ROANOKE, Va. – We told you that the tropics would heat up in September, and here we are. Just one day after Gordon made landfall along the Gulf Coast, Florence is flourishing in the open Atlantic.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Florence is a Category 4 hurricane. Its strength and possible track makes those along the East Coast a little uneasy, though nothing is set in stone.
The National Hurricane Center's forecast cone only goes out five days, because beyond that - uncertainty is very high in tropical forecasting.
Even still, by this weekend, the storm will be very far from the East Coast of the United States.
Beyond the weekend, we use these 'spaghetti plots' to get a general trend of the storm's path. The closer these plots are, the better idea we have of the storm's track. The farther these plots are, the less clear the picture is.
We can see how uncertain the forecast is for 9/11 through 9/13 along the east coast.
Why is it that the forecast is so uncertain? Lack of data is one part of this messy equation.
When tracking storms over the open waters, we're relying on limited buoy data and satellite data. That doesn't help forecast models (simulations of the atmosphere) very much.
The farther west this storm moves, the more likely it is that the Hurricane Hunters will fly into it. Once they do so, they can get data on the storm. That data is then fed into forecast models, which will hopefully give us a better idea of what will happen.
We'll also have to see how an area of high pressure that cools us down this weekend will impact the track of Florence next week.
Beyond Florence, Helene is likely to form soon south of the Cabo Verde Islands off the coast of Africa.
This just goes to show that even though the tropical season has been quiet so far, there's still time left. For those with vacation homes or interests in the East Coast and Gulf Coast, you need to have a plan. That's especially the case in August and September, which tends to be the peak of hurricane season.
With regards to Florence, we're in a wait-and-see mode. It's too early for specifics on this storm, but we hope to have more information for you by this weekend. Stay tuned to the latest updates from StormTeam 10.