Monday September 26: Hurricane Ian’s track shifts slightly south

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 7:16 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2022 at 4:54 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - NEW INFORMATION: Hurricane Ian made landfall at early Wednesday afternoon at Cayo Costa, Florida as a Cat 4 Hurricane with winds sustained at 155 mph.

This makes Ian the strongest landfalling hurricane to hit the continental US since Michael (2018). Hurricane Ian ranks in a tie for 4th strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in Florida with Charley (2004) and Florida Keys (1919).

ORIGINAL ARTICLE FROM MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26:

Hurricane Ian is now strengthening in the warm, Gulf waters and is still expected to make landfall as a major hurricane along Florida’s Gulf Coast late Wednesday/early Thursday.

Preparations are being rushed to completion ahead of Hurricane Ian, but the latest forecast advisory suggests Ian landfall could be a bit farther south of Tampa.

The latest stats on Hurricane Ian

Ian emerged in the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning after making landfall in western Cuba as a category 3 hurricane. Ian will likely strengthening to become a category 4 storm, just ahead of landfall.

From there, Ian’s slow movement up the peninsula should weaken the storm gradually, but tropical storm conditions are likely for much of the Floridian Peninsula into at least early Friday.

Where is Ian going to go?

Ian is poised to make a landfall between Tampa Bay and Fort Myers along Florida’s west coast with landfall almost directly between Tampa and Fort Myers becoming a more favored location as opposed to Tampa proper. The southward trend in the forecast track means that Tampa may escape a direct impact from Ian, but the metro area will still experience hurricane conditions. If the track goes north towards Tampa, that would be the first time since 1921 that a major hurricane would make landfall in/around the Tampa Bay area. But again, as of now, the track looks to be a little further south than directly making landfall in Tampa.

Whenever we talk about a powerful hurricane that moves slowly, the amount of energy the storm puts out can cause it to wobble and not move in a straight line so the landfall location is still not locked until Wednesday morning.

Another major concern is an expected drop in forward speed. Ian’s impacts to Florida will start Wednesday morning and could last at least 24 hours in some spots as it slows down. One of the main reasons for this, is that as the hurricane moves more north it will run into dry air and slow the forward progression. This is major for Florida because they could be dealing with hurricane strength winds for 24-36 hours + a massive amount of rainfall.

All of the Floridian Peninsula is now under at least a tropical storm Warning with Tampa to Fort Myers under a Hurricane Warning. A Hurricane Warning means that winds could peak around 85-130mph, there is a threat to life and property, massive storm surge, peak rainfall amounts between 18-24 inches, and the potential for tornadoes persists.

Mandatory evacuation orders are in place for parts of Tampa and more mandatory evacuation orders are expected to come from local officials as the storm draws closer to the Florida.

Ian’s potential impacts

Heavy rain brings the most widespread impacts to Florida and eventually Georgia, and the Carolinas. Since Ian will bring feeder bands of rain up-and-down the Floridian Peninsula throughout the week, rainfall totals across the entire state (save for cities and towns west of Tallahassee) are expected to be between 4″ and 8″ with locally higher amounts possible, especially along the immediate coastline. From Tampa north and westward toward Florida’s Big Bend, rainfall totals could easily approach or exceed 10″ over the next 10 days. In fact, a bullseye of between 15″ and 24″ of rain could be centered very close to Tampa or St. Petersburg.

Although the strongest winds with Ian will likely be confined to Florida's west coast, rainfall...
Although the strongest winds with Ian will likely be confined to Florida's west coast, rainfall across much of the state will be between 4" and 8" with 12" - 24" isolated totals likely around the Tampa Bay area.(NOAA)

Much of Florida’s west coast is forecast to experience storm surge flooding. The biggest change comes around Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor. The expected storm surge has DROPPED for Tampa Bay to between 5 feet and 8 feet since Ian’s onshore winds are expected to be more focused around Cape Coral and Fort Myers. As a result, storm surge between Longboat Key and Bonita Beach, including Charlotte Harbor, has increased to between 8′ and 12′.

Storm surge is the sum of high tide and the expected swells from an approaching tropical system. The strong winds from tropical systems help to push water toward (or even away) from coastlines inundating many near-shore communities. A storm surge of 10 feet means that water is expected to be 10 feet higher than normal.

The National Hurricane Center's 10 AM Central Time advisory on Hurricane Ian has shifted the...
The National Hurricane Center's 10 AM Central Time advisory on Hurricane Ian has shifted the higher storm surge potential a bit. Storm surge of at least 5' is expected from the Anclote River to Chokoloskee but the highest storm surge will come between Longboat Key and Bonita Beach.(KWTX)

Hurricane force winds (74 MPH+) will likely extend at least 100 miles from the center of circulation. and tropical storm force winds should cover most of the state. Southeastern Florida, from around Indian River County south to Miami-Dade County, has the lowest potential for tropical storm force winds, but the odds depends on exactly where Ian moves ashore. The potential for hurricane force winds is highest between Fort Myers and Tampa, but hurricane force winds will likely extend inland to as far as Orlando, Gainesville, or even Jacksonville depending on the landfall location and exactly how fast (see: slow) Ian moves.

Ian is one of two systems in the basin

After seeing a big burst of tropical activity mid-September, conditions are starting to quiet across the Atlantic Basin. Former Tropical Storm Gaston has fizzled into a post-tropical storm and will be gone soon. Former Hurricane Fiona has been swept into the jet-stream and former Tropical Storm Hermine along Africa’s west coast has also dissipated. One other wave is a few hundred miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands and has a high chance of turning into a tropical storm over the next five days.

Although we're past the peak of hurricane season, officially on September 10th, the frequency...
Although we're past the peak of hurricane season, officially on September 10th, the frequency of tropical storms and hurricanes remains high through about mid-October.(KWTX, NOAA)

We’re entering into cold front season. So long as we get a decent frequency of cold fronts, the fronts will help to push tropical storms and hurricanes away.

October is still a very busy month for tropical storms and hurricanes but the likelihood of a...
October is still a very busy month for tropical storms and hurricanes but the likelihood of a Texas landfall drops since cold fronts typically steer storms in the Gulf away from us and toward the eastern Gulf of Mexico.(KWTX, NOAA)