Florida has had a favorable streak of tropical luck over the past few years.
Although climate science says it expects a hurricane in about 40% of seasons, there hasn’t been a direct hit in the state since Michael’s horrific haymaker in the Panhandle, taking or taking Sally’s eastern eyewall in 2020 in Pensacola.
Consider the three major hurricanes that suffered brutally in Louisiana at the time, and the last punishment in Florida was already mild.
Unfortunately, that hotline could end next week, as Florida faces its most serious threat since Dorian three years ago.
What we know: Will a hurricane hit Florida? What we know about the ninth tropical depression
Where is the storm heading? Tropical Depression 9 may hit the west coast of Florida as a major hurricane
be ready: This is your one-stop storm preparation guide
And while focus is being placed on the state as the potential target of a potential hurricane fall, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about which part of Florida will bear the brunt of it.
What we know about Tropical Depression IX: An African wave takes over Hermine’s name, but Ian is on board
Tropical Depression 9 developed early Friday morning in the eastern central Caribbean, and as of 11 a.m. the advisory NHC had sustained winds of about 35 mph. The depression is moving slightly to the northwest at 15 mph, and the general path will likely be westward through Saturday.
Wind shear is displacing the deep convection of the depression west of the center of circulation, which should continue to strengthen gradually over the next couple of days. However, TD 9 could become a tropical storm at any time.
(Side note: Since Tropical Depression 10 in the easternmost Atlantic Ocean has hijacked the name Hermine, Tropical Depression 9 will not be the second consecutive Hurricane Hermine in the Gulf, avoiding a ridiculous 2 Hermines 2, angry scenario. The next name on the list is Ian .)
Supplement Hermine: ‘It’s too early’ but could a second Hurricane Hermine reach the Gulf of Mexico?
Now, Sunday is the time when things start to get serious – to a potential Category 3 level
TD 9 will enter an environment in the western Caribbean where upper-level outflow is excellent, mid-level humidity is plentiful, and vertical wind shear is low. Furthermore, the enthalpy of the waters of the northwest Caribbean is the highest anywhere in the Atlantic basin.
These factors are a perfect recipe for rapid intensification, which is defined as sustained winds jumping 30 knots or more in 24 hours.
The NHC intensity forecast explicitly calls for a rapid intensification from Sunday to Monday, and TD 9 is likely in favorable conditions to continue strengthening through Tuesday.
Official forecasts indicate that the storm will reach a Category 3 strength early Wednesday. This is a realistic base case, and I would caution that a faster boost is definitely possible between Sunday and Tuesday.
It is very difficult to predict how much reinforcement will occur when a rapid condensation cycle occurs. History shows that major hurricanes can assemble incredibly quickly when the necessary components are present in the western Caribbean and southern Gulf.
All projected guidance indicates that TD 9’s path will gradually curve northwest on Sunday and Monday in response to a deep bottom over the east coast, putting the storm on a path in the general direction of western Cuba late Monday. Subtle differences in guidance wind patterns will determine how far west from TD 9 begins before it begins a northward movement on Tuesday. The most likely path would take the storm to the eastern Gulf of Mexico, although the path east into the Florida Strait is still likely.
Cyclone path and mixer model: Bookmark this page for the latest running computer make and model
Uncertainty is rife: But South Florida residents must prepare now for a possible Hurricane Charlie scenario
The forecast is uncertain after Tuesday.
As of midday Friday, the official NHC track takes the storm near Fort Myers on Wednesday morning as a major hurricane. This path is very similar to that traced by Category 4 Hurricane Charlie in August 2004, a sentence that will undoubtedly put everyone in southwest and central Florida on edge.
That scenario, or in which a north-northeast turn occurs faster and puts the Keys and southern Florida in the crossfire on Tuesday, is probably the most dangerous scenario on the table.
The combination of a short preparation schedule, high population density, and the likely continuation of favorable conditions for a boost into early Wednesday means residents of the southern half of the Florida peninsula should start preparing for a potential major hurricane now.
The Panhandle is far from clear at this point
TD 9 could also swing westward toward the Yucatan Channel before turning north and then north-northeast over the eastern Gulf. This scenario will increase the ultimate risks to Panhandle, Big Bend and West Central Florida, today’s models are heading west after a big jump east yesterday.
While spending more time over the bay seems like a bad deal, this can be offset by increased shear and the intrusion of dry air into the storm after Wednesday.
An additional complication is that the eastern US basin will begin to leave mid-next week, causing the steering currents to weaken in the eastern Gulf within 5-6 days and a period of slow or erratic movement may follow.
Interactive Tour: Follow the arc of ruin left by Hurricane Michael that devastated our communities
The bottom line is if TD 9 doesn’t run through South Florida or East Central Florida on Tuesday or Wednesday, which is very possible, then what might happen next is unclear.
It is impossible to predict a landing point with this type of forecast path, as the narrow angle of approach between the storm’s movement and the direction of the Florida Gulf Coast means that small path deviations can have huge effects.
During Hurricane Charlie, a slight shift in direction just before landing turned the storm’s fierce core into the Fort Myers area, rather than Tampa Bay. Don’t focus on the point of prediction: So far, no one is in trouble in Florida.
Preparing for the storm is essential
There are many new Florida residents since the last serious hurricane threat, and I can tell because some of you are still using turn signals.
At this point, know that this threat is worth actively preparing. In South Florida, you need to implement your hurricane plans, including preparing for evacuation if an order is issued by the local authorities.
In North Florida, put your hurricane plan and kit in order, and keep an eye on the situation. Hopefully Florida won’t be out of luck this week, but if so, preparation is essential.
Keep watching the sky.
Dr. Ryan Truslot is chief meteorologist for WeatherTiger, a Tallahassee startup that provides forensic meteorological advisory services, expert witnesses, and subscriptions to agricultural and hurricane forecasting. Contact us at [email protected], and visit weathertiger.com for an enhanced, real-time version of our seasonal forecast.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Florida Hurricane Forecast May Be Biggest Threat to State in Years
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