The National Hurricane Center this morning issued Hurricane Watches for South Florida, for Card Sound Bridge on the east coast to Bonita Beach on the west coast, including all of the Florida Keys. The watch area will almost certainly be extended northward later today, as Fay’s potential approach to the west-central Florida coast becomes more imminent.
Fay’s maximum sustained winds are up to 50 mph as of 5:00 AM EDT, and she’s looking ever more impressive on satellite (see image at bottom). Meanwhile, as uncertain as the forecast was yesterday, it has somehow become even more uncertain, according to the NHC discussion:
THERE HAS BEEN LITTLE CHANGE TO THE FORECAST PHILOSOPHY…ALTHOUGH THE CONFIDENCE HAS DECREASED DUE TO A SPREADING OF THE GUIDANCE ENVELOPE. GLOBAL MODELS HAVE VERY DIFFERENT EVOLUTIONS OF THE STEERING FLOW OVER THE NEXT TWO TO THREE DAYS…WITH THE ECMWF SHOWING A WEAKER SUBTROPICAL RIDGE AND AN MID-LATITUDE SHORT WAVE DIPPING INTO THE NORTHERN GULF…WHICH TURNS FAY NORTHEASTWARD OVER SOUTH FLORIDA BEFORE STALLING IT IN THE WESTERN ATLANTIC. THE GFDL AND HWRF ALSO SHOW A PATH ACROSS THE FLORIDA PENINSULA TO THE RIGHT OF THE OFFICIAL FORECAST. MOST OF THE REMAINING GUIDANCE…INCLUDING THE GFS AND UKMET…TURN FAY NORTHWARD IN THE SOUTHEASTERN GULF OF MEXICO TO THE EAST OF A MID- TO UPPER-LEVEL CUTOFF LOW FORECAST TO BE OVER THE SOUTHERN PLAINS. THE OFFICIAL FORECAST FOLLOWS THIS LATTER SCENARIO AND IS VERY CLOSE TO THE PREVIOUS ADVISORY TRACK.
You can see the official forecast here, but again, don’t focus on the “black line”; focus on the “cone.” It’s really anybody’s guess where, within the “cone,” Fay will go.
There’s one bit of good news in the discussion: although Fay is expected to reach hurricane strength before landfall in Cuba tonight, and to do so again before landfall in Florida, forecasters do not sound overly bullish about the prospects for rapid intensification in the Gulf, because “IN THE SOUTHEASTERN GULF…[UPPER-LEVEL] WINDS ARE NOT EXPECTED TO BE AS CONDUCIVE FOR STRENGTHENING” as they are now.
Here’s a look at the infrared satellite as of 6:45 AM:
I’ll post another update around midday. In the mean time, visit the links at right for the latest.