Well folks, we officially have our first major Atlantic hurricane of the 2018 season.
Early Wednesday afternoon the National Hurricane Center announced that Hurricane Florence, a storm brewing 2,205 miles off the coast of Bermuda, has intensified into a major storm.
A hurricane is considered “major” or intense when wind speeds exceed 111 mph, which means it’s at least a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“This is almost exactly on target,” NOAA representative Dennis Feltgen said in an interview. “The typical day to see the first major hurricane is September 4. It’s September 5.”
“Tropical Storm Gordon just hit the south, so we’ve seen seven storms already. On average, we see seven storms by September 16, so we are actually above the average,” Feltgen said.
There’s also a lot of uncertainty about what track Florence will take or if it will impact land at all.
But there’s no reason to panic, at least not yet.
Models predicting the storm’s path vary by 1,000 miles and meteorologists aren’t even sure if the hurricane will go north, south, turn out to the east or keep barrelling toward the west.
Careful proclaiming #Florence will go west. Lots to figure out here, as short-term motion may ultimately determine long-term track.
— Levi Cowan (@TropicalTidbits) September 5, 2018
“This is certainly a storm to watch, but it’s too early to know if we’re in danger if it’s just a fish storm,” meteorologist Philip Klotzbach said in an interview.
“If every model that predicted that a hurricane would hit the U.S., actually hit the U.S., the east coast would be uninhabitable.”
Any prediction made this far in advance is made with uncertainty, Klotzbach explained.
“If the National Hurricane Center could do 10 day forecasts with skill, they would,” Klotzbach said. “In 50 years, with even better models, you still won’t have certainty nine days out.”
But no one should turn a blind eye to the storm.
Florence has been fairly difficult to forecast already.
Klotzbach said himself that earlier this week he thought Florence wouldn’t amount to more than a medium level tropical storm, but by this morning it was a major hurricane.
“Hurricane Florence is certainly an overachiever. It’s been stronger than what most of the forecasters thought,” he said. “But It’s important to dial down the hype and check again in a few days.”
The tropical Atlantic is now quite active. Tropical Depression Gordon is moving across Mississippi. Hurricane Florence in the central Atlantic is now a Cat 3 storm with 125 mph max winds. A tropical wave behind Florence could become a tropical depression by the end of the week. pic.twitter.com/QivVGnCjQ9
— NWS Eastern Region (@NWSEastern) September 5, 2018
This weekend, tracking models will be substantially more accurate as the number of factors determining the path of the storm will be made clear.
Both Feltgen and Klotzbach said Hurricane Florence is an important reminder that we’re approaching the peak of the hurricane season, and it’s time to start planning.
“Be ready, but don’t get too amped up over a nine-day forecast,” Klotzbach said.