News Brief by Kip Hansen – 27 September 2022 (updated 10:30 am 28 Sept 2022)
Updates are below main news item. Anthony Watts has posted the live radar video feed here.
This is the latest Warnings and Forecast Cone Hurricane Ian from the National Hurricane Center:
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Original Post follows:
Hurricane Ian is projected to run right up the mouth of Florida’s Tampa Bay, making landfall as a Major Hurricane. The threat presented by this hurricane depends on precisely where the eyewall hits which also determines which direction the strongest winds are blowing when it makes landfall.
If Hurricane Ian hits Tampa Bay, just north of the Lower Tampa Bay (see map below), the strongest winds, and thus the greatest amount of storm surge will be pushed up into the shallow Upper Bay, potentially causing widespread flooding for the portions of the surrounding cities, many of which are built on old flood plains just a few feet above Mean Higher High Water – the highest of Tampa Bay’s usual high tides.
NOAA’s projected tracks improve as the time window gets smaller. At 72 hours out, these projections are accurate to about 100 miles. On Sunday, Ian was projected to hit Florida where the panhandle joins the main north-south body of the state. Now it is targeted directly at Tampa Bay with just over 48 hours remaining to landfall.
As you can see, Tampa Bay is very shallow — 1 to 4 meters at the deepest. [See this nautical chart] There are barrier islands along the Gulf shore, off Clearwater and Largo. They will be entirely submerged by anything more of six feet of surge. Large parts of Pinellas Park, single family homes most of it, will be flooded, along with almost all the bay-facing neighborhoods.
Using the NOAA Sea Level Rise viewer, first at Mean Higher High Water, then with five feet of storm surge and finally with an unlikely, but possible, ten feet of surge. The very-light blue areas are inundation.
Only time will tell. While a 50 mile shift north or south will make the world of difference for the Tampa/St Petersburg area, a major hurricane hitting this area, which has been spared a major hurricane event for nearly a century, will be a true disaster and create a real crisis as homes are destroyed and perhaps millions lose electrical power for a week or more.
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Final Update: 6:00 pm Wednesday:
Hurricane Ian is well ashore, now east of Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. Despite over-the-top verbiage from weather news announcers, it seems that the effects have not been as bad as feared. The words “catastrophic damage” keep being reported, but despite all the weather news people on the ground, no images of that level of damage have yet been broadcast. Wind speeds being reported – 145 mph — are not the wind speeds seen at the surface and when surface winds are reported, they are almost invariably Highest Gust numbers. Very little reporting of sustained winds.
None of this should be understood to mean that Hurricane Ian is not a large, powerful and dangerous storm. But reporting has been less than informative — mostly meant to keep people in their homes in areas affected — great care is being taken to prevent residents from getting the impression that it is safe to go outdoors. Many reports are not clearly time stamped and some are hours out of date.
Mostly we have seen a lot of rainy windy streets, some a little flooded but nothing like the hyped 10-18 feet of storm surge.
At least 24 hours will pass before we get any reports that are more accurate.
The main effect seems to be a great deal of rain, some places getting a foot or more, being driven by tropical storm force winds.
UPDATE: 11:30 am Wednesday:
As of 11:30 am, Hurricane Ian is just offshore of Englewood and Cape Coral, Florida. It is a massive and dangerously strong hurricane. Many parts of southern Florida are already suffering power outages. Naples, Florida already has about 5 feet of storm surge, and it is expected to get worse, all the way up in Charlotte Harbor to Punta Gorda.
Heavy rain is falling over a wide area.
Punta Gorda is at the moment experiencing water flowing out of the bay, away from the shore. This situation will reverse with a vengeance as the eye gets closer reversing the wind direction — water will then flow into the bay, potentially up to ten feet or more of storm surge.
Hurricane Warnings have been issued up through central Florida all the way to Orlando.
The next few hours will tell as the eye moves ashore.
UPDATE: 8 pm Tuesday:
With just 18 hours to landfall, Hurricane Ian is already classified as a Major Hurricane and the track projected takes the eye right into Gasparilla Sound (small map above). This lets Tampa/St Pete off the hook for the worst of the storm, but now Punta Gorda, Sanabel Island, Cape Coral and Charlotte Harbor will bear the brunt of the landfalling eye.
Of course, the track is not set in stone by the projections. It can and often does shift in the last 24 hours — sometimes by quite a bit. In any case, the folks in western Florida south of Tampa are in for a rough ride.
It is not only the coastal cities that are in danger — Arcadia and Lake Placid and pints inland will still get a hurricane, and as the storm loose hurricane status, it will still be a dangerous storm as it tracks up through central Florida.
UPDATE: 5 pm Tuesday:
Now just 24 hours or so before landfall, Hurricane Ian is again tracking a little further south than 3 hours ago.
The eye is shown to be striking Florida just about right at the mouth of Gaspirilla Sound – Charlotte Harbor.
The latest discussion of Hurricane Ian on the NHC site says:
“I should note that whether Ian comes ashore as category 4 hurricane or a large category 3 after an eyewall cycle, avoiding a large and destructive hurricane for Florida seems very unlikely, and residents should heed the advice of local emergency management officials. The new forecast necessitates a Hurricane Warning for portions of extreme southwestern Florida, and a Tropical Storm Warning for the rest of southeastern Florida that wasn’t previously under a warning.”
UPDATE: 2 pm Tuesday:
Some but very little change from 11 am. The landfall has shifted a tiny bit further south, which is better for Tampa/St Pete but worse for Sarasota, Venice, Englewood, Port Charlotte Harbor and Punta Gorda.
This southward shift means the highest winds and strongest surge will be into the Gasparilla Sound/Charolette Harbor.
Landfall is less than 48 hours out, so the modelling of the landfall should not change very much. The last little shifts, north and south, will occur in the last 24 hours.
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UPDATE: 11 am Tuesday:
The 11 am path projection for Hurricane Ian now appears to be shown as making landfall just south of the Lower Tampa Bay, which puts the highest winds and largest amount of storm surge down between Sarasota and Port Charollette/Punta Gorda. [ map ]
That’s a good thing if it comes to pass. Good for Tampa Bay bad of Punta Gorda which is at the head end of a long bay and may sufferer the same fate as feared above for Tampa Bay.
I lived in this area long ago, and my first child was born there. Somehow Tampa/St Pete was known as a hurricane safe area. It had not suffered a direct hit since 1921.
I hope the residents there will prepare well and follow evacuation advice early.
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