Nate’s winds won’t be as strong as those when Irma passed through last month, but the storm now moving up from the Gulf of Mexico could still inflict serious damage when it blows through Athens and northeast Georgia this weekend, forecasters say.
That’s partly because many of our trees were damaged or weakened when powerful Hurricane Irma blew through last month, said University of Georgia climatologist Pam Knox in her Climate and Agriculture in the Southeast blog.
Now a tropical storm, Nate is expected to strengthen to a low-level hurricane before making landfall somewhere on the central Gulf coast Saturday night, according to National Weather Service forecasters.
Once on land, the hurricane’s winds will decrease to tropical storm levels, then down to a tropical depression level as it veers northeast through southeast Mississippi, Alabama and northwest Georgia and on up toward New York, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Athens is in the hurricane center’s cone of probability, meaning the possible range of paths the storm is expected to take as it moves north and east.
“The latest track from the National Hurricane Center has Nate turning northeast across Alabama, approaching northwest Georgia by Sunday afternoon,” according to the National Weather Service’s Peachtree City Weather Station’s Friday afternoon forecast update.
“Based on this current forecast track, the probability of seeing tropical storm-force wind gusts, greater than 40 mph, is increasing across portions of central and north Georgia throughout Sunday,” according to the forecast. “Several hours of this would be capable of bringing down trees and power lines. In addition to the wind, periods of heavy rain could produce 2 to 6 inches of rainfall, which may result in localized flash flooding, especially across urban and poor drainage areas. A few tornadoes are also possible within any of the more organized rain bands that are associated with Nate.”
Flooding might be less than otherwise because it’s been so dry here the past few weeks, Knox wrote.
Nate’s most likely paths are to the west of Athens, putting northeast Georgia on its right side. With hurricanes, the right side is the wrong side, because heavier rains, higher winds and tornadoes are more likely.
Some areas near the center of Nate’s path could experience even more severe conditions than they saw with Irma, Knox wrote in her blog.