John Gaughan: Jacksonville should go through basic hurricane preps for Ian this weekend

Time to at least review your essential supplies.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The National Hurricane Center track still points to a Tampa Bay area strike, yet...

“It ain’t easy” regarding hurricane track and intensity forecasting, but the NHC does it better than any forecast model. Keep that in mind when looking at the various forecast models, whether the Global models, like the GFS and the European, or the somewhat precise hurricane forecast models like the HMON and the HWRF. The NHC outperforms them over the long term.

Now, I realize most people won’t look that deep, so here are a few quick pointers on reading the NHC cone of uncertainty and intensity forecasts.

When the cone is very narrow, the National Hurricane Center has high confidence that the track will occur here; there will be little deviation from their forecast.

When the forecast cone is very bulbous, especially near the end of their 5-day forecast, there is a high degree of uncertainty.

Pretty simple right?

Let’s look at this morning’s 5 AM NHC cone forecast.

Notice for the Jacksonville area, the cone looks to be pointing right at our Southern Counties, but the bulbous end says there is a lot of uncertainty.

Once the cone spreads, never pay too much attention to the center track.

Ok. Having said this, what is the state of Ian this morning?

And here’s where we find some glimmers of good news for Jacksonville and hints that the subsequent TWO cone forecasts from the NHC will show some significant shifting, mostly away from Jacksonville.

Hurricane Hunters continue to find a raggedy system that still does not have a core.

There has been a possible circulation center jump to the south and west of earlier expectations.

What does this mean?

Well, my No. 1 rule for hurricane forecasting is that, until a significant center has developed, Ian is still not there; forecast model outlooks are typically only average in the short term and terrible in the longer term. Their errors are more dramatic when it comes to intensity forecasting.

Expect significant changes from the NHC cone forecast over the next 24 hours.

How about Jacksonville?

The impact of Ian on Jacksonville is highly dependent on the exact track and intensity of Ian as it nears Jacksonville. But with the current cone forecast being what it is, please take a moment to do a few essential steps, just in case it does follow the current NHC forecast.

  • Are you ready for a loss of power? A track through the state will dramatically weaken Ian, yet scattered to moderate power outages could occur. This will especially be true for our Southern Counties of Alachua, Putnam, Clay, Flagler, and St. Johns counties. Review and go through your battery supplies, flashlights, and car charger cables for your cellphones, the part that goes into the cigarette lighter and make sure the USB connectors work in your car.
  • Make sure you have enough gasoline for your car and or generator. Importantly, you have clean, not sitting around gasoline to use. You don’t have to run out and get gas today, but keeping your tank close to full the next few days will be a good idea.
  • Clean up your yard; if you have items that could be pushed around by high winds, lawn chairs, garbage cans, and potted plants, you will want these to be stored away by Tuesday.
  • Here’s where you can find the 2022 Weather Authority Hurricane Guide.

As mentioned above, between the recent center shift to the south and southwest, plus strong hints from the GFS, the storm track will remain well west of Jacksonville; the NHC is still the most accurate forecaster available, and watching their adjustments to the cone will give us vital clues on whether we will be impacted, or not.

Their track and forecast intensity updates are on the 5′s and 11′s. That is 5 a.m., 11 a.m., 5 p.m., and 11 p.m.


About the Author:

Our chief meteorologist lives and breathes the weather on the First Coast.