As of this morning, Hurricane Ian is a major category 3 hurricane. Depending on when you read this newsletter, it may have strengthened into a category 4 by later today. Almost all signs are now pointing to this storm being a major hurricane when it comes ashore on the western coast of Florida in the next 48-72 hours.
Currently the structure of Ian has improved considerably, with maximum sustained winds of 125mph and a minimum central pressure of 950mb as of the morning NHC update.
The official NHC track of Ian brings the storm ashore somewhere between Tampa and Panama City in the next few days. That seems like a pretty big area, and it is! The orientation of the track and the coast means a subtle shift in track could mean a huge difference in landfall location.
Overall there’s a pretty tight spread amongst model members of Ian bringing it closer to Tampa as a landfall location vs. the further west/north possibility. Consistently, the storm has seemed to hug the more eastern track and that might very well continue into landfall.
There is some uncertainty though. A look at ensembles (both GEPS and GEFS) show a huge fan spread towards the end of the track with several alternative possibilities. Still, it is important to focus on impacts and heavy rain/surge flooding will likely occur no matter the path on the western side of Florida.
In terms of winds, there is a pretty firm expectation at this point I think that the storm is going to reach category 4 strength at some point before landfall. Most models now put the storm firmly in that region but none (currently) bring it to category 5 strength. That’s a pretty solid signal.
Overall the main things to take away this morning are:
- Potentially life-threatening storm surge is possible on the western coast of Florida, particularly Fort Myers to Tampa.
- Hurricane warnings have been issued with the expectations those areas on the western coast of Florida will see hurricane-force winds. Forecasts now call for Ian to be at/near category 3 strength when it comes ashore.
- Significant/prolonged flooding due to heavy rainfall is expected across Florida. Ian is expected to slow as it approaches land, which will make the flooding situation worse.
- If you are told to evacuate and you are able to, please do so.
The Drought on the Plains is Getting Worse
Quietly, unfortunately, sadly — the drought on the Plains is beginning to get a lot worse again. September is oftentimes one of the two or three wettest months of the year and it was just…not this year.
The 30-day departure from normal rainfall map shows that large portions of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, and Nebraska saw very low rainfall totals this past month.
Over the past four weeks, Texas saw big improvements in their drought situation thanks to a heavy rain event near the turn of the month. But the trends suggest intense drying taking shape there too going forward. Elsewhere, drought condition degradation is common on the Plains.
Models continue to indicate pretty dry conditions moving forward over the Plains for at least 7-10 days. If/when we get sustained western U.S. troughing, we’ll likely see our Fall Severe Weather Season arrive in earnest along with renewed chances of precipitation as well.
For now though, drier and warmer conditions will be the norm.