Tropical Storm Ian is adding uncertainty for Florida, as a small change in track could mean a $30 billion disaster for Tampa or a landfall in an area. sparsely populated in the state’s Panhandle next Thursday.
Ian’s peak winds reached 45 mph, about 300 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica early Saturday, according to the US National Hurricane Center. The storm could develop into a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph and make landfall on Florida’s west coast by mid-next week.
In other recent storms, early tracks seem to indicate that Tampa was hit directly, only to see them shift away over time and make landfall on the Panhandle or the Central Gulf coast.
“The concern with the track now is that it’s a very rare stormy track,” said Adam Douty, meteorologist at commercial forecaster. AccuWeather Inc.
Chuck Watson, disaster modeler for Enki Research, said a direct hit on Tampa from a Category 3 hurricane would push a wall of water into Tampa Bay, flooding the city and its suburbs and causing damage and damage up to 30 billion USD. Ryan Truchelut, president of commercial forecasting for Weather Tiger, said there’s about a 40% chance it hit Tampa and a 45% chance it actually drifted farther north and destroyed the city.
Part of the problem was with Ian himself, Truchelut said. The nascent storm is still developing its center, and that’s an important part that meteorologists and computer forecasting models need to determine where a storm is headed.
“The center is jumping around,” Truchelut said. “We are in a place of maximum uncertainty; The structure of the storm has not yet resolved itself. “
When Ian was first named Friday, its center appeared to be farther north, but since then Hurricane Hunter planes have found it to the south, meaning it could be heading in the direction more western, Truchelut said.
This could be a better outcome for Cuba and for Florida. Ian is forecast to cross western Cuba on Tuesday before joining Florida.
The other factor is larger weather patterns across the US, Douty said. A low-pressure trough in the eastern US looks set to pull Ian north, but the system itself is moving. How and when these pieces come together will also determine where Ian will go.
Truchelut said the trend toward the west will not only help Tampa but could also reduce the potential impact on Miami and cities in southern Florida, as well as citrus growers statewide. .
Ian was the ninth hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Fiona hit Nova Scotia the previous Saturday, knocking out power and causing flooding after hitting parts of the Caribbean and knocking out power in Puerto Rico.
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