A slight shift in Tropical Storm Ian could mean a $30B disaster for Tampa

Tropical Storm Ian raises uncertainty for Florida, as a slight shift in track could mean a $30 billion disaster for Tampa or a landfall in a sparsely populated area of ​​the state’s Panhandle next Thursday.

Ian’s maximum sustained winds reached 45 miles per hour, about 300 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica early Saturday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The storm could grow to a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph making landfall on Florida’s west coast by the middle of next week.

In other recent storms, preliminary tracks seem to point to Tampa being a direct hit, only to see them shift over time and hit the Panhandle or the central Gulf Coast.

“The concern with the track today is that it’s an unusual track for a storm to take,” said Adam Douty, a meteorologist at the commercial-forecaster. AccuWeather Inc.

A direct strike on Tampa from a Category 3 hurricane would push a wall of water into Tampa Bay, flooding the city and its suburbs and causing about $30 billion in losses and damage, Chuck said. Watson, a disaster modeler at Enki Research. There is about a 40% chance it will hit Tampa and a 45% chance it will drift further north and spare the city, said Ryan Truchelut, president of commercial forecasting at Weather Tiger.

Part of the issue is Ian himself, Truchelut said. The newly formed storm is still developing its center, and that’s an important piece of information that meteorologists and computer models need to predict where a storm will go.

“The center is jumping around,” Truchelut said. “We are in a place of uncertainty; the structure of the storm has not yet resolved itself.”

When Ian was first named Friday, its center appeared to be further north, but since then Hurricane Hunter aircraft have found it to be further south, which means it may have a more westerly track, Truchelut said.

This is probably a better outcome for Cuba and for Florida. Ian is forecast to make landfall over western Cuba on Tuesday before heading toward Florida.

Another factor is larger weather patterns across the US, Douty said. A low pressure trough in the eastern US looks like it will pull Ian north, but that system itself is moving. How and when these pieces come together will also determine where Ian goes.

Truchelut said a westward trend would not only help Tampa, it could also reduce potential impacts for Miami and cities in southern Florida, as well as citrus growers across the state.

Ian was the ninth hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Fiona slammed into Nova Scotia early Saturday knocking out power and causing flooding after battering parts of the Caribbean and knocking out power in Puerto Rico.

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