Note: This blog is written with Local 10 viewers in Monroe, Miami-Dade, and Broward Counties in mind.
The official National Hurricane Center (NHC) track of Tropical Storm Fay continues to show the center moving over the Florida Keys and onto the southwest Florida coast and then continuing to move over the Florida peninsula. I don’t want there to be too much focus on the center itself, and I can’t stop thinking about some of the lessons learned from Hurricane Irene in 1999. Irene moved over western Cuba and then took a track northeastward across South Florida before heading up to just offshore the Carolinas.
The following is found in the NHC Tropical Cyclone Report on Irene. “…Numerous watches and warnings issued for Irene. Some residents of southeast Florida expressed displeasure with the National Weather Service forecasts. Although a tropical storm warning was issued for a portion of southeast Florida (meaning sustained winds between 39 and 73 mph)…, and torrential rains of 10 to 20 inches with locally higher amounts were forecast, some residents, especially in southeast Florida claimed that such conditions were “unexpected” or “surprising”. There is an apparent disconnect between an accurate forecast issued some 36 hours in advance and a public perception of “surprise”. The remedial challenge in this case appears to be related to communications and not to the forecast. The combined resources of NWS, the emergency management community and the local media apparently did not adequately convey the message to the public that: (a) track forecasts are not exact; (b) hurricanes are not a point but cover a broad area; and (c) serious effects usually extend for hundreds of miles from the center. Instead, some residents, as well as isolated TV reporting, focused on the center of Irene.”
So let’s not focus just on the track of Fay. The track may well shift a little from forecast to forecast but even if NHC has a perfect forecast, the strongest winds and the heaviest rains will be on the east side for the next couple of days. The residents of the Florida Keys have been told to prepare for a Category 1 hurricane just in case Fay continues to intensify. Residents in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties should expect the winds to increase (possibly to sustained tropical storm force) and the rain, sometimes heavy, to continue through Tuesday. Today’s 11:00 am forecast calls for 4 to 8 inches of rain with isolated amounts to 10 inches over the Keys and South Florida. That’s a lot of rain.