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Here's what Charlotte can expect from Alberto

High water at Lake Wylie Dam

Water thunders through the spillway at the Lake Wylie Dam Monday morning.
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Water thunders through the spillway at the Lake Wylie Dam Monday morning.

After days of rinse and repeat, the Charlotte area faces even heavier rainfall — and the chance of flooding — from the wet embrace of approaching subtropical storm Alberto.

The National Weather Service forecast through Thursday for western North Carolina carries almost a mantra-like quality: heavy rain with possible flooding each day.

Alberto, after loading both barrels with warm, tropical moisture from the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to bring flooding to the Florida Panhandle before heading north. Rain and thunderstorms are supposed to intensify throughout the Carolinas until at least Tuesday night.

Given that the ground already is saturated from two weeks of showers, the chance of flash flooding becomes a significant threat, the weather service says.

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Water pours from the main spillway below the Lake Wylie Dam in Fort Mill on Monday. After two weeks of precipitation, subtropical storm Alberto threatens to bring heavier rainfall to the Charlotte area through midweek. Michael Gordon/The Charlotte Observer

If there is good news for the Charlotte area, it is this: Duke Energy meteorologists believe that the heaviest rainfall will hit west of the city, higher up in the Catawba River basin or another drainage area entirely. That gives Duke more time and more reservoirs to control the downstream flow, says spokeswoman Kim Crawford.

Many of the area lakes already are at higher-than-normal levels, she says, leading Duke to release more water through its dams to create storage space for what is expected to be rolling down from the west. Unless conditions worsen, she says, Duke doesn't expect a "spillage" problem along its lakes or the river.

What may arise from Charlotte's creeks, culverts and paved surfaces remains to be seen.

Below the Lake Wylie Dam in Fort Mill on Monday morning, water thundered down the main spillway and into a free-flowing Catawba rising toward its banks.

Overhead, a pair of osprey circled in the mist, searching for breakfast.

Below, two great blue herons glided in a few feet above the river, looking for a place to land and fish. The shallows, where the birds like to hunt, had already become hard to find.

Michael Gordon: 704-358-5095; @MikeGordonOBS
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