Saturday, September 11, 2004


All residents of western Florida have chosen to take this storm seriously, as the potential of another landfalling major hurricane on the already ravaged Sun Coast will lead to near total devastation of some towns and communities. It is entirely possible than a landfall occurs between Tampa Bay and Naples... just like Charley.

Overnight Friday, the storm took a job around the southside of the island, which at first glance looks like divine intervention that spared Kingston. The strongest winds may have remained offshore. By Saturday afternoon, we should be able to see what damage was done, especially in higher terrain. The larger danger looms for the Caymans, Cuba and the Keys, as winds have not taken the expected decrease due to interaction with Jamaica's mountains.

As of 8 AM, winds are still 150 mph with higher gusts. So what could have been a 4 or minimal 5 reaching the western coast of Cuba is now going to be a strong 5, as NHC wind speed projections are at least 160 mph. Camille entered the Gulf from this same location as a minimal 3 with winds of 115 mph, Charley came into the picture as a mid-range 2.


Due to recent inquiries on the site about the impact of Ivan on places like Disneyworld, the Carolinas, the Atlantic Beaches, I have continued to update permanent links to reflect viewer interest. There is a link to Disneyworld Information, and the Mrytle Beach NWS forecast.

A full-scale evacuation of the Keys is underway all this weekend, so it is clear Florida officials are gearing up. It is becoming clear to anyone with a TV set that it is close to impossible at this point for Ivan to miss Florida. So let me break down what I expect to happen over the next 5 days.

Ivan misses Jamaica with winds at or near Category 5. Damage will be extensive. Storm surge will exceed 5 feet in low-lying areas, but thankfully the eye did not make a direct hit. The storm may lose some strength due to interactions with the island mountains, but will regain that loss within 12 hours. Overnight into Sunday, it moves through the Cayman Islands with equally destructive force. Waters in that vicinity are as warm as the storm will ever encounter in it's lifetime. A forecaster in Florida called it "one big long gas stations where he can fill up all day long."

By daybreak, it should not be a surprise to see Ivan at solid Category 5 as he heads for Cuba. Havana will get a direct hit from this, although Castro claims his government will not accept humanitarian aid from the U.S. no matter what happens with this storm. The one monkey wrench aside from expected weakening from impact with Cuba is the introduction of more dry air from the north. This may negate the strengthening effect of the warm water, so Ivan might hold in Category 4 range as a result. Regardless, that is still a major hurricane slicing across the Keys and aiming for the Sun Coast again.

Unless forward motion is slowed unexpectedly, by daybreak Ivan should emerge from the foothills of western Cuba at least a Category 3 with winds around 115 mph or more. Moving north, it will gain strength unless more dry air is able to circulate into the storm. But this time, the amount of moisture inflow and outflow will cause the overall size of the hurricane to grow considerably. On the Monday evening news, you will probably hear forecasters say this one is "the size of Frances with the strength of Charley." That is a wickedly bad combination if there ever was one.

This is the day of waterloo for forecasters. Does Ivan make the right turn into southern Florida like Charley? Or does it buzzsaw along, raking communities like Naples, Fort Myers, Charlotte Harbor, Tampa Bay and Clearwater with 100 mph winds before heading toward the St. Marks area? I believe that what happened with Charley may happen again. The sudden right turn everyone talks about with Charley was due to a phenomenon known as "frictional effects" as explained by Accuweather forecasters.

Here's how it may play out: If Ivan's eastern edge of the main storm core has prolonged interaction with land, the winds in that right half of the storm weaken while over land. That allows the left side of the storm, still over open water, to remain stronger. So the storm starts "favoring one side" much like we do in hand or leg motions of sporting activities. The winds of the western side, relative to the overall wind strength, are stronger. The strong onshore flow to around the backside and to the east, has the effect of driving the storm in that direction. Thus the "sudden right turn" which sent Charley into Punta Gorda. Either way, this storm is expected to reach the coast as a major hurricane.


If the storm follows a Fort Myers, Kissimme, Orlando, Daytona path, it will no doubt weaken to Category 1 within 6-10 hours, and then down to Tropical Storm force within 12 hours.
Disneyworld, Universal studios, Seaworld and other theme parks are likely to close Tuesday if this path holds true. But understand this... these areas will see unimaginable destruction even if the storm is down to Category 2 like Frances. Because so many structures are unstable or damaged, and so much flooding and debris is scattered everywhere, it will just be absolute pandemoium in terms of stuff flying around in the air.

Slow moving, slow dying Ivan will continue bringing torrentially heavy rains from Georgia to Maryland. If is stays near the coast, eastern cities that did not see Frances' heavy rains will get it this time with Ivan... to the tune of 4-8 inches of rain. With the jet stream far to the north, and a ridge off the coast, remnants of the storm may slow down to the snail's pace first demonstrated by Frances. This would mean another period of damaging flooding to areas that do not need another drop of rain the rest of this year.

This fickle storm will continue to surprise and defy forecasters, so stay tuned to the latest updates. I will be away the rest of Saturday, so the next update will be early Sunday morning.

No comments: