The computer models have clustered, at long last, on an initial landfall point in mainland Florida: somewhere on the southwest coast, between Everglades City and Englewood. The panhandle outliers, which were still sticking to their guns on the last model run, have finally given up the ghost this morning. Even Tampa now appears to be out of the woods, particularly given how weak Fay’s west side is.
The models differ somewhat on timing, with guesses ranging from landfall in ~18 hours to landfall in ~36 hours. But the bigger disagreements come after 48 hours, at which point the models remain chaotically divergent. Some think Fay will cross Florida into the Atlantic — and then perhaps turn back toward Florida again, and maybe into the Gulf. (Alan Sullivan is skeptical.) Others think she’ll head straight north, toward my neck of the woods near the Tennessee-North Carolina border. (We could use the rain.)
There’s still plenty of uncertainty to go around, but at least now we have a general idea of where the initial strikes will occur. Fay will hit the western Keys today or tonight, then head toward roughly the area where Charley hit (though Fay is, of course, much weaker) and make landfall there sometime tomorrow (or maybe even late tonight, if she doesn’t slow down, but more likely tomorrow).
UPDATE: Here’s the official forecast track as of 11:00 AM EDT, including the newly declared Hurricane Warnings for the southwest Florida coast:
Remember, there’s a lot of uncertainty beyond Tuesday, so focus on the cone, not the line, particularly for the portions of the forecast from Wednesday onward. Also keep in mind Alan Sullivan’s comment:
Most intense storminess will continue to be E and NE of center, and will move up E coast of Florida. “Center” is meaningless with an asymmetrical storm like this. Fay has no core.
That could change if Fay strengthens significantly, but it’s doubtful there’s enough time for her to do so.
P.S. More links to follow Fay, in addition to the ones in the right sidebar:
P.P.S. A note of caution in tracking Fay by radar, from Alan Sullivan: “at the moment there appear to be several vortices rotating around a common center.” Sullivan himself initially identified one of these sub-vortices, clearly visible on the short-range radar, as Fay’s “center,” but then added a correction stating that “the true center may be a little further SW, and moving more NW [as opposed to due north] at present.”
In any event, Sullivan, who has been anything but bullish in his assessment of Fay’s prognosis, is starting to sound a little less skeptical of its chances for meaningful intensification:
It is important to note that Fay does not yet have a core or an eye. … However one can now see rainfall and deepening convection right around Fay’s surface circulation center. The storm is trying to develop a core. … [T]he cyclone will almost certainly tighten up as it approaches land again. If this trend continues, Fay will indeed become a minimal hurricane as it crosses the Keys and passes into extreme South Florida this evening.
Rapid intensification remains mercifully unlikely, however.
It should be noted that Sullivan’s prediction of landfall in South Florida “this evening” is an outlier; the NHC forecast track predicts landfall around 10:00 AM tomorrow, and the various computer models call for landfall no earlier than the wee hours of tomorrow morning. But Sullivan seems to think Fay will come ashore further east than the NHC anticipates, which would make landfall happen sooner. We’ll find out soon enough who’s right.