Rain-weary Scott County didn’t get a reprieve from Mother Nature on Wednesday, as several inches of new rain fell across the northern Cumberland Plateau to create minor flooding issues across the area.
U.S. Hwy. 27 remained closed in the Glenmary community of southern Scott County early Thursday afternoon, after flood waters from Black Wolf Creek flooded the highway. That was the most serious disruption due to Wednesday’s rainfall, but various other minor issues were reported — from temporarily impassible side roads to flooded basements.
And if the medium-range weather outlook proves to be correct, this could be just the start.
One forecast model in particular, the GFS (it stands for the Global Forecast System, and is operated by the U.S. National Weather Service) shows up to a foot of rain for Scott County and much of the rest of the I-40 corridor across the state over the next 15 days.
Nearly half of that total could fall early next week. After things dry out for Friday and Saturday, rain returns late Sunday, and models currently indicate that 3-5 inches of rain are possible across the northern plateau from late Sunday to late in the day on Tuesday.
For perspective, Thursday’s flooding issues were caused by 2.94 inches of rainfall. Although next week’s anticipated rains will be more strung out — occurring over a period of more than 48 hours rather than a single day — they will fall on grounds that are already saturated and cannot absorb any more water.
Urban stream flooding is not a concern in Scott County; our major streams — Clear Fork, New River and the Big South Fork — aren’t settled, for the most part, and aren’t conducive to prolonged flooding episodes by their very nature. But in parts of the Mid-South, large-scale stream flooding could become a major issue in the months ahead.
In Scott County, January’s total rainfall was 6.5 inches — right at two inches above normal. That followed December, when nearly twice as much rain fell (9.53 inches) as is normal. February typically sees four inches of rain, and we’re knocking on the door of that just one week into the month. By Valentines Day, we may have doubled February’s typical rainfall total with half the month still to go.
This follows a very wet 2018. In total, Scott County received just over 69 inches of rain in 2018; the norm is 54 inches, and we missed record-setting rainfall by less than four inches. If you shave off the first eight months of 2018, it was a record-setting period. As of August 31, precipitation was just barely above-normal for the year in Oneida. But across the final four months of 2018, Oneida received a whopping 30.4 inches of rain — the most ever recorded in the months of September-December. So far in 2019, Oneida has recorded 9.6 inches of rain — nearly double the amount of rain typically received through the first week of February.
It’s an issue that’s manifesting itself throughout the Mid-South region, where many lakes are exceeding their typical late winter pools.
As for when the persistent rains will stop, that’s anyone’s guess. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above-average precipitation throughout the month of February — but, the good news, for now at least, is that the CPC is forecasting below-average precipitation for the months of March and April.
So far, though, long-range forecasts haven’t proven very reliable in recent months. The winter of 2018-2019 was expected to be quite cold and perhaps snowy — and while it has been very cold at times across the northern parts of the continental U.S., it’s been quite warm in the Mid-South. It’s also one of the least-snowiest winters in history in our region. As of February 7, the Scott County School System has used just two snow days, and the Oneida Special School District has used just one. It’s looking increasingly possible that the school systems may get through the remainder of winter without using any more of the 13 snow days they have banked.