Hurricane Irma, part 3

Thursday, Sept.7, 2017

Models shift a bit…looking worse for Florida

Model solutions converge as U.S. landfall gets closer.  However, an old model idea is regaining favor and that, if it happens, could be really bad news for Florida.  More on that later.

First, The official National Hurricane Center’s forecast track has shifted a little westward from yesterday.  That’s in line with the model consensus which tracks Irma either along, or just east of Florida’s east coast.   A similar storm last fall followed this path and Florida fared pretty well.  Irma is stronger, however, so this path would create more problems this time around.

Following that path, landfall would occur somewhere around the GA/SC coast.  That area would have the highest risk of devastating winds/storm surge.

The current forecast follows the path described above with Irma either over Miami or just off the coast by about 7-8 P.M. Saturday, slowly moving north overnight and Sunday.  During this time it is expected to be either a strong Category 4 or Category 5. (winds 145 mph or higher).  Landfall would occur Sunday night near the GA/SC border.

New thoughts:

While the above remains the official forecast, I’ll wait awhile before I totally agree.  Tuesday, I mentioned that the forecast models fell into two camps.  One brought Irma up the Florida east coast; the other took it inland over the Gulf side.  That idea disappeared yesterday as the models shifted to a more easterly path.  Today, several models have brought back that idea, in what amounts to a very ugly way.

Hurricanes are purely tropical systems, but as they approach North America and recurve (turn) northward mid-latitude wind systems also get involved in the steering mechanism.  Our current cool weather has arrived do to an unseasonably strong upper level trough digging into eastern North America.  Apparently, yesterday the models felt the trough was stronger (and slower) than it actually is.  The result was to predict the storm path farther east.  Today, however, the models have corrected yesterday’s overreach.  That greatly reduces the trough’s ability to encourage Irma to turn northeast over the weekend as mid-latitude winds will become very weak.  How does that change things?

The models predicting the movement of Irma into the Gulf have also slowed her speed, probably due to the relaxing of the wind fields over the U.S.  They have also delayed the northward turn.  The result is Irma drifting between Florida and Cuba Saturday night, then turning northward Sunday into southwest Florida.  Furthermore, the delay will allow steering currents to weaken even more.  As a result, this model idea would allow a dying Irma to remain over Florida 24-36 hours!  You don’t even want to think about that scenario.

I’m hoping the models will present a clearer picture by tomorrow.  I’m also hoping that the current NHC prediction is very close to correct.  If it isn’t and the slower developing idea wins out, Irma will become a name we’ll remember for a long, long time.

Personally, I’m getting very worried about Florida.

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