Huge rainfall totals are forecast to hit that region, with 10-20 inches being expected in some locations. Flooding should be expected.
This flooding is NOT directly associated with Hurricane Joaquin, but with the confluence of tropical moisture streams.
Let me begin by showing you the cumulative rainfall totals from the National Weather Service GFS model for the next 66 hours. Over Washington State, some very light precipitation (mainly tonight), but over the eastern U.S. it is the end of the world. You can see one area of heavy precipitation offshore, with values between 5 and 10 inches....that is the precipitation accompanying Joaquin. But there is another, even HEAVIER precipitation region with values getting to 15-20 inches stretching from South Carolina and into western North Carolina. That is what I am talking about. And this is from a relatively coarse global model--local rainfall could be much heavier.
The NWS Storm Prediction Center three-day forecast totals parallel the GFS runs, giving a conservative total of 13.2 inches.
So why does this narrow feature exist? Substantial insights can be derived from looking at the winds near 10,000 ft (700 hPa), relative humidity, and upward motion at the same time (see map). There is an area of high pressure to the north (H shown in red) and a low to the south (L in red). Between them there is a region of strong easterly winds that are bringing moisture into the region. Moisture that is forced to rise by the nearby Appalachians and their eastern foothills. But there is more.
Some flow is circling around the low and converging into the easterly flow--right over south Carolina. Converging air flows cause upward motion that produces precipitation. But there is still more. This converging flow is forced to rise by the mountains. The red lines shows upward motion (very subtle but look close and you will see it over S. Carolina). That upward motion in the presence of tropical moisture is producing intense precipitation.
The latest (9 PM PDT) NWS radar image shows heavy precipitation moving into the area.
The National Weather Service has flood watches, flood warnings, flash flood warnings, and more posted right now (see graphic), and some areas are being evacuated. This is a serious, unusual, and life-threatening event, one that our models have been warning about for several days. I hope the Charleston Boeing facility is ready for intense rainfall...they are going to get it.