Area rainfall way above average for year; forecasters expecting more

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Cars driving down a flooded Canal Drive in Carolina Beach on Oct. 5, 2015. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
Cars driving down a flooded Canal Drive in Carolina Beach on Oct. 5, 2015. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

The greater Cape Fear Region has already seen its fair share of rain this year, and according to meteorologists, residents can expect much more.

As of Nov. 10, Wilmington has recorded 64.92 inches of rain since Jan. 1, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington. The average for that time period is 51.74 inches, and the average for an entire calendar year (Jan. 1 to Dec. 31) is 57.61 inches.

“We’re already well above normal for the year,” said Josh Weiss, a meteorologist with NWS Wilmington.

Much of that precipitation has come in the last month and a half, with several storms hitting the region since the beginning of October. According to Weiss, the average rainfall Wilmington receives between Oct. 1 and Nov. 10 is less than five inches. This year, and with more than two weeks to go in November, that number is 19.51 inches.

“With an El Nino year, we generally have more rain, especially through fall and winter,” Weiss said.

The effect of that weather event, which occurs along the eastern Pacific but affects weather patterns in other parts of the world, is already being felt here. November is typically the second-driest month in Wilmington, with an average of 3.29 inches of rain over the entire 30 days. Just 10 days into the month, the city has already seen 4.74 inches.

Though forecasters have predicted the rainiest winter to hit the area in decades, the current totals will not count toward that, as meteorological winter does not begin until late next month.

“We’re expecting that December through February should be pretty wet,” said Weiss.

That is bad news for residents, as the ground is already over-saturated from the previous rain events. Weiss said recent tests showed that the ground is 95 to 99 percent saturated.

“Any rain that falls now will go straight to runoff,” Weiss said. “It’s holding as much water as it can hold.”

That stormwater runoff, in addition to actual rainfall, will lead to problems such as flooding and high river levels, which some local areas have already experienced in abundance this year.