Long-term forecasting models suggest Hurricane Florence could reach the mid-Atlantic toward the end of next week.
But while a direct hit to U.S. coastline cannot yet be considered probable, it’s definitely possible.
“It is far too soon to speculate what, if any, impacts Florence may have on our region next week, but at this point nothing can be ruled out,” meteorologists at the National Weather Service’s Baltimore/Washington forecast office wrote Thursday.
For now, the first major hurricane of 2018 is only a threat to Bermuda. The National Hurricane Center predicts Florence could reach that island, or pass to its south, by early next week.
As of Thursday evening, the storm was about 1,000 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and 1,000 miles east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands. It had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, down from 115 mph Thursday morning. But is forecast to strengthen again in a few days, when winds in upper levels of the atmosphere become more favorable.
Various hurricane forecasting models do not agree on the path Florence could take from there — some say it could make landfall in the Carolinas or even approach the coast near the Chesapeake Bay, while others predict a turn out to sea before the storm ever reaches U.S. coastline.
Hurricane center forecasters said “it is far too soon to speculate what, if any impacts Florence may have on the U.S. East Coast next week.” But they said the storm could create dangerous surf conditions and rip currents at some beaches as early as this weekend.
They urged coastal residents to prepare for a storm regardless.
“Since we are near the peak of hurricane season, this is a good time for everyone who lives in a hurricane-prone area to ensure they have their hurricane plan in place,” hurricane center forecasters wrote.
Normally, a storm in Florence’s position wouldn’t be considered a threat to the U.S. Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane meteorologist at Colorado State University, said eight hurricanes have passed within 100 miles of Florence’s current location since 1950, and none of them have done much more than churn in the ocean.
But he said it appears possible that Florence will buck that trend.
Other forecasters say that history shows there’s no reason for the U.S. to get worked up over Florence.
The weather service’s forecast office that covers the Philadelphia region had more stern words for anyone putting stock in any single long-range model that suggests an East Coast landfall.
“For now, this is worthy of watching closely the next several days,” they wrote. “Focus on one model run and any single deterministic track at this time range is ill-advised and scientifically indefensible.”
The statistical peak of Atlantic hurricane season arrives Sept. 10, and after a quiet start to the season, there are signs more activity is coming. A disturbance several hundred miles west of Africa’s Cape Verde Islands is expected to become Tropical Storm Helene in the coming days.
This story was featured in The Sun’s Alexa Flash Briefing on Sept. 6, 2018.