Hurricane Ian's Rapid Intensification

While it began slowly, activity has certainly picked up as we reach the mid-point of this tropical season. Within a week’s time, 2 major hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic.  Hurricane Ian is now a major hurricane, and is setting sights on Florida.

When Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida:

  • It is forecast to make landfall near Tampa as a Category 3 Hurricane
  • Wind speeds at landfall could be greater than 110 mph before weakening
  • Damaging wind >75 mph will still be likely as the storm weakens and moves across Central Florida
  • Widespread flooding with 10-15 inches of rain across Florida, with some coastal areas experiencing 15+ inches of rain
  • Life-threatening storm surge, 5-10 feet in the Tampa Bay area.
  • Widespread embedded tornado risk on Wednesday and Thursday

On its journey, Ian will continue to encounter water 86-88 degrees Fahrenheit, adding fuel to the storm.

Over the last couple of years, the phrase “rapid intensification” has been used more frequently. It is defined as an increase in wind speed of over 30 kts within a 24 hour period. Rapid intensification can occur within a tropical cyclone due to warm waters and lack of upper level winds interfering with the storm’s overall organization. According to NOAA flight reconnaissance, in the case of Hurricane Ian, wind speeds increased from 65 knots to 100 knots from Monday morning to Tuesday morning. It is now a Category 3 hurricane, with more strengthening in the forecast.

While this storm is still in its developing phase, it’s forecast to bring life -threatening storm surge to the western gulf coast of Florida. In addition, significant rainfall in excess of 10 inches is forecast along a swath that extends through central Florida, stretching from Orlando to Jacksonville. North of Tampa Bay, 15+ inches of rain could occur.

Monarch’s Global Flood Forecast: Our synoptic flood risk model indicates an Extreme (5 out of 5) flood risk in Tampa, Sarasota, Saint Petersburg and Orlando, with a Significant (4 out of 5) flood risk that extends northeast. What does this mean for you? If you live in these areas, you should prepare for the high likelihood of flooding. Our flood model is risk based, and not meant to indicate the amount of rainfall but rather a specific area's susceptibility to flooding.

In addition to water impacts, damaging winds will reach hurricane force along the Florida coast by Wednesday morning. While it’s expected to weaken as it makes landfall, due to the hurricane’s rotational characteristics Ian will still carry a widespread embedded tornado risk throughout most of the Florida Peninsula.

Looking Ahead:

Hurricane Ian is expected to move northward and, coincide with gulf stream moisture, bringing flooding with more than 6 inches of rain targeting the southeastern coast, including Savannah and Charleston.  

Facts about Hurricane Ian with regard to the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season:

  • Hurricane Ian is the ninth named tropical storm this year in the Atlantic Basin.
  • This is the second major hurricane in the Atlantic to develop within a week's time.
  • If Ian makes landfall in the Tampa area, this will be the first storm in 100 years to do so, the last of which occurred in 1921, before Hurricanes were assigned names.
  • The last storm to rapidly intensify around the globe was Super Typhoon Noru where sustained wind intensified from nearly 50 mph to over 120 mph in less than 24 hours over the weekend.

Sources: National Centers for Environmental Prediction, National Hurricane Center, Esri ArcGIS Online

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