Tropical Depression 12 is making it’s way west across the Atlantic from the coast of Africa. This is a system that Tampa Bay residents should be watching carefully, even though it is a very long way from us even though it is moving fairly quickly to the west at 15 knots. The official five day forecast from the National Hurricane Center shows it growing into Tropical Storm Katia by this (Monday) afternoon and a category 2 storm by the end of the week and staying on a westerly course that would eventually take it toward Florida’s east coast. Interestingly, the spaghetti chart forecasts produced by the NHC’s computer models which often produce very different results at this stage of development are basically in agreement adding some extra confidence to the NHC predictions.
As usual things get more uncertain toward the end of the 5 day forecast and beyond. NHC forecaster Michael Brennan explains one of the major factors that will influcene Tropical Depression 12’s course. “the depression is currently situated to the south of the south of the subtropical [high pressure] ridge, but the western edge of the ridge will weaken over the next day or two as a mid/upper-level low cuts off and retrogrades across the central Atlantic. This will allow the depression to to turn toward the west-northwest during the next day or so.” Further down the track Brennan says the course will probably stay west-northwesterly. When and where it starts to turn will determine if it eventually threatens Florida in general or Tampa Bay in particular.
As always many things have to happen for a hurricane that develops in the Atlantic to threaten Tampa Bay: To make a direct head-on hit, it would have to either come through the narrow straits that separate Florida from Cuba then make a sharp right turn. However, a storm that hits the state from the east could very well cross the narrow Florida peninsula and potentially do a lot of damage. The latest computer runs do show a turn to the northwest, on a track that surely gives residents along the eastern seaboard who are just now cleaning up after Hurricane Irene some pause. However, the official five day forecast is slightly to the south.
It’s going to be several days before we get a better feel for whether Tropical Depression 12, soon to become Tropical Storm Katia will threaten Tampa Bay, but it’s never to soon to take stock of your hurricane preparations and perhaps adding to your supplies of food and bottled water. This also would be a good time to talk to your home insuror to make sure your coverage is adequate and that you have your flood insurance up to date.
For the latest official information from the National Hurricane Center on Tropical Depression 12 click here. To the see latest computer model projections from the Weather Underground, click here.