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Fay’s track shifts yet again Projected landfall site moved south

Projected landfall site moved south

PINELLAS COUNTY – For days, the projected path of Tropical Storm Fay has repeatedly shifted back and forth from east to west, making it difficult to predict where it might make landfall in Florida.National Hurricane Center computer-generated tracking models continue to show disagreement on where Fay may go after crossing Cuba and the possible intensity of the storm.At 11 p.m. Sunday, the forecast tracking map showed Fay making landfall as a hurricane near Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. By 5 a.m. Monday, the track had again shifted and showed Fay most likely to come ashore near Captiva Island where Hurricane Charley made landfall in 2004.Sally Bishop, director of Pinellas County Emergency Management, said the shifts in the forecast track have been making it difficult to plan. Any deviation in the track can make a big difference to where the storm might come ashore, she said.Bishop talked about Hurricane Charley, which had been forecast to make landfall in Tampa Bay in August of 2004 before suddenly veering off to come ashore near Captiva Island in Lee County as a Category 4.Fay is not forecast to strengthen into a major storm.Fay has been forecast to make landfall with an intensity of anywhere from “just barely a tropical storm to a Category 2 hurricane,” according to the National Hurricane Center updates.As of 5 a.m., the intensity forecast was back down to a marginal Category 1 hurricane with winds of 74.8. A Category 1 storm has winds of 74 to 95 mph.A hurricane watch remained in effect for Pinellas County and for the Florida Keys from south of Ocean Reef to Key West, including the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay, and along the mainland from Card Sound Bridge Westward to Tarpon Springs.The center of the storm was about 400 miles south-southeast of Tampa. Fay was moving at 12 mph toward the north-northwest. The NHC said Fay was expected to continue moving toward the north-northwest for the next 24 hours before making a turn to the north sometime on Tuesday.Meteorologists predicted that the center would be emerging into the Florida Straits on Monday morning and be “very near” the Florida Keys on Monday night.Maximum sustained winds were near 50 mph with higher gusts. Some strengthening was forecast and Fay was forecast to be near hurricane strength in the Florida Keys and to become a hurricane before reaching the mainland.According to the National Weather Service in Ruskin, on the current forecast track, residents in Pinellas County can expect storm surge of 2 to 4 feet over high tide if Fay stays offshore Tuesday evening and night.Winds of 60 to 80 mph with some higher gusts may be felt in the area on Tuesday and Tuesday night. The probability of hurricane conditions, based on the current forecast track, is 5 to 10 percent, according to the NWS. Probability of tropical storm conditions in the area is 40 to 60 percent.Rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches are expected from Monday night through Wednesday morning with higher amounts possible depending on the exact storm track.The NWS said the primary area for tornado development will be in the right front quadrant of the storm. As Fay moves northward across the area, the tornado threat will be moderate to high.County officials kept a close eye on the storm over the weekend and partially activated the Emergency Operations Center on Sunday. The EOC will go to full activation on Monday morning. Bishop said the plan was to be ready to make a firm recommendation to the Board of Pinellas County Commissioners about the need to evacuate during the day on Monday.Until then the official word was “preparations, preparations, preparations,” Bishop said.She urged county residents to not wait until when and if an evacuation order was issued, but to get ready now.The county’s Disaster Advisory Committee met Sunday afternoon and agreed on three possible courses of action, dependent upon the track of the storm.- Mandatory evacuations of mobile homes and low-lying areas- Level A, Category 1 evacuation- Level B, Category 2 evacuationResidents who do not know their evacuation level can call 727-453-3150 and key in their home phone number without the area code or call Pinellas County Emergency Management at 727-464-3800. Regular business hours are from 7:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.Evacuation zones are printed on Pinellas County Utility bills and the Truth in Millage (TRIM) Notices sent by the Property Appraiser. Evacuation zones also can be looked up at www.pinellascounty.org/emergency.Bishop said a decision about evacuations would most likely be made after the 11 a.m. Monday advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

Season forecast update

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Aug. 7 an increased possibility of an above-normal hurricane season.Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray, professors at the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, released undated predictions for 2008 on Aug. 5, which also forecast increased activity in the Atlantic basin for the remainder of the season.NOAA now predicts as many as 14 to 18 named storms could form in 2008, of which seven to 10 are expected to become hurricanes, with three to six becoming major hurricanes.Gray and Klotzbach’s latest estimates call for 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five intense (major) hurricanes.A major hurricane is a Category 3 or above.Six named storms have formed so far this season. Tropical Storm Arthur impacted the Yucatan Peninsula in late May and early June. Bertha was a major hurricane and the longest-lived July storm on record, lasting from July 3-20. Tropical Storm Cristobal hugged the North Carolina coastline but did not come ashore.Dolly made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane at South Padre Island, Texas on July 25. And on August 5, Tropical Storm Edouard struck the upper Texas coast.Fay is the sixth named storm of the season.The Atlantic hurricane season, June 1-Nov. 30, includes activity over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. The peak months of the season are August through October.

By SUZETTE PORTER (Tampa Bay Newspapers)

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