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Getting Ready to Get Ready
Have you noticed that weather reporting has become like political coverage? It’s the Trump model versus the Clinton model. And just like most political coverage these days, it misses the main point.
The bottom line: In South Florida it’s time to get ready to get ready. There is some reasonable chance that preparations will begin as early as Friday for a storm over the weekend. If a storm develops, the odds are it will head toward the Gulf.
So what’s a reasonable chance, and how strong will it be?
A reasonable chance just means that there’s enough of a risk that it’s time to imagine what you would do if the threat materializes. Think it through, get your supplies, and don’t be surprised if something develops.
To imagine how strong it might be we’re stuck with the models. The atmosphere appears marginally supportive for development between now and the weekend. But marginally supportive means it could go either way. If we see the system coming together Wednesday, the odds would seem to favor a stronger storm, including the possibility of a hurricane, near or over South Florida over the weekend. But if it can’t get organized fairly soon, it will have more trouble fighting off the dry air and somewhat less favorable upper-level winds ahead, and would likely be something between very little and a fairly weak storm when it comes by.
After that, the most likely scenario is a track toward the Gulf where the atmospheric pattern would seem to support a stronger storm. But since we don’t know how strong and organized it will be when it gets to the Gulf, the range of possibilities on where it might go and how strong it might be are as wide as Texas to Florida and quite weak to quite strong.
There is nothing for Gulf coast residents to do at this point but be aware. And, for now, ignore models that show any particular outcome. Nobody knows. The odds of just about any imaginable scenario around the Gulf Coast are about the same.
And, of course, there is some chance it will do something completely different.
An unfortunate artifact of modern television weather-graphics systems is that it’s just as easy for a weathercaster to show a model forecast for a week from now as it is to show a map of the weather at this minute. The problem is, we are pretty sure about the current weather, but the forecast graphic for a week from now is almost certainly wrong.
It’s inflammatory and misleading and upsetting to coastal residents, and I humbly propose that we quit it, especially in scenarios like this one that are wildly uncertain except for the broad strokes.
We can be reasonably certain that high pressure is going to build to the north and push the system west, and we have some confidence on the timing for South Florida, plus or minus a day or so. But that’s it. And we're not 100% about those.
The key question is, when do residents need to prepare and for what? If the academic question of whether the Euro or the GFS is better or worse gets in the way of a clear answer, weather reporters are doing a disservice to their readers and viewers.
The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.