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Hurricane Potential Grows in Gulf: “Jerry” May Push into Florida & Georgia Late Sunday

18 Sep 2013, 3:47 pm

September 18th (updated 11am EDT)

* 70% chance of tropical storm formation in the Gulf of Mexico next 48 hours.* Weather models strongly suggest potential for this system to strengthen into a hurricane; greatest risk appears to be northeastern Gulf and Florida Panhandle, with flooding rains extending well inland into southern/eastern Georgia by Monday. Confidence level with track and intensity is still low, a 3on a scale of 1 to 10.

Ripe For Tropical Development. After a very slow start things are starting to heat up in the tropics. An area of disturbed weather pushing into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is forecast to intensify as the center of circulation moves over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Upper level winds are light – conditions ripe for this system to develop into “Jerry” within 48 hours.

NHC Probabilities. The National Hurricane Center has raised the potential for Gulf of Mexico tropical storm formation in the next 48 hours to 70%. Humberto is forecast by all models to sweep into the North Atlantic – no risk to the USA.



Why Confidence Levels Are Low. The HWRF model (purple line) is NOAA’s most high-powered, math-intensive model, leveraging the latest supercomputer speeds and capabilities, so I weight this solution more than I do other models (which keep this system in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico in the coming days). The graph in the upper right shows expected sustained winds – possible Category 1 strength within 84 hours from now. 


Out On A Limb. I want to stress that the track and intensity of what will probably become “Jerry” will almost certainly change and shift in the coming days. This is HWRF model guidance, showing the storm approaching the northwest coast/Panhandle of Florida by Sunday evening as a Category 1 hurricane. Heaviest rains would fall north of the track (over the Panhandle itself) with the greatest storm surge to the right (south) of where the eye of the storm comes ashore.

Even Farther Out On A Limb. The same HWRF model brings a weakening “Jerry”, still a Category 1 hurricane, into southern Georgia by 1 AM Monday; a significant storm surge possible from Macon and Savannah to Hilton Head and Charleston, depending on the final track. The potential for very heavy (8-10″+) rains and inland flooding will be high, regardless of where Jerry comes ashore.



Early Wind Swath Projections. A relatively narrow runway of hurricane-force winds is predicted from “Jerry”, possibly reaching the northeastern Gulf of Mexico as a Category 1 storm. That said, models do much better with hurricane track than intensity. Storms that form in the Gulf of Mexico, which is shallow and faster to warm up, often intensify rapidly and unpredictably, so at this early stage we simply don’t know how much Jerry may strengthen over the next 4 days. 


Predicted Rains. Again, this is still very preliminary, but if (a big if) “Jerry” takes the track described above the heaviest, 8-12″ rains would fall from near Pensacola and Destin to Tallahassee, Macon, Augusta and Savannah to near Charleston. Inland flooding will be a real concern early next week.

Please keep in mind that preliminary confidence levels with “Jerry” in the Gulf of Mexico are low. I want to see a few more computer runs – with any luck the situation will crystallize within 24-36 hours, but there seems to be growing potential for tropical storm or hurricane development in the Gulf of Mexico, and (right now) the greatest risk appears to be the northeastern Gulf, specifically Florida and possibly south Georgia and coastal South Carolina. 

Paul Douglas/Senior Meteorologist- Alerts Broadcaster

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