09/05 Ryan’s “Hurricane Irma” Tuesday Forecast
The tropics just won’t quit: Major Hurricane Irma reached Category 5 status this afternoon, Tropical Storm Jose formed to Irma’s Southeast, and Tropical Depression 13 formed in the Southwestern Gulf. The latter two likely won’t have any impact on the U.S, but Irma still has a significant chance to cause catastrophic damage. The current NHC forecast has Irma skirting just North of the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba, over the next 5 days while heading right for the gap between Cuba and South Florida, and that’s where the forecast begins to diverge.
The way I see it there are three options for this strong tropical system:
First, in this scenario the cold front moving through the Southeast meets the hurricane just before it enters the Gulf, but isn’t very strong or lifts off to the Northeast. This would strengthen the ridge, causing the storm to ride the edge a little farther West into the Gulf before beginning to turn North. Landfall could be as far West as Mobile or Pensacola, and the storm should remain strong.
Second, the front meets the hurricane before it enters the Gulf and is able to “deflect” it, causing a near immediate 90 degree turn toward the North, which would send the storm through South Florida, up the middle for a time, and eventually into the Appalachians. The storm will weaken considerably while over land, but will remain strong enough to cause significant damage along its path.
Third, the front completely re-directs the storm into the weakness in the ridge it is forming, causing it to abruptly turn NW and eventually North into the Atlantic before coming close enough to Florida to cause significant damage, but I consider this the least likely option.
All in all, the storm remains a threat to all Caribbean Islands and to South Florida no matter what, and it remains to be seen what we can expect as the storm and the front interact on Saturday/Sunday. Until then, South Florida residents should prepare/evacuate, and Gulf Coast residents as far West as South Mississippi should at least have their Hurricane plan finalized.