Nothing much changed in the NHC 11am forecast, so the blog post this morning still holds up. Tampa/St Pete area are now (wisely) triggering evacuations since the storm is forecast to brush the coast and a little wobble would be catastrophic. This could be the worst storm for Tampa/St Pete/Tarpon Springs since the 1921 storm depending on track and the race between the storm weakening and how close it gets.
Forecast is to move a little slower, so impacts in the coastal GA/SC region will be a bit later – deteriorating Thursday morning, getting bad Thursday afternoon/evening with Friday into Saturday being worst conditions, clearing Sat. afternoon/evening. Still just looking at rain squalls, gusty winds.
TLDR: Ian has started the expected turn and intensification process. Western Cuba will be hit hard tomorrow, Tampa area in crosshairs Wednesday?, but tracks still have a lot of spread. Coastal GA/SC minor impacts Friday. Here are the details and impact estimates …
Overnight Ian became much better organized. As I write this the sun isn’t up, but here is the latest (5:50am) Infrared image:
On this track Cuba is likely to see about $1.7 Billion in impacts. It’s hard to assess impacts in Cuba, given the different structure of their economy, but it’s likely the equivalent of a $150 Billion dollar storm hitting the US. There is no doubt about the humanitarian impact – there are 2.7 million people in the way. However, Cuba does have a well organized system for emergency response.
The impacts on the US are still somewhat fuzzy. This kind of track is is extremely difficult for forecasters. It is important to keep in mind that the area of intense damage for even a large hurricane isn’t, in the great scheme of things, all that large. Most of the models have the storm tracking 70 to 140 miles offshore from the Tampa/St. Pete area. For comparison here are the various tracks:
If you look at the GFS track, that would put the winds at around 60mph on the St. Petersburg peninsula. While the models have in the last cycle become a bit more consolidated, there are still a few (like the European and UK Meteorological Centre models) that bring the storm close (and for the UK model into the coast as far south as Sarasota). The official track splits the difference, and brings the storm only 30 miles from the coast off of Tampa, which would put winds at double that speed – 125mph. Recall that wind damage is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, so that’s the difference between minor damage and power outages and catastrophic damage. Another issue is storm surge – a track just offshore from the coast (like the current NHC track) puts 14-15 feet of storm surge up Tampa Bay. A wobble even 30 miles further out drops that value by five feet. On the current track economic impacts in Florida would be $25 Billion USD. But the wobbles can cut that by 2/3 – or bump it up higher. As the storm treks into south Georgia, impacts will be felt on the Atlantic coast of Florida as well, squalls and gusty winds for sure. It’s time for Floridians to pay attention and start implementing their hurricane plans if advised by emergency managers.
What about coastal Georgia/SC? The potential impact estimate hasn’t really changed that much, although the impacts may be a bit later than thought yesterday. It’s likely that the coast, from Jacksonville to Charleston, will see high onshore winds for a day or two with conditions deteriorating late Wednesday and in to Thursday morning, with tropical storm conditions offshore with the appropriate marine advisories. The worst of the impacts will likely be Thursday night into Friday. On the barrier islands that means gusty winds, rain, and a likelihood of some shallow coastal flooding at high tides. Nothing terribly dangerous is expected, but as we all know even a foot or two of extra water causes a lot of damage and can be hazardous if you aren’t careful (like not testing a downed power line to see if it’s live the way you would a 9v battery). How bad depends on how close and slow the storm moves by. Hopefully that will become clearer in the next 24 hours or so.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see school closures and other impacts for Thursday or Friday spreading across the region. Depending on the exact track, conditions inland will likely be rain and gusty winds, depending again on how far inland and how rapidly the storm decays. Right now, Thursday night into Friday looks to be the worst day in the Savannah/Beaufort area, with winds 20mph gusting to 30mph and some rain squalls. Inconvenient, hazardous if you lack common sense, but not dangerous. Further south, in Brunswick conditions might flirt with tropical storm conditions, starting late Wednesday. So inconvenient (especially if power outages!), and more of a chance for downed trees, etc., but not at this point looking at much in the way of actual damage or danger. Again, this is all still uncertain, hopefully it will be clearer by tomorrow (because the storm slowed down) but that is to give you an idea of what to expect. It will be worth paying attention to local advisories for later this week to see what actions local emergency managers recommend. No need to wear out your refresh key at this point, but worth checking local news for what your local community is doing. Just don’t get duped by the hype, panic, and avoid the brawls over the last package of beer jerky at the local mini-mart.
