For the first time in 11 years, a hurricane is set to make landfall in Florida.
The storm — named Hermine — is currently a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds and is churning in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s expected to make landfall on or after midnight in the “Big Bend” region of the Florida’s Gulf Coast (if the Panhandle is the shoulder, and the rest of Florida is the arm, the “Big Bend” is the armpit, shown in red in the map below).
On Thursday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center issued this three-day projection for the path of the storm. Hermine’s expected to hit the North Gulf Coast of Florida later Thursday night or early Friday morning, pass over through Georgia (most likely after having been downgraded to a tropical storm or depression), and then continue on up the Atlantic coast. Tropical storm warnings and watches now extend up from Florida to New Jersey. (A warning means tropical storm conditions are expected. A watch means conditions are possible.)
According to the National Hurricane Center’s advisory, the storm is expected to make landfall as a hurricane, with tropical-force winds extending 185 miles out from its center.
“There is a danger of life-threatening inundation within the next 12 to 24 hours along the Gulf coast of Florida from Indian Pass to Longboat Key,” the National Hurricane Center reports.
The National Weather Service warns that Hermine may dump 5 to 15 inches of rain over some areas, and that “a few tornadoes are possible through tonight across north Florida and southeast Georgia.”
By the storm’s end, it’s within the realm of possibility that all the states on the Eastern Seaboard will have experienced tropical-storm level winds (meaning winds at least around 40 mph).
The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang (always a great resource) predicts this storm will probably spare most of the I-95 corridor. But, as with all storms, this can change:
It now appears likely that the Hermine will track far enough off the East Coast to spare the Interstate 95 corridor the storm’s worst. A graze is most likely — meaning showery weather is more likely than a driving, wind-swept rain. The storm could even totally miss the area.
But coastal areas from the North Carolina Outer Banks to the Jersey Shore may well get slammed. Heavy rain, strong winds and dangerous surf are likely, with forecast confidence high for the Carolina Outer Banks but just moderate for the Delmarva beaches.
Rain and wind can certainly be damaging during a hurricane. But a greater concern is coastal flooding. The National Hurricane Center has a new interactive tool to see your area’s flood risk during a hurricane. If you live on Florida’s Gulf Coast, check the flooding map out here. You can zoom in closer on the Hurricane Center website:
The National Hurricane Center also issued some “key messages” that people should remember. Even if Hermine is downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, it can still create dangerous conditions. Remember, Sandy wasn’t a hurricane when it hit New York in 2012.
So, be prepared. As a Florida State climatologist put it on Twitter:
- Meteorologist Eric Holthaus’s Twitter account. He’s a great, sober resource for storm information.
- The Capital Weather Gang’s Twitter account. These folk tend to live-tweet storm updates.
- The National Hurricane Center’s Twitter account.
- The National Hurricane Center’s storm surge predictor. If you live on the coast, you’ll want to check your risk for flooding. The NHC notes this tool is still a prototype, and that “due to forecast uncertainty, the actual areas that experience life-threatening inundation may differ from the areas shown on this map.”
- The National Hurricane Center’s webpage for Hermine updates. (They deeply need a redesign, but you can find all the latest advisories on this page.)