The 2016 hurricane season is seemingly off to quite a start with the 3rd named storm of the year (Alex back in January of all months and Bonnie last week) forming in the Gulf of Mexico this afternoon. I will talk more about what this may or may not mean for the rest of the season in a future blog post later this week. For now, let’s focus on Colin and what Floridians can expect.
First off, this is not going to be a big wind event, so get that notion out of your head now. Do not focus on “oh, it’s just a tropical storm”. We have to move away from that. No one EVER says, “oh, it’s just a small rattle snake that bit me”. Well maybe they do, but you get the point. Any poisonous snake is likely to be treated with respect and even fear. While we don”t have to fear tropical storms, they need to be understood (like snakes) and respected. That being said, let’s look at the current situation.
The latest info from the NHC tells us that top winds are 40 mph according to report from the Hurricane Hunter crew that flew recon earlier today. The forecast calls for only modest strengthening before Colin reaches Florida later tomorrow night or early Tuesday, most likely near the Big Bend area of Florida.
Let me be very clear. This forecast is for the CENTER of the storm, not for the entire storm and all its bad weather. The advisories give us information on the center forecast in latitude and longitude, with additional information throughout the rest of the package. So even though the center is moving onshore well north of Tampa, for example, heavy rain, squalls, storm surge flooding and tropical storm force winds are likely for Tampa and vicinity. Obviously, no one knows precisely where the worst weather will be, we can only rely on coastal radar when the storm gets closer to help with that. For now, if you are within the tropical storm warning area (Indian Pass to Enlgewood along the FL west coast) then you need to be ready for bad weather, it’s that simple. This is not a hurricane with a defined eyewall which is typically where the worst conditions are felt. In this case, the impact will be spread out over a good chunk of Florida from parts of the panhandle on down the peninsula, including perhaps a bit of south Florida proper.
I have included the WPC rain forecast for the next 72 hours and you can clearly see the threat here. Torrential rain, possibly wind driven at times, will make travel tough and even dangerous at times. For the love of Pete, slow down on the highways and biways out there! I am serious, traffic deaths and injuries because of rain soaked roads are 100% preventable. Colin is headed your way with plenty of rain, take notice and slow down if you’re driving through the region.
After Florida, the storm is forecast to emerge in to the Atlantic somewhere off the Georgia coast. This means heavy rain, some wind and minor coastal impacts for GA, SC and extreme southeast coastal NC. I will address these areas more tomorrow once we get a better idea of how well Colin will hold together as it crosses Florida.
So that’s it for now. We have plenty to keep up with in the coming days. I will not be traveling to Florida for the storm, it’s not quite the classic structure and impact that would warrant our specialized equipment – which is better suited for possible hurricane events later in the season. So I will watch from my office in Wilmington, NC where things could get interesting depending on how close Colin tracks to the NC coast. I’ll have more tomorrow morning bright and early.
M. Sudduth 7:20 PM ET June 5