Let the model wars begin. In the most recent computer model guidance for Ike, some of them are picking up something which could greatly alter the apparent move of Ike toward the Houston/Galveston area. Look closely at what the HWRF model does with Ike off the coast of Louisiana. The GFS is also picking something up and is causing Ike to make a sharp right turn instead of progressing due west.
The six major models are evenly split into three camps as far as what they think Ike will do on Friday. The HWRF and GFS are showing the sharp right turn and sending Ike on a Gustov or Katrina track. The GFDL and NOGAPS send Ike toward Lake Charles in western Louisiana. The NGFDL sends Ike to Corpus Christi and the UKMET toward hurricane Dolly landfall.
As is so often the case, the official track will “split the difference” when models disagree. Currently the NHC five day guidance carries Ike almost directly toward Galveston even though no model takes it there. There seems to be little to back up this track other than appeasing the various models. There are, though, major problems which develop between a Louisiana hit and a Galveston hit. Not the least of which is a difference of at least two days lead time.
All discussion of location and intensity of Ike four or five days from now is pure speculation. We must first see what Cuba does to the hurricane before jumping to conclusions. From what I have read, there has never been a hurricane hit Cuba where Ike just did. We are dealing with a very unpredictable storm blazing a path never taken by any hurricane before. This is quite remarkable considering how many hurricanes have hit Cuba over the years.
What Ike does today and tomorrow cannot be verified by historical data. Thus, the entire basis for future forecasts is purely conjecture. Without past data to compare things to, there is obviously much room for error. This is what everyone from meteorologists to Governors to individuals must keep in mind when dealing with Ike. We are breaking new ground with Ike, and as with any groundbreaking endeavor; you never really know what you are going to find.
I am going out on a limb here by saying that I think Ike presents a classic example of a hurricane which could end up going places the models cannot see. I think Ike could defy everyone and either totally fall apart or emerge from Cuba, rapidly intensify back into a category 4 or 5 storm and head due north to the Mobile, Alabama area. I think Ike could do exactly as the models think and end up striking somewhere in Louisiana or Texas as a category 3 hurricane.
The point is, at this point in time; Ike could end up hitting anywhere in the Gulf at any intensity. Why? Because pretty much everything with Ike is unprecedented and thus any and all options are on the table. I believe the NHC knows this and that is why they keep stressing in their discussions that it is still much too early to say where Ike is going to strike. This is being honest, but we are running out of time.
As discussed before; it takes time to evacuate a major metropolitan area. If it takes one day to evacuate Mobile, Alabama, it will take two to evacuate New Orleans and three to evacuate Houston. Yet, at present there is no way to know who needs to even be thinking about evacuating. This makes it frustrating for all in involved, but it just the way Ike is presenting himself.
Personally, I believe there is a 25% chance Ike will hit Mobile, New Orleans, Lake Charles or Galveston. I also believe there is 25% chance Ike will be a category 4 or 5, 3, 2 or 1 storm when it strikes. On the television show “Deal or No Deal”, if a contestant has four cases left and one of them contains a million dollars; he/she has a 25% chance of being a millionaire. I believe anyone living between Pensacola, Florida and Corpus Christi, Texas has a 25% chance of feeling the effects of Ike.
IF Ike curves northwest in the next few hours and ends up traversing pretty much the entire island of Cuba, then I believe it will emerge off the north coast tomorrow afternoon as a tropical storm only. But, if Ike keeps going west, it could be back over warm water within a few hours as a category 2 storm. Even if it curved north and followed Gustov’s path over western Cuba, it would not lose that much strength. This day will tell the story of what Ike will do and then by this time tomorrow we can start narrowing down where Ike is going so that proper precautions can be taken to protect life and property.