Important Note: there is some new guy on the radio (WTKS) in Savannah, who took the place of the loved/reviled Bill Edwards morning show. This guy had a “discussion” of the how forecasting “works” as he started the 6am hour. Well, to be blunt …
I don’t even know where to start with how wrong a lot of the things he was saying was. Sigh. So be careful where you get your information.
Ian still isn’t very organized, which makes it harder for the track models to converge. The general steering should take it across Cuba then along or near the west coast of Florida before landfall in the panhandle or Big Bend. Conditions are prime for explosive intensity growth. But the exact track of course matters a lot. The NHC track has been adjusted a bit eastward (right) with the model guidance as of 5pm, and Florida landfall could still reasonably be anywhere from Fort Myers to Pensacola, with the most likely areas from Sarasota through Panama City Beach. But there is still a lot of uncertainty and wiggle room. There are now tropical storm watches up for the lower Keys (Seven Mile Bridge to Key West), but no evacuation or protective orders as of yet. Here’s the forecast impact swath based on the 5pm ET Sunday NHC forecast:
What does this mean for coastal Georgia and Savannah? Nothing has really changed from this morning’s post. Conditions will deteriorate Wednesday evening, Thursday/Friday unpleasant but not likely dangerous, clearing Saturday. But it will be tomorrow some time before we get a better handle on the exact timing and extent. Will post again in the morning …
Summary: Ian is still forecast to rapidly intensify today. Western Cuba is bracing for a Cat 3 landfall, and Ian could be a Cat 4 by Tuesday Evening. The Florida Keys are on alert but likely to be on the fringes, no actions at the moment. The models then start to diverge, but landfall in the Big Bend or panhandle of Florida on Thursday or Friday is likely. Here’s the details …
The track through 60-72 hours (late Tuesday) seems pretty clear. The Cayman Islands are under a hurricane warning but should only see the fringes of the storm – how bad depends on the exact timing of the explosive intensity growth of the storm. Impacts to Cuba are likely to be in excess of $1 Billion USD based on this forecast, with over a million people in the tropical storm wind swath, with the worst of the impacts staying west of Havana. Conditions are ripe for rapid intensification: by Tuesday Ian could well be a strong Category Four (120 knots, 138 mph) hurricane.
After that things get fuzzier. Ian is expected to sneak around the edge of a decaying frontal system and start to turn northeast (as well as encounter an unfavorable environment, which should knock the intensity down). As NHC says in their 5am discussion:
With the cross-track spreading remaining between 200-220 n mi at days 4 and 5, it cannot be overstated that significant uncertainty remains in Ian's long-range prediction.
Here is what that looks like graphically using the TAOS/TC model dispersion analysis tool. Notice how the nice neat circles suddenly turn into an elongated ellipse and the range for the 120 hour forecast is from near Mobile Bay to off of Cape Canaveral:
As you can see NHC split the difference between the models, with GFS being on the left edge and the European models (UK, ECM) on the right. While a landfall in the panhandle seems most likely, we probably won’t have a good handle on this until late today or tomorrow. The exact track will make a lot of difference for evacuations, as the “target rich” environment of the Sarasota-Tampa-Clearwater region is or is not in play. Being that close to a Cat 4 storm, a small wobble will make a huge difference in impacts. Those on the west coast of Florida and panhandle need to pay close attention and be ready to implement your hurricane plans – probably starting tomorrow (Monday). So you should check this afternoon to see what’s going on, and certainly listen out regularly starting in the morning.
As for Coastal GA/SC, The Cone of Shame Cometh(*)! In other words, Coastal GA is within the NHC uncertainty cone, the zone where there is a 2/3 chance the center of the storm will pass. It hasn’t crept in to South Carolina yet but should do so today. The media often makes a lot of this, but what does it mean? in terms of impacts not a lot – you can be in the cone and not feel much, you can be out of the cone and get high winds that cause a tree fall on your house. So the cone says nothing about impacts, which is what we care about.
It’s still hard to tell what the impacts will be in this region. It’s likely that the coast, from Jacksonville to Charleston, will see high onshore winds for a day or two with conditions deteriorating Wednesday and tropical storm conditions offshore with the appropriate marine advisories. On the barrier islands that means gusty winds, rain, and a likelihood of some shallow coastal flooding at high tides. Nothing terribly dangerous is expected, but as we all know even a foot or two of extra water causes a lot of damage. How bad depends on how close and slow the storm moves by. Again, we won’t know more about that until Monday.
