PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — As Tropical Storm Elsa continues making its way toward the Windward Islands in the Caribbean Sea, the First Alert Storm Team is monitoring what potential impacts it could eventually have on the Panhandle.
This week, the First Alert Storm team broke down what was Tropical Storm Elsa. The first thing to note is that Elsa had a nice structure on satellite and was moving very quickly. The fast movement is not as favorable for intensification, as it’s harder for the tropical storm to keep its vertical column upright for long. Looking at the track published from the National Hurricane Center at the time, it is noted that the forecast cone is quite small heading into the next 3 days. This is due to high confidence that Elsa was headed just under Cuba and towards the eastern Gulf. The cone expands wider as forecast confidence lowers towards the beginning of the next week. At the time, the Florida Panhandle was expected to stay on the west side of the storm, which would result in drier conditions and little to no impact in Panama City. Although this forecast did eventually verify, with Elsa making its second landfall in Taylor County. It is important to note that this doesn’t happen for every storm. Forecasts 5-7 days out, like this one, don’t always have as much accuracy and usually change. Start to pay attention to the forecast at least 3 days out. By that time, meteorologists have a much better idea of when and where the storm will make landfall.
Elsa was unable to reach higher than Category 1 strength due to a few inhibiting factors. The first, was dry air being ingested from the Saharan air layer. Intensification of Elsa would have needed more moisture in the surrounding atmosphere. The second, was the fast forward motion from the easterly trade winds, without the presence of low shear on the west side. Third, was the interaction with Cuba that injured the overall structure and strength.
The team then shifts into the spaghetti model tracks, where they take the audience into possible outcomes of Elsa. Most of the spread curved the storm east, which was good for our forecast at home; but some floated the storm west, where the storm could have packed more of a punch to the Panhandle. These scenarios were mostly dependent on a trough moving in from our west and the placement of the subtropical high in the Atlantic.