Tropical Storm Ian strengthens, US at risk of landfall
AUSTIN (KXAN) – Tropical activity increased this week after a quiet August and early September. This Saturday morning has three tropical storms (Gaston, Hermine and Ian), a post-tropical storm (Fiona) and a low pressure area in the middle of the Atlantic.
It’s Tropical Storm Ian that’s grabbing our attention as it sets its sights on the Gulf Coast next week.
It is heading towards an area with a very high ocean heat content. The swirling mass of thunderstorms will move on 87°F water near Jamaica and Cuba – water that has not been exploited by any tropical cyclone since last year. Typically, a hurricane requires only 80°F water to grow and survive.
When storm winds blow over the surface of the ocean, heat and moisture are drawn up into the storm, condensing into clouds. Heat from the sea, then released again during the condensation process, further warms the core of the storm, creating a positive feedback loop that invigorates vertical motion and tightens the storm’s circulation.
Forecast model tracks point the storm away from Texas and into the Florida peninsula. A large trough in the jet stream that is expected to be located in the northeast next week will lift the system north through Cuba toward southern Florida, keeping Texas out of the line of sight.
TS Ian will likely move into the Gulf to become the first named storm in the Gulf in 2022.
Although moving across the mountainous island of Cuba could disrupt the storm’s intensification early next week, Ian is still expected to hit Florida as a hurricane — and possibly a major Category 3+ hurricane. If the storm hits Florida at hurricane force, it would be Florida’s first hurricane since Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018. Michael was a devastating Category 5 storm in the Panhandle with winds up to 161 mph when it made landfall near Tyndall AFB just southeast of Panama City.
In central Texas, impacts from this storm will be minimal as the center of it is expected to remain over 1,000 miles away. If the storm has a large enough circulation; however, it could bolster a northern flow through Texas behind next week’s cold front, keeping humidity low and temperatures mild through the end of the week.
Stay with the KXAN First Warning Weather Team as we follow the progress of the storm.