It wouldn’t surprise me to see school closures and other impacts for Thursday or Friday spreading across the region. Depending on the exact track, conditions inland will likely be rain and gusty winds, depending again on how far inland and how rapidly the storm decays. Right now, Thursday looks to be the worst day in the Savannah/Beaufort area, with winds 20mph gusting to 30mph and some rain squalls. Inconvenient, hazardous if you lack common sense, but not dangerous. Further south, in Brunswick conditions might flirt with tropical storm conditions, starting late Wednesday. So inconvenient (especially if power outages!), but not at this point looking at much in the way of actual damage. Again, this is all pretty uncertain; we’ll have a better picture in the morning (Monday), but that is to give you an idea of what to expect. It will be worth paying attention to local advisories for later this week to see what actions local emergency managers recommend. No need to wear out your refresh key at this point, check back in Monday morning, and Tuesday for sure start checking for what your local community is doing.
(*) Those of you with animals are probably familiar with the Elizabethan collar, aka the “Cone of Shame,” that has to be put on critters sometimes to prevent them from tearing off a bandage or licking/chewing on an injury.
The forecast picture for Tropical Storm (and likely Hurricane) Ian and the extent of risk to Florida and, more importantly, Coastal GA/SC 😛 is becoming clearer. Fiona isn’t really a hurricane any more even though it has hurricane force winds, and has made landfall in Canada. We’ll start with a quick look at Fiona, then move on to the latest on Ian and what it means for the Southeastern US.
This is Fiona at 6:30am this morning, shortly after crossing Cape Breton Island. Winds across northern Nova Scotia and southern Vinland (Newfoundland) are probably still in the 125-145 kph (80-90mph) range, so that’s power outages, trees down, roof and minor structural damage, that level of damage. Weaker structures (which are more rare up there, due to the nor’easters and snow loads) and those unlucky enough to be hit by trees and debris would be more heavily damaged. Definitely a mess, economic impacts probably on the order of $1 Billion USD. And speaking of Fiona, let’s not forget Puerto Rico, which took heavy damage and tends to drop out of the news cycle, and will (once again) probably be ignored if a major storm hits the US next week, as looks likely. The Dominican Republic was hit hard as well and needs help.
Jamaica may get heavy rain (which means flash floods and landslides) from Ian, as will Cuba and the Cayman Islands, who will get wind/waves/storm surge as well. But the fear is once the storm passes the Caymans, conditions are ripe for rapid intensification. For Florida, this track does bear some resemblances to that of Hurricane Charley in 2004. That storm hit the Sarasota area hard, and caused over $25 Billion in adjusted damage. For what it’s worth (nothing, really) the models are showing Ian to have the potential to cause up to $15 Billion in damage to Florida on this track and intensity. So Florida should be watching, and be ready to start taking action Monday if needed, especially areas like the Keys that take longer to prepare.
The later part (days 3-5) of NHC forecast has been drifting westward the last couple of cycles, and will probably continue to be adjusted in that direction. Here are the computer models that NHC was looking at. A bit of a rant point here, and why I keep harping on the fact you really shouldn’t be obsessing over the model tracks, is that forecaster judgement also goes in to their analysis. If you want to understand their forecasts, great, look at the models! But don’t think you can do a forecast on your own just based on models (and for sure don’t trust anyone who spends more time discussing models than the NHC forecast, unless it is used to help understand the NHC forecast!). Here is what the major global models look like, along with a dispersion analysis (a measure of how much they have changed over the last 12 hours):
The blue marker labeled “XX Global Model Dispersion” is the average position of the models would say the storm would be in XX hours. The yellow/golden ellipse is a measure of where you would expect the storm to be given how scattered the models are (in other words, we expect the storm to be somewhere in that yellow area at each time) As you can see, the NHC track is to the right of the guidance for most of the track. In the early part of the track, this is because the storm isn’t very organized, and the models are probably starting the storm offset somewhat, and NHC probably wants to make sure Jamaica and the Caymans aren’t duped into thinking the storm will be farther from them than it is likely to be. By the time the storm is expected to reach Florida, on Wednesday evening, only the European Model is to the right of the NHC track (in red, with orange markers at each time). Another consideration by NHC is they want to avoid what they call the “windshield wiper” effect – they don’t want to shift the track left, then have to shift it right six hours later. That risks confusing people and reducing confidence in the forecast, as well as causing shifting watch and warning areas. So they do the sensible thing and watch for trends, not jump on every wobble of every model. That’s what you should do, too – watch for trends, and not freak our over any one forecast (or any model).
Folks in coastal Georgia and the Lowcountry of South Caroina have been freaking out because some of the long range tracks show the storm moving our way. Is that justified? How about no, if you have a hurricane plan (and if you don’t after slapping yourself go here, get a checklist, and figure out what you’re going to do). On the current track and forecast, we are increasingly likely to get some impact from the storm, most likely gusty winds and rain next weekend. But it’s WAY too early to speculate. It will probably be Monday morning before there is anything solid to say about impacts to anything north of Jacksonville. So enjoy the beautiful weekend!
