Weather Nerd

First landfall

Tropical Storm Fay has made officially made landfall at Key West — though it seems silly to even call it “landfall,” when we’re talking about a tiny island — as of 3:00 PM EDT.

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Alan Sullivan says the storm “appears to have recentered further west, despite the westerly sheer,” which is how it ended up at Key West. That matches my observation on the radar loop.

Meanwhile, also on Sullivan’s blog, some skepticism is being expressed in comments about whether Fay really has 60 mph sustained winds. “Based on a quick scan of recent wind measurements in a certain radius around Key West, this thing is, at present, barely even a TS,” writes Steve Sadlov. “Whatever sad excuse for a core there is, looks to be directly over Key West at present. The highest winds I’ve noted were in the high 40s MPH arena.” Sullivan says similarly: “I’ve had a hard time with the claim of sustained 60 mph surface winds. Where are they? The most intense convection has been passing right over the Keys.”

UPDATE: Dr. Jeff Masters finds one close: “Winds at the Sand Point Buoy near Key West were sustained at 56 mph last hour.” Also, not quite the surface, but: “Sombrero Key buoy, at an elevation of 159 feet, reported sustained winds of 60 mph last hour.”

Masters also has a full update on Fay’s future, including this:

The computer models continue to show an unusual amount of disagreement about the longer term path of Fay. The official NHC forecast follows the GFDL and HWRF models, which takes Fay northwards through the Florida Peninsula. However, the latest runs of these models now predict Fay will emerge off the east coast of Florida, restrengthen a bit to a 60-70 mph tropical storm, then make landfall Wednesday along the Georgia/South Carolina coast. This solution assumes that the trough of low pressure turning Fay northward will be strong and enough and be moving slow enough to pull Fay all the way northwards into the U.S.

A weaker trough is predicted by the rest of the models, which foresee that Fay will stall over central Florida or the adjacent Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday. A ridge of high pressure will then build in, forcing Fay westward across the northern Gulf of Mexico. A second landfall in the Florida Panhandle or in Louisiana near New Orleans is then a possibility. Since more and more of the models are trending this way, I believe this solution has an equal chance of being correct. “The Joker” may be around to trouble us for another full week or longer.

P.S. Meanwhile, don’t look now, but we have a proto-Gustav.