Blog: Tracking Michael And Its Potential Impacts (Updated)

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Hurricane Michael continues to strengthen.  It is going to threaten the Gulf Coast over the next 24-36 hours.  Then it will move inland and likely head towards our region.  Let’s delve into it. 

As expected, Michael is now over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It has been moving generally north, and will continue on that track over until landfall. 

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The forecast still calls for Michael to make landfall as a category 3 hurricane.  The mostly likely path sends it towards the Panama City to Apalachicola area in Florida.  Some of that region could see a 9-12ft storm surge.  This will be along with sustained winds of over 100mph. 

After landfall the system will move inland, weaken, and then turn northeast.  A big cold front that is now over the central U.S. will sweep quickly east, and that will drive Michael into our region.

We will be on the warm side of the front today and tomorrow with high temps in the 80s.  As Michael moves northeast on Thursday it should weaken as it moves over land.  However, it will be moving fast, and you have factor that into the sustained winds (relative velocity).  So the National Hurricane Center keeps it as a strong tropical storm as it moves into our region.  Now, the National Hurricane Center tends to overforecast the winds on inland tropical systems.  However, I do believe that we could see some wind gusts between 40 and 60mph.  More on that in a moment.  It’s also possible that Michael will try to become a bit subtropical which would allow stronger winds to move away from the center.  The official forecast brings Michael in quickly, and it moves it out quickly.  They have the system moving out by mid-Friday morning, and heading out to sea already.

The models have come into better agreement on the timing and track of the system.  They are in very good agreement on where it will make landfall. 

They are in pretty good agreement on bringing it up into Virginia and North Carolina, but there is a little bit of leeway in its latitude.  They are also in pretty good agreement on the timing of it.  Now yesterday the European model was very different in the timing of the storm.  Especially compared to the GFS model.  Today they are in better agreement, but the European model still lags behind the others.  Here is our Future Trak model which is close to the GFS on Friday morning. 

Notice that the center is right over our region as is the heaviest rain.  Meanwhile the European model has it still back to our southwest at that time.  It has the center moving through more into Friday midday.

Both models are agreeing better on the track.  The Euro has started to side with the GFS and other models like the NAM.  Both the GFS and Euro have a ribbon of heavy rain that extends from central North Carolina up into our region.

So at this point I think heavy rain is a good bet.  A preliminary forecast calls for about 2 – 4″.  4 – 6″ in some locations.  However, we will refine that part of the forecast in the next 12 hours.  That’s when it will be more in range of our higher resolution models.  The models may overforecast a bit if the system moves faster than expected.  We need rain.  It has been dry lately.  So our ground should be able to soak up a couple of inches easy.  However, the rain still could be heavy enough to create some local or regional flooding. 

As far as tidal flooding goes…I don’t think tidal flooding will be a big problem.  I do wonder though if the south/southeast winds ahead of the system will produce some more flooding on the Sounds up to southern Virginia Beach.  Stay tuned for that possibility. I mentioned that I think we could see some wind gusts between 40 and 60mph.  The sustained winds should be less, but it will be moving at a fast pace.  That factors into the sustained wind speed.  This could cause some power outages if it comes to fruition. 

We also could easily see some isolated tornadoes in the region.  There is already a slight risk for severe weather over North Carolina according to the Storm Prediction Center.  That’s for Thursday into Thursday night. 

So my gut feeling on this is that we will have some moderate impacts in our region.  We have fared through many tropical storms that have moved in from the southwest.  I could name some of them, but you probably wouldn’t remember them.  There could be some flooding and wind damage, but no one will be evacuating this time.  There could be some isolated areas that have a high impact from either flash flooding or minor wind damage.  We could have some power outages.  Again, we will refine the forecast over the next 12-24 hours.  Stay tuned for updates.

Tropical storm Leslie is over the eastern Atlantic now moving generally east.  It could impact Portugal as a tropical or subtropical storm by the Sunday.  

There is also a tropical disturbance that has just come off of Africa.  It is moving west, and is likely to become the next tropical system soon (if not already).

(Update: The tropical disturbance is now tropical storm Nadine.  It is moving generally northwest.  It will probably stay out to sea, and may dissipate over the next few days.)

One last thing… I mentioned that we will cool down behind Michael.  Locally our high temperatures will fall to the upper 60s to low 70s this weekend.  This will be some of the coolest air that we will have had in months.  I can’t wait, and I think many feel the same way. 

Meteorologist: Jeremy Wheeler

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