WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington has officially done it. As of December 15, 2018, Wilmington International Airport recorded 100 inches of rain for the calendar year of 2018. Of course, more rain will likely fall through the 31st, so the full legacy of “the year of the downpour” has yet to be written, but now is a perfect time to add some perspective to the epic triple-digit-inch benchmark the Port City has already eclipsed. So let’s do that...
First... what is actually average for Wilmington?
Wilmington averages a healthy 57.61 inches of rain per calendar year.
What was Wilmington's previous annual rainfall record?
Weather records go back a long way at Wilmington - all the way back to the 1870s. And that's when the Port City's previous annual rainfall record was established: 83.65 inches in 1877. It's fair to say that 2018 rain not only broke, but shattered, that long-standing record.
How did 100 inches of rain happen?
Perhaps not surprisingly, Hurricane Florence, and the nearly 24 inches of rain it dumped on the Port City, was the signature event. However, showers and thunderstorms associated with several stalled fronts also swelled the tallies. Months like May and July were particularly wet: each featured more than 12 inches of rain.
How is 100 inches of rain even comprehensible?
The short answer is: it's not. 100 inches of rain distributed over Wilmington's 42 square miles equates to 73 billion gallons of water - enough to fill more than 110,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Is it just Wilmington that was this wet?
No. Newport, North Carolina, a little farther north along the coast in Carteret County, also exceeded 100 inches of 2018 rain this weekend. And, although their reports are not NOAA-official like those from Wilmington International Airport, there is solid evidence that other communities in southeastern North Carolina, like Castle Hayne and Rocky Point, also made it to the "100-inch" club in 2018.
How does 100 inches of rain compare to other wet places?
Hilo, Hawaii (in a tropical rain forest) and Ketchikan, Alaska (in a sub-arctic rain forest) both average more than 100 inches of rain per year, but not a single U.S. city of comparable population to Wilmington averages 100 inches of rain annually. Mobile, Alabama (a mid-sized city) has an annual average of 67 inches. The wettest large U.S. city is New Orleans: it averages 62 inches of rain per year. Believe it or not: famously soggy Seattle, Washington only averages 38 inches of rain annually.
What's ahead for 2019?
With an emerging El Nino pattern in the Pacific, at-or-above-average Carolina rainfall appears likely for at least the first quarter of 2019. But no matter what the new year brings, you can trust your First Alert Weather Team to keep you informed on TV, online, and on your mobile device!