Well, yes, it is Florida after all. But what about the new storm that formed in the Caribbean? Will it hit the US? How bad will it be? Lets take a closer look.
11am update: nothing much changed. Will probably be tomorrow before we have anything substantive to talk about, although it’s likely TD9 will be upgraded to a Tropical Storm this afternoon or evening. It’s a race between TD 9 and TD10 (off of Africa) who gets named as Hermine and who gets stuck with Ian.
NHC is expecting TD9 to slowly become a tropical storm over the next day or two, then a hurricane before potentially exploding in to a Category 2 or even 3 storm before approaching Florida by next Wednesday.
So how likely is this scenario, and what happens next? The short answer is we don’t know yet – the storm is really just organizing, and while the model spread is rather tight at this stage, there is a reason the NHC only goes out to five days in their forecasts. Although some of the models go beyond that (up to 10 days in fact), due to the complexities of tropical cyclones they just aren’t that reliable beyond the five day forecast. And unless you have some specialized needs, five days is plenty of time to get organized and do what you need to do. To give you an idea of the complexity of this, here is the official track (pink line with markers) and the major computer models.
So you can see that the trajectory threatens Jamaica, Cuba and Florida, but then, even with this rather close grouping, the possible storm paths are from The Bahamas (European model) to into the Gulf of Mexico, with South Florida being in the track of most of the models. Just yesterday several models (including GFS at one point) had landfalls as far west as Texas. Just because the models “converge”, while that’s a good sign, they can all be wrong for the same reason (usually a misrepresentation of the initial conditions). We’ll have better simulations later today or tomorrow, as the shear lessens and the environmental setup becomes a bit clearer.
For those in Coastal Georgia, there will probably be freaking out since GFS shows the storm going offshore from Florida then curving back into the coast late next week. I’m sure someone will create very scary and impressive graphics for that. That is classic profiting from “Fear Uncertainty and Doubt” (FUD). Yes, that is one scenario, but there are lots of others that are just as likely. If you have a hurricane plan, you’re fine. It is time to start watching this storm – especially in Florida, where some precautions will start to be taken late this weekend in places like the Keys that have long lead times. But for coastal GA/SC, it’s worth watching, but nothing to panic over.
A reminder for those who use Facebook: FB is a terrible way to get storm hazard information. For one thing, it doesn’t show you posts chronologically, but by popularity. Another big factor, especially for this blog, is that I don’t pay for either advertising or “boosting”. So FB limits the distribution of these posts. If you want to see these posts the best way is to subscribe to get the blog by email (at the bottom of this page).
Fiona will pass by Bermuda tonight, bringing winds up to 90mph, power outages, and some damage. After that it looks to hit northern Nova Scotia Saturday on the current track, and if the NHC intensity is right, winds upwards of 100 MPH across Cape Breton Island. This is a track shift south a bit from yesterday. Here’s the forecast damage swath with “plain language” impacts:
So Atlantic Canada should expect a big blow this weekend.
The tropical wave that has the weather doomers excited (invest AL98) has passed the windward islands and has entered the far south-east Caribbean. Conditions there are not too favorable, but by the time it reaches the central Caribbean conditions are likely to be better and a tropical depression or storm should form this weekend if not sooner. The global models still bring the storm over the Yucatan straits or western Cuba, but after that there is some dispersion. Some (such as the 00z European model) take the storm across Florida, but GFS keeps creeping west. I again warn that model forecasts for a storm that doesn’t even exist yet are notoriously unreliable, especially at the 5-10 day outlook range. So while it provides endless fodder for people who desperately need you to click and watch, it’s not really productive for you. Here is the current dispersion map (a measure of forecast position uncertainty) … as can be seen, even at 5 days (120 hours) it’s pretty broad:
Bottom line: AL98 is going to cause rain and maybe some gusty winds across northern Central America (Venezuela, Columbia) and the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao). Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see.
