ATLANTA — Tropical Depression Nine was upgraded to Tropical Storm Ian Friday night.
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What we know about Tropical Storm Ian
- The storm will have potential to strengthen into a major hurricane
- Model trends bring the storm into the eastern Gulf or Florida by Wednesday
- Significant, destructive impacts will be felt near landfall
What is still uncertain about Tropical storm Ian
- Final track of the storm
- Final strength of the storm
- We know significant impacts will be possible near landfall, but do not know where yet those biggest impacts will be and the extent.
Latest On the Storm
Ian continues to strengthen and now has winds of 45 mph with gusts to 60 mph. It is moving moving W at 15 mph. It is located 200 miles south of Jamaica.
A Hurricane Warning and a Tropical Storm Watch are in effect for the Cayman Islands. This means hurricane and tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 48 hours, respectively.
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Through the weekend, some strengthening is likely. The official cone of uncertainty (track) from the National Hurricane Center has it developing into a hurricane by Monday morning. The current track takes it up near Florida by Wednesday or Thursday of next week as a Category 4 major hurricane.
The most recent advisory from the NHC has shifted the cone of uncertainty west.
Notice the Landfall location in the "cone of uncertainty" could be anywhere from Pensacola to Fort Myers -- that's a huge area! And impacts are felt hundreds of miles outside the center with tropical systems.
Any impacts for north Georgia are still uncertain, but IF this tropical system brings rainfall to our area, it would be end of next week and into the weekend.
Why we expect strengthening
The storm will be moving over very warm waters greater than 85°F. Tropical systems work like steam engines, thriving on warm waters. That bath water will set the stage for intensification once wind shear becomes less of a factor by Sunday and into Monday.
Where will the storm go?
Tropical systems don't have their own steering wheels. They get steered by larger-scale features in the atmosphere. The future storm will be steered northward in between two larger scale areas of high pressure.
So we know that Florida and the eastern Gulf coast need to be on watch, but there are still some uncertainties with the final path of this developing storm.
Models are more closely clustered Saturday passing just over the western tip of Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico. Notice the models spreading out further as it nears the coast. Some models have landfall as far west as the Emerald Coast, and others as far east as Fort Meyers.
Why is there uncertainty? Models are trying to get a better handle on how strong the incoming front and dip in jet stream is, that can steer Ian further east vs. west before landfall.
Getting The Most Accurate Forecast
To help create the most accurate forecast for Ian, nearly 50 National Weather Service Offices in the eastern 2/3 of the country will be releasing two extra weather balloons each day starting Saturday. This includes our local office in Peachtree City. Weather balloons are filled with hydrogen and can travel 90 to 100 thousand feet into the atmosphere and take important measurements including temperatures, humidity, pressure and wind speed. That information is added into weather models and can help improve accuracy.
Hurricane Hunters will have several missions into Ian in the coming days. That data will be collected and put into modeling systems, and also used for another aspect of real-time data for meteorologists with the National Hurricane Center.