SEBRING – Headlines have been dominated by COVID-19, toilet paper shortages, murder hornets, bubonic plague and more that 2020 has dished up so far. It may be a surprise that we have other concerns such as hurricane season. The season, which started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, has been zipping through the named storms like something that, well, only 2020 could do.
On Tuesday, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration upgraded an unorganized tropical disturbance, formerly known as Invest 92-L, to a Potential Tropical Cyclone 9 on the 11 a.m. Monday update. NOAA Meteorologist Stephen Shiveley said the storm is forecast to be named “Isaias” by today. The Potential Tropical Cyclone signifies that the storm is likely to continue to develop and make landfall within 48 hours. NOAA can, with this designation, put a forecast cone in place and issue alerts sooner than before. A sort of warning to the warning.
Shiveley said that in order for a storm to be called a tropical storm, it must have sustained winds of 40 mph and a good rotation. At the 11 a.m. update on Tuesday, the storm had sustained 40 mph winds and was moving quick at 23 mph.
“Right now, there is no organized rotation. It is just a big cluster of clouds,” he said.
“The details of the long-range track and intensity forecasts are more uncertain than usual since the system does not have a well-defined center and could move over portions of the Greater Antilles later this week,” NOAA’s Tuesday morning update said. “However, this system could bring some rainfall and wind impacts to portions of Hispaniola, Cuba, the Bahamas, and Florida by the end of the week.”
If mountains and land masses do not cause the storm to dissipate, Isaias could make landfall around Palm Beach County on Sunday. Rain, thunderstorms and tropical storm force winds could be on tap for most of Florida if the cone stays on track. However, Shiveley said it is simply too early to tell.
Shiveley explained there were two probable scenarios: the first is if the storm stays weak (not well organized), it will hug the left side (west) of the cone of error. If the storm strengthens, it will hug the right side (east) side of the cone. A good outcome would be a turn to the east and stay away from Florida.
“It could dissipate and we could have a normal weekend after all,” he said. “Confidence is very low right now. This is the first staff guess. We will know more when we get the hurricane planes out there and start dropping things.”
Shiveley thought the hurricane hunter planes were scheduled for later on Tuesday and today. While it is too soon to panic, this is the time to ensure your emergency plans are in place, said the meteorologist. Make sure water, medications and shelf-stable foods are plentiful. Know where shelters are located, check batteries and flashlights, and keep informed with a weather radio.
Shiveley recommended having masks, hand sanitzers and disinfecting wipes in a “go bag” in case of an evacuation during the COVID pandemic.
For more information, visit nhc.noaa.gov.