina record, the National Weather Service has yet to confirm that and WTVD meteorologist Don Schwenneker said the 30-inch figure is highly suspect.
“Our Doppler radar estimates out of that area are showing 10 inches of rain,” Schwenneker said. “That’s significantly different. I would say at this point it’s probably 10 inches of rain. We’ll wait for confirmation from the National Weather Service, but at the moment, we do not see that (30-inch) amount. I think it’s probably closer to 10.”
The National Weather Service said Friday morning it measured 13.81 inches of rain from Florence at its Morehead City office.
Preliminary data from the USGS indicated that as of 9:06 a.m. Friday, 31.37 inches had been measured over the previous 24 hours at a USGS rain gauge located at the Atlantic Beach Causeway over Bogue Sound. Nearby, 27.04 inches fell in Emerald Isle and 18.52 inches in Wrightsville Beach, according to the USGS.
Schwenneker said the USGS figure of 8.79 inches in New Bern struck him as a more accurate total. The National Weather Service official rain station at Wilmington International Airport was reporting less than 6 inches Friday morning.
If the USGS figure turns out to be accurate, it would be the highest 24-hour rainfall in North Carolina history, far eclipsing a 22-inch storm in Mitchell County in the mountains in 1916, according to the N.C. Climate Office.
The United States record is 43.0 inches in Alvin, Texas, during Tropical Storm Claudette in 1979, according to the National Weather Service, although a storm dropped almost 50 inches in Hawaii this spring and could be the new record pending certification by the National Climate Extremes Committee.
The storm made landfall near Wrightsville Beach at 7:15 a.m. Friday, producing wind gusts of up to 95 to 105 mph in some coastal cities, according to the National Hurricane Center.