There are two active storms in the Atlantic, Hurricane Fiona (NHC Key Messages regarding Hurricane Fiona) should pass close enough to cause moderate impacts to Bermuda before making landfall in the Canadian Maritime provinces Saturday Night/Sunday. The US East Coast will see dangerous rip currents from its waves this week. Gaston may be best, and the rest all drips, but Belle knows that as a tropical cyclone he’s never going to be much of a hurricane, limited to annoying the shipping industry and perhaps some minor impacts to the Azores. Here are the swaths …
But there is an invest area that has those who profit from weather paranoia most excited, so let’s take a closer look at AL98, a disturbance approaching the southern Caribbean. NHC’s five day outlook has it tagged with a 70% chance of becoming a depression in the next two days, and a 90% chance by this weekend. Here is what some of the models are showing as a track this morning:
For the Windward Islands, most likely it will just bring some gusty winds and rain. After that, conditions in the central and western Caribbean as well as Gulf of Mexico are forecast to be pretty favorable (if #1) so if it follows a track that takes it into the Gulf (if #2) it could develop into a significant hurricane. The models have been showing a fairly wide spread as shown in the above track map, but recently they have converged a bit. Here is a snapshot of the GFS (orange), ECM (European, cyan), and CMC (Canadian,green) models for a week from Tuesday Evening (28 Sept 2022). All show a hurricane near the Yucatan Straits.
Both the GFS and ECM show a significant storm hitting Florida in about a week – ECM south Florida (south of Sarasota), GFS on the panhandle. BUT THE MODELS ARE NOT RELIABLE THAT FAR OUT! There is a reason that NHC doesn’t do seven to ten day forecasts, especially for storms that don’t exist yet! Yes, it is a little concerning the model runs have become more consistent, but we have seen that before and then nothing happens. If you have a hurricane plan, (you DO have one, right?) there is nothing to get excited about. Assuming something spins up there is plenty of time to see if those two big ifs materialize, and the storm does track towards the US, to then do something about it. In the Caribbean definitely need to be watching, but for the US, will be a couple of days before anything solid can be said.
Very busy the last few days in the natural disaster end of things. Just a couple of quick notes. Fiona has strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane and is still drafting rain bands across the already flooded Puerto Rico; the edges are blasting through the Turks and Caicos. After passing Bermuda Thursday morning (probably close enough to cause hurricane conditions), the long range forecast has Fiona making landfall on Vinland (Newfoundland), still with hurricane force winds. Newfoundland should be watching as well, and the northern half may see tropical storm conditions – but five days is still a ways out. Here’s the forecast swath …
Puerto Rico has had a tremendous amount of rain from Fiona, over a meter (3 feet) in many places. Flash flooding and mudslides continue, with rescues ongoing across the island. Economic impacts will likely be on the order of $3-$4 Billion USD, but a lot depends on the recovery. Maria was nearly twice as costly as it “should” have been due to the botched response. We shall see if things go differently this time – but I’m not optimistic. Many of the structural and political problems that would lead to a more effective recovery have not changed. The Dominican Republic has also been hit hard by Fiona, with damages likely on the order of $2 Billion USD.
Japan is cleaning up from Typhoon Nanmadol. Economic impacts there are probably on the order of $7 BIllion USD, mostly transitory impacts. The coarse minded might well ask how Japan can get hit by a supertyphoon and only 300,000 out of 125 million people can lose power (and it is expected to be back on Wednesday), whereas all 3.1 million people in Puerto Rico had their power knocked out by a minimal hurricane and many may not get power back for weeks.
The usual suspects appear to be hyping a tropical wave approaching the Windward Island of the Caribbean as the next Death Storm That Will Kill Us All! GFS spins it up in to a major hurricane in the Gulf, but last I looked other models aren’t so enthusiastic. As usual, we’ll see. NHC has it at a 10% in the short term (two days), but at 50% of becoming a depression before Saturday. There is also an incipient storm in the mid Atlantic that is moving north, that is only of concern to shipping companies, fish, and fish-related activities.
Hurricane Fiona is moving away from Puerto Rico this morning, with the now well defined eye inland over the Dominican Republic, but heavy rain continues to trail across the island:
Rain totals as of just after 6am ET were upwards of 30 inches in places. A quick look at the local storm reports has 42 damaging mudslides, some with people trapped, and about as many reports of flooding. Electricity has been out across the entire island since mid-day yesterday. The computer models are currently estimating about $2 Billion in damage, but they tend to underestimate damage to Puerto Rico due to the ongoing electrical problems (they should have been fixed long ago) and the utterly astounding statistic that over 3,000 homes have not yet been repaired from Maria, five years ago. It wouldn’t surprise me if this ends up as a $5 to $8 Billion event or more, and of course that says nothing about the human suffering. No word on fatalities yet but I’d guess there have been some.
Dominican Republic is also experiencing damage, and will likely also have a damage toll in the $1 to $2 Billion USD range. The Turks and Caicos and southern Bahamas should just get a side-swipe with minimal damage. Bermuda will be in the storm swath as it rapidly moves north – the extent of the impacts will depend on the exact track, but warnings are sure to be posted soon. Nova Scotia and Vinland (Newfoundland) will likely feel the effects of Fiona as it transitions from being a hurricane to an extratropical cyclone.