Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bermuda high system is bringing Hurricane Irma Tampa Bay's way

The 2 p.m. Friday projection shows Irma continuing on a path farther west than it started. Blame the Bermuda high. [National Hurricane Center]

The 2 p.m. Friday projection shows Irma continuing on a path farther west than it started. Blame the Bermuda high. [National Hurricane Center]

Blame the Bermuda high.

Tampa Bay residents troubled by a westerly shift in Irma's forecast track can point their fingers at the huge area of high pressure that usually hovers over Bermuda.

For days, forecasters have been calling for the storm to make a drastic northerly turn. But when? For Tampa Bay, the answer could mean the difference between tropical storm and hurricane force winds.

Earlier in the week, the track showed Irma making landfall near Miami and tracking along or just off the state's east coast. Now, models are coalescing around a forecast track that shows Irma turning later, making landfall closer to Naples, and the Bermuda high is why, said Stephen Shively, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

"We thought it might scoot away from Irma, but it didn't," Shively said.

Counterclockwise winds around the Bermuda high steer tropical systems, so the position of the high is a big factor in whether storms curve harmlessly out to sea or continue west, threatening the Caribbean and United States. The placement of the high is what pushed Irma to the south, along a westerly track.

Meanwhile, an area of low pressure has been moving from over the western United States into the Gulf of Mexico. Irma is going to be squeezed between the low and high, forcing that drastic northerly turn, Shively said.

If the high had weakened and scooted east, Irma would have made the turn sooner. Instead, the opposite happened.

"The high got stronger and stayed in place," Shively said.

Though confidence in the forecast track has increased, there is still a margin of error that could translate to a big difference in Tampa Bay.

The current track shows the center of Irma traveling up the spine of the state through Polk County. If it shifts 15 miles to the west, "It would be in Hillsborugh County," Shively said.

Hurricane force winds extended about 70 miles from the center of the storm, so that could mean sustained tropical force winds of about 65 miles per hour in the Tampa Bay area when the storm rolls through late Sunday and into Monday, Shively said.

Wind gusts could reach Category 2 strength, up to about 100 mph, forecasters say.

"And 30 miles to the east would make Tampa Bay quieter," he said.

While we're blaming the Bermuda high, though, we should also be grateful it hasn't shifted farther west.

That would have meant a "worst-case scenario" for Tampa Bay, with the storm remaining just off shore, maintaining or even gathering strength as it buzz-sawed up the Gulf Coast with potentially catastrophic rainfall and storm surge.

Bermuda high system is bringing Hurricane Irma Tampa Bay's way 09/08/17 [Last modified: Friday, September 8, 2017 6:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
[LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Times
 file photo]

  2. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.
  3. Suspect in Maryland office park shooting is apprehended

    Nation

    EDGEWOOD, Md. — A man with a lengthy criminal past who was fired from a job earlier this year for punching a colleague showed up for work at a countertop company on Wednesday and shot five of his co-workers has been arrested, authorities said. Three of them were killed and two critically wounded.

    Harford County, Md., Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler shows a picture of Radee Labeeb Prince, the suspect in the workplace shootings.
  4. Lightning's J.T. Brown to stop anthem protest, focus on community involvement

    Lightning Strikes

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lightning wing J.T. Brown will no longer raise his first as a protest during the national anthem before games.

    J.T. Brown says he will work more with the Tampa police and groups that serve at-risk young people.
  5. The two Ricks tangle at what may be final debate

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — In what was likely the last mayoral forum before the Nov. 7 election, Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker started out small, discussing neighborhood issues like recycling and neighborhood funding. They ended tangling over familiar subjects: the future of the Tampa Bay Rays, sewage …

    Ex-Mayor Rick Baker, left, and Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, debated familiar topics. The Times’ Adam Smith moderated.