By Jennifer Gray, CNN meteorologist
It’s difficult to know where to start this morning. I’ve been reflecting all weekend, and my heart is heavy for the people in Florida.
It will take years for many to get their lives back to some point where they resemble how things were before.
Hurricane Ian was one of the biggest, most impactful hurricanes I’ve covered in my nearly 20-year meteorology career.
I may never see another storm that quite compares — at least I hope I don’t.
I spoke with Robbie Berg, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center who made many of the forecasts for Ian — and who’s worked through this storm with a similar dread.
“I’m one of the forecasters directly making the forecast. It’s a different kind of gut-wrenching because you put all your effort communicating what could happen based on the forecast, and you know what could happen if that forecast comes true,” Berg said.
The National Hurricane Center worked around the clock to get the best forecasts out and they did it with incredible accuracy.
Looking back at the forecast, the landfall location, Cayo Costa, was in the forecast cone for all the forecasts given, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.
Miller also noted that the forecast pegged Ian’s landfall (as a major hurricane also) within 5 miles of its eventual landfall location a full 120 hours in advance — that’s pretty remarkable given how unreliable forecasts can be at the five-day mark and beyond.
But we know that the cone, by definition, is not meant to include the impacts, only where the center of the storm will be.
With Ian, as with many storms, the impacts are felt well beyond the center.
“Look at the storm as a whole. What’s your risk of getting heavy rain? Or, what’s your risk of getting a strong wind or storm surge?” Berg said. “We’re really trying to clear the message to what’s really most important, despite if the cone is shifting a little bit or speeding up or slowing down, you know? What is it that most people really need to be paying attention to with the storm?”
With Ian, it’s clear that the impacts were the storm surge and rain.
The size and power of this storm pushed a wall of water into the vulnerable, low-lying coast of Southwest Florida — and was quite far-reaching, away from where the eye came onshore.
And the rain that accompanied this slow-moving storm was historic.
Ian’s impacts will be remembered
Ian ranks third when it comes to the amount of rain that fell within a tropical system.
Harvey takes the number one AND two spots for the two days of rain that fell on Texas in 2017.
Berg explained that for Ian, their confidence in the storm’s intensity was very high.
They knew this storm would become a major hurricane in the Gulf — and it did. The track, however, was trickier.
“The track forecasts, in this case, were a little more challenging.
But that type of forecast is always tough when you have a storm essentially paralleling a coastline. Landfall can occur within a large area just based on the hurricane’s angle of approach to the coast,” Berg explained.
Berg has been a forecaster at the hurricane center for 20 years.
He knows the forecasts he makes have a tremendous impact on the decisions of everyday people and how the impacts are interpreted.
“When you’re writing those discussions, so many people are going through them with a fine-tooth comb, to get the messages. You’re really trying to make sure that what you’re saying is clear, it makes sense and it gets the most important points across because whatever goes in those discussions is not just going to be read by people, it’s going to be amplified and echoed by you guys in the media, or their users,” said Berg. “We’re setting the tone and the message for these events.”
He’s reflecting on what happened during Ian just as much as we all are.
“It’s very difficult to hear the stories and see the pictures from southwest Florida and other areas impacted by Ian, but those same stories and pictures are what make us ask, What can we do better next time?”
Moisture from Ian still causing trouble across the Mid-Atlantic
Ian just won’t go away. It is partly responsible for what’s happening across the mid-Atlantic this week.
There’s an area of low pressure sitting stationary just offshore of the mid-Atlantic states that is going to keep conditions breezy and wet to start the week.
“The heaviest rainfall will be concentrated around the Chesapeake Bay east over the Delmarva Peninsula, with totals over the next couple of days generally around 1-2 inches, and locally higher totals of 3+ inches possible,” the Weather Prediction Center said.
This push of onshore winds is causing coastal flooding for over 20 million people from Long Island to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
“Potentially one of the highest tides in past decade” is possible later in the day on Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia. Some locations around Hampton Roads and Virginia Beach could see extensive flooding and their highest water levels in 5 to 10 years, according to the NWS.
The reason for this excessive coastal flooding is a combination of the coastal low pressure system and moisture left over from Ian.
A strong area of high pressure is just sitting around the Great Lakes — so the high pressure and low pressure are working together to make for extremely windy conditions.
A dozen gauges are expected to reach major flood stage at high tide Monday afternoon over coastal Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Water is expected to be 2 to 3 feet above ground level in some areas.
“Severe flooding will extend inland from the waterfront and shoreline, flooding homes and businesses, and isolating some neighborhoods. Numerous roads will be impassable under several feet of water and cars submerged.”, the NWS added.
Wind advisories and heavy surf advisories are also in effect over much of region with wind gusts up to 50 mph, along with 8-12 foot waves battering the coast.
The flooding event should peak Monday afternoon during high tide, but with the coastal low expected to linger, the threat for flooding will continue through Tuesday.
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CNN meteorologists Monica Garrett and Dave Hennen contributed to this article