Pinellas outside Tropical Storm Isaias’ cone of uncertainty for now

As of Thursday afternoon, Pinellas County and Tampa Bay were outside Tropical Storm Isaias’ cone of uncertainty; however, that could change depending on what happens after the storm passed over the mountains of Hispaniola.

The latest forecast track from the National Hurricane Center shows Pinellas County and Tampa Bay outside Tropical Storm Isaias’ cone of uncertainty. But that doesn’t mean residents should stop paying attention.

Pinellas County’s Emergency Management Director Cathie Perkins briefed county commissioners on the Isaias Thursday morning. She said although the latest forecast track had shifted to the east, that didn’t mean Pinellas County was in the clear.

NHC continues to stress that its forecast remains uncertain. It is not outside the realm of possibilities that Isaias’ track would shift back to the west before it reaches Florida. And even if it does continue to head east, it is a large storm. The latest advisory from NHC says tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 310 miles primarily to the north of the center.

That means Pinellas could still experience some tropical-storm force winds, Perkins said. Rainfall would likely be about 1.5 inches.

Perkins said the county is preparing for the worst just in case, including some staffing in the Emergency Operations Center. The Citizens Information Line is open to answer preparedness questions. Call 727-464-4333. Residents who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact the CIC at bit.ly/PinellasChat.

Plans are in the works to open shelters if necessary; however, at this time it does not look likely. Public works staff is out checking on areas that normally experience flooding and will put out pumps if needed. Perkins said staff at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is checking on runways.

She said life-threatening storm surge is not expected. She said coastal areas could get 1-2 feet of surge.

The Duke Energy Center for the Arts Mahaffey Theater COVID-19 testing site will suspend operations at 7 p.m. tonight (July 30) and will remain closed on Friday and Saturday even if Isaias doesn’t threaten Pinellas upon the request of the state.

The weekend weather really depends on what Isaias does after passing over the mountains of Hispaniola.

At 2 p.m. Thursday, Isaias was 95 miles west-northwest of Punta Cana Dominican Republic. It was moving northwest at 20 mph. Maximum sustained winds were 60 mph.

The center of the storm is expected to move over Hispaniola tonight and be near the southeastern Bahamas later tonight or early Friday. It is then expected to be near the central Bahamas Friday night and move near or over the northwest Bahamas or south Florida on Saturday.

However, NCH forecasters continue to stress that they have “low confidence” in the track forecast due to the unknowns associated with Isaias’ interaction with land. In addition, computer models are not in total agreement as to the long-range intensity of the storm with some showing it strengthening into a Category 1 hurricane.

National Weather Service Office in Ruskin said Thursday morning that the local forecast for the weekend depended on the Isaias’ track. If the storm stays east, there will likely be little to no impact; however, if the track shifts back to the west, the county could experience direct tropical weather.

“As is always the case during the tropical season, the best advice is to monitor the forecast closely and have a plan and supplies in place now,” NWS said.

The busiest time of the Atlantic hurricane season is mid-August to late October. If you haven’t made preparations, this is the time to do so.

Pinellas County Emergency Management has lots of information on how to prepare for tropical weather. Visit www.pinellascounty.org/resident/disasters.htm. Be sure to check out the preparedness guide at www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/PDF/All_Hazard_Guide.pdf.

Season’s forecast

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its 2020 Atlantic hurricane season outlook on May 21. Forecasters say it is most likely that the season will be above average and could possibly be very active.

Odds are 60% that the season will be above normal, 30% it will be near normal and 10% it will be below normal.

Forecasters gave a 70% chance that 13-19 named storms would form with winds of 39 mph or higher, six-10 hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher and three-six major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or above with winds of 111 mph or higher.

An average season includes 12 named storms with six strengthening into a hurricane and three becoming a major hurricane.

NOAA will update the outlook before the busy season arrives.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.