Sunday, September 12, 2004

ALMOST OFF THE CHARTS

That's where I think Ivan will go in terms of wind strength and central pressure. Already the 8th strongest Atlantic basin storm, it only has 18 mb to go before it equals Camille's lowest pressure of 901 mb. I think the maximum winds may eventually reach 180-190 mph.

The jog around Jamaica on Friday-Saturday has produced changes in the expected track downstream, as all computer models have trended away from the Florida peninsula and toward the panhandle. Now with another southward wobble around Grand Cayman overnight Saturday, the near-term track will have to be shifted a little farther northwest. The trouble that spells is a Category 4 or 5 entering the southern Gulf, with plenty of time to continue strengthening.

Two of the models... the Navy's NOGAPS program and the British UKMET show a extreme
western Cuba crossing, then a beeline toward the Pensacola-Mobile area. If this west-northwest trend continues for the next 12 hours, I expect other computer models will start to shift westward along the northern Gulf coast. That means all coastal areas from Pensacola WEST to central Louisiana should be on alert to start making preparations should the "cone of uncertainty" shift in their direction.

An alert reader asked in the comments if I thought Gulfport, MS and Mobile, AL are in the target zone. Unfortunately that seems more and more likely. The high over the northeast is beginning to weaken, which will take eastward resistance off the storm's movement, allowing it to make an eventual northeast turn somewhere in the Gulf. The other factor is the influence of a broad area of low pressure over Texas and the lower southwestern Gulf. The counter-clockwise flow around this low may provide some weak steering currents which can serve to guide the storm into the Gulfport - Pensacola area. So keep in mind that IF this current trend of aiming west-northwest continues, it will take much longer for the storm to turn northeast. And the UKMET model shows an extreme strengthening once in the southern Gulf with a landfall just west of Pensacola.

This storm continues to defy expectations. The NHC posts a storm status every three hours, so check back often if you want the latest details.

My next update will be after the 11 AM update.


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