Hurricane Joaquin getting stronger, still likely to impact NJ
Meteorologist Dan Zarrow's latest update on Hurricane Joaquin's forecast track and the potential impacts on New Jersey.
UPDATE as of 8 p.m. Wednesday 9/30...
As expected, the 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. updates from the National Hurricane Center have trended further east, with a landfall somewhere along the Atlantic coast between Maryland and North Carolina.
This is good news for New Jersey, as a more southerly impact along the coast would lessen our impacts here. See the "Inland Track" description from yesterday morning's blog post for more detail...
It is still worth noting that the latest European model STILL kicks Joaquin out to sea... Although the latest GFS Ensembles show a much more consistent U.S. coast landfall.
As long as there are no major changes overnight, I think we will be able to put together a better forecast with a more specific storm timeline for New Jersey. I am happy to say that our weather and surf impacts here in the Garden State will likely be much lower than the "worst case scenario" I presented earlier today.
Original Post from 2 p.m. Wednesday 9/30...
The Latest from the National Hurricane Center
The 2 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center was admittedly a bit terrifying:
Joaquin remains a category 1 hurricane. This latest update shows a slight intensification, now packing sustained winds of 85 mph. According to the National Hurricane Center, these hurricane force winds extend outward for 35 miles from the center, while tropical storm force winds have a radius of 125 miles from the storm center.
Two additional items of note here... First, notice the "M" icon at 8 AM Sat - that indicates a Major Hurricane is expected at that position at that time, with sustained winds over 110 mph. This storm is no joke!
Second, you probably noticed Joaquin's official forecast storm track points right at New Jersey. Time out: It is extremely important to not pay attention to the black line alone. The white "cone of uncertainty" is what we should be paying attention to on this graphic. Here is a better map that removes the misleading black line, and just shows the black path...
I think this map more clearly shows the realm of possibilities for Joaquin's landfall, stretching from Rhode Island to the Carolinas. Furthermore, the National Hurricane Center is practicing an important skill called "trend-casting" here. The forecast models have been coming into an agreement about storm landfall around the Virginia coastline. Suddenly changing a forecast in one fell swoop is bad practice — it would panic the public, and undermine their credibility a bit (especially if the forecast starts to trend in the other direction).
So the NHC is gently trending their forecast in the desired direction over a series of updates. Each successive path forecast pushes the forecast track further and further to the left, toward that Delmarva-Carolinas landfall.
Additionally, the National Hurricane Center offered the following extra insight into their Hurricane Joaquin forecast...
Confidence Increases, but Hesitation Remains
The vast majority of model solutions now ultimately point any landfall of Hurricane Joaquin south of New Jersey. While it's good the odds of a direct hit on New Jersey are decreasing, we may actually end up on the worst side of the storm: the northeast quadrant of a hurricane generally has the heaviest rain, the strongest winds, and the most dangerous surge. The further south the storm track trends, the safer we will be up in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, the further south you live in New Jersey, the more likely it is that you will see bad weather.
But hang on a second... This "landfall south of New Jersey" is only the most likely outcome at this time. What about the out-to-sea possibility?
The European (ECMWF) model continues to be the stubborn outlier of the bunch. A few members of the GFS Ensemble have popped out this eastward jog as well (labeled "Door #2" below). But they are still very much in the overall minority.
So while we continue to promote the possibility of heavy rain, gusty winds, and coastal flooding here in New Jersey, it is still not a 100% sure bet at this time.
The forecast timeline I published in this morning's blog post still looks good. Check out our previous story for insight on what impacts are expected and when...
My hope is that we will be able to add more confidence, more clarity, and more specificity to the Joaquin schedule of events within the next 12 to 24 hours. Continue to monitor the forecast carefully, and begin making initial storm preparations.