It seems Fay has made its right-hand turn, and is now centered over Cuba. Meanwhile the storm has lost all semblance of symmetry, such that the heavy rain and wind will reach Florida long before the center of circulation does. Here’s a satellite view, with the center marked on it by yours truly:
In response to sheer, Fay has turned abruptly to the north, as I surmised last evening. It has also become highly asymmetrical. The most intense convection is now located to the northeast of the center, over the open water between Cuba, the Florida Keys, and Andros Island. This large area of rain, storm-wind, and thunder is aiming at SE Florida, and should arrive from south to north during the morning hours, reaching Miami first, and Palm Beach this afternoon. The headlines about Tampa are completely misguided. Fay’s energy will continue to be displaced away the center. Even if Fay should pass directly over Tampa, effects there will be minimal. It is the east coast of Florida that will feel the brunt of the storm, not the west. I do not expect Fay to attain hurricane strength. It is too disorganized. But hurricane force squalls are possible in the Keys today, and northward tonight. Tornadoes are also a distinct risk for inland locations in South Florida.
The NHC, for its part, still expects Fay to become a minimal hurricane before landfall in Florida. But the threat of any severe hurricane impacts is certainly diminishing.
As for Tampa, it is no longer even in the bullseye of the track line. In response to Fay’s right turn, the 5:00 AM EDT advisory has bumped the official forecast track even further to the right — with landfall now shown just north of Punta Gorda, where Charley hit — and the discussion suggests that additional rightward adjustments may be necessary:
THE OFFICIAL FORECAST IS NEAR THE RIGHT-HAND SIDE OF THE GUIDANCE ENVELOPE EARLY ON…BUT SOME ADDITIONAL RIGHTWARD ADJUSTMENTS MAY BE NECESSARY IF THE CURRENT CONVECTIVE STRUCTURE PERSISTS AND THE CYCLONE REMAINS VERTICALLY CONNECTED. THERE ARE LARGE DIFFERENCES IN THE TRACK GUIDANCE LATE IN THE FORECAST PERIOD AND THE RUN TO RUN CONSISTENCY OF THE GUIDANCE HAS BEEN VERY POOR. GIVEN THAT…ONLY A SLIGHT EASTWARD SHIFT HAS BEEN MADE LATER IN THE FORECAST PERIOD.
One scenario that pops into my head: what if Fay’s circulation re-forms closer to the heaviest convection? I’m not sure how likely this is, but given the storm’s current weakness and disorganization, it seems at least plausible. Such an event could potentially allow Fay to essentially “jump over” Cuba, and shift the track rather abruptly back to aiming at southeast Florida. Like I said, though, I don’t know how likely that is. I’m not certainly not predicting it. [UPDATE: The Weather Channel’s Dr. Stu Ostro is also pondering this possibility.]
Anyway… having been awoken by my 7-month-old daughter, conveniently in time to check on the 5am advisory, I’m heading back to bed. :) More
later in the morning around midday, unless developments warrant an earlier update.