There is one thing that has been established beyond the shadow of a doubt this week. Everyone has a connection to Florida. Whether it’s a friend or relative, someone living there or just visiting, we all have an equity stake in Florida.
Wherever I go people ask me about Hurricane Frances. We’ve all seen what happened on the West Coast of Florida, and this storm promises to be stronger. It’s no surprise that it scares the daylights out of normally unflappable people
Today, for the first time, the computer guidance is beginning to agree. I’ve been pointing to Jupiter/Hobe Sound and the official pronouncements aren’t far off that mark. Of course the hurricane actually has to perform as forecast… to ‘verify’ in the vernacular of meteorologists, which is never guaranteed.
A few things struck me this evening.
On-the-air, we played an ABC report which included an interview with, what I suspect, a government official in the Bahamas. He complained that maybe they had underestimated the storm.
What planet is he on? The predictions for the Bahamas couldn’t have been more dire if we had said a fiery meteor was plunging their way! The Hurricane Center, which cooperates with the government of the Bahamas in hurricane prediction, went out of its way to scare the crap out of Bahamians – and for good reason.
Unfortunately, areas with a lot of tourism often underplay warnings and later downplay damage. It’s not good for business. Not many people are going to want to go to San Salvador Island after today’s report of 120 mph sustained winds. Nassau might get a close scare. Freeport could get a direct hit.
I really miss having radar that sees Frances at this stage. Tonight the satellite imagery started showing some ‘weakness’ on the hurricane’s western flank. I commented to my friend Bob that I thought the storm would be downgraded… and it was at 11:00 PM¹. Now Frances is Category 3.
It’s funny, but when satellite imagery begins to show a change, it doesn’t strike me as soon as the image actually comes in. It usually takes a while, staring at the satellite loop, before the trend takes hold. This is most frustrating, especially during winter storms, when I go on the air then look at the same data after my weathercast and begin to question impending changes.
The fact that Frances is weaker tonight doesn’t mean too much of anything. Storms naturally get weaker and stronger in response to their immediate environment. There are guesses why it happened, but no one knows. Hurricane experts are baffled by unknown forces all the time. And, for some unknown reason, hurricanes only have a finite amount of time they can spend as major storms. Again, no one knows why nature works this way.
Since all of weather is guided by the laws of physics, we should understand all the forces at work. We do not.
The official forecast is for Hurricane Frances to regain strength in its final march over open water to Florida. The Hurricane Center’s number for Saturday at 8:00 AM EDT is 140 mph, equaling Hurricane Frances strongest point.
It really doesn’t matter. The difference between 125 mph and 140 mph isn’t all that much in the general scheme of things. Even a minimal hurricane will cause significant damage.
More than the wind, I am worried about Frances losing her steering currents and wandering aimlessly, or at a very slow speed, in the warm Atlantic waters between the Bahamas and Florida. An extended period adjacent to land might be worse than a quick, but direct, hit. There will be that much more time for flooding and tornadoes and wind. The forecast will become exponentially more difficult (and less accurate). There will be that much more terror.
¹ – I have no idea how this happened, but the Hurricane Center issued its 11:00 PM bulletin with the wrong wind speed! Frances was called Category 4, though it had been downgraded to Category 3. You would think something like this would be vetted.