Special Update from Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz
Yes, indeed, it is a worst-case scenario. Not for the Tampa Bay area, but for the area from Port Charlotte to Ft. Myers to near Naples. A rapid intensification (RI) just before landfall. It intensified 40 mph in just 12 hours overnight, from a Category 3 of 115 mph-to 155 mph (on the edge of Category 5)! Plus, it has been moving more slowly. And now it has made landfall.
But if I see anyone on TV who complains after the storm that "I had no idea it would hit us" or "I had no idea it would be this bad" I'm going to scream (or throw something) at the TV. Southwest Florida was in the "cone of concern" FOR DAYS. And Ian was EXPECTED to rapidly intensify to a Category 4 FOR DAYS!
The above graphic shows that a "Super-ensemble" made by Tomer Burg (who all weather fanatics should follow) shifted a bit east in the past few days, but the "cone of concern" nearly always included Southwest Florida. That is why I kept emphasizing that Ian was not just a "Tampa, Tampa, Tampa" story. The NHC forecasts have been excellent so far. To expect perfection with a storm moving almost parallel to a coastline is like not counting any points in basketball if the ball even touches the rim on the way in. If you want precise forecasts, talk to an astronomer. They've got the easy job.
But this RI near landfall isn't supposed to happen. Ian is similar to Michael (2018) in this respect. And it has been slowing down in a similar way as Harvey (2017) and Florence (2018). We'll get more into this subject after Ian's danger is passed. That might take a while-look at the latest computer models that go into NEXT WEEK.
Ian won't weaken as much as a typical major hurricane for a couple of reasons:
- So much rain has fallen ahead of the storm that the ground will be covered with warm water. It's not really moving over "land".
- Florida is flat and thin. Part of the circulation of Ian will be over water even when the eye is over land.
So, what will Ian be like if it goes across the state and into the Atlantic? Water temperatures are plenty warm enough to support a hurricane. It just depends on how long Ian stays over land. A few computer models are concerning:
There are five possible solutions in the above graphic that show Ian weakening to a Category 2, but then hitting South Carolina as a Category 3 (even one model has it as a Cat 4).
There are more and more people moving to areas vulnerable to hurricanes. The Charlotte, Lee, and Collier County areas have seen their population grow from less than 600,000 in 1990 to 1.4 million in 2020. Most of the increase has come from people in the Midwest, Northeast, or Canada. They probably never even experienced a Category 1 hurricane, let alone a near Cat 5.
Florida is more vulnerable than ever to hurricanes.
1.Big increases in population.
2. Development of land that used to flood without destroying houses.
3. More and more concrete to prevent water from being absorbed.
Then there are the environmental problems:
4. Steadily rising sea level
5. Individual storms becoming more intense
6. Individual storms producing more rain due to warming oceans.
7. Individual storms possibly moving more slowly, increasing rainfall even more
Want to move to Florida? Fine. But try to find the least vulnerable areas. Make sure you have insurance. Board up when requested. And evacuate if warned.
Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz firstname.lastname@example.org