Ida has prompted a Hurricane Watch for parts of the northern Gulf Coast including the area from Grand Isle, Louisiana to the Mississippi/Alabama border. A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area sometime during the next 36 hours. Hurricane Ida's maximum sustained winds are currently 90 mph with the storms motion toward the northwest at 10 mph. A more northerly motion should begin to occur within the next day or so with the system possibly becoming extratropical around the time of landfall while taking a turn to the east as it is absorbed by a cold front.
Anyone located in the watch area should be implementing their hurricane plans so they can be prepared to protect their lives and property. Those of you in South Florida need only be concerned with the indirect effects of Ida at this time as a direct impact is not expected. Indirect effects from Ida still include some gusty winds the next few days along with the potential for some heavy rain as we head toward mid week.
The forecast from the National Hurricane Center does have high confidence over the next 24 - 48 hours, but there is a bit more uncertainty after that due to a changing weather pattern and computer models that aren't in agreement. That's around the point of the expected landfall, approach of a cold front, and right turn that is forecast. The forecast cone has shifted 5 days out to include more of peninsular Florida including part of South Florida. We may see these fluctuations and shifts in the cone over the next few days until more certainty is seen in the latter parts of the forecast. In either case, South Florida has a low probability of seeing any tropical storm force winds, which are winds of at least 39 mph.
Remember that while it is unlikely South Floridians will deal with any direct impact from Ida, the indirect effects could cause some minor problems over the next few days with high winds, high surf, dangerous rip currents, and some heavy rains as we see ex-Ida absorbed with the approaching front. Wind and small craft advisories are up along with a gale warning and coast flood statement for rip currents. Winds will be sustained as high as 25 - 30 mph today along with gusts around 35 - 40 mph. We will still have to watch exactly how the right hand turn plays out toward mid-week.
For all the latest official updates on Ida check out the National Hurricane Center's website at www.nhc.noaa.gov and the latest on all the local advisories and warnings for South Florida click on http://www.srh.noaa.gov/mia/