Risk Modeler: Tropical Storm Fay Turned East Sooner than Expected

August 19, 2008

According to catastrophe risk modeling firm AIR Worldwide, Tropical Storm Fay took an eastward turn sooner than expected and made landfall at Cape Romano, Florida, on Aug. 19 at around 5 a.m. EDT.

“Landfall was along a low-lying stretch of Florida’s southwest coast just south of Marco Island,” said Peter Dailey, director of atmospheric science at AIR Worldwide. “Overnight, moderate wind shear persisted, and Fay failed to achieve hurricane status, coming onshore with sustained winds of near 60 mph.”

The year round population of Marco Island is estimated by local officials at around 14,000, but grows to as much as 30,000 during high season.

“Beach front resort hotels and condos, which are required to meet the Florida Building Code, will not have been affected by Fay’s winds,” Dailey said. “Single-family homes, some lining canals on the island, may sustain slight damage such as partial loss of roof covering. While storm surge of 3 feet to 5 feet above normal tides was expected to accompany Fay, the worst of this will be to the south of the landfall location — away from Marco Island and on a sparsely populated stretch of the coast.”

Dailey reports Fay’s wind speeds have not diminished significantly as it traveled over the Everglades — a warm moist surface combined with low friction effects.

Rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches are expected across much of the peninsula, and some areas may receive up to 15 inches, according to Dailey.

“What happens to Fay next remains highly uncertain,” Dailey said. “The NHC’s most likely track has Fay exiting Florida near Orlando and then doubling back to make yet another landfall near Jacksonville, but the dynamical forecast models are in considerable disagreement, with some projecting a second landfall in Georgia and others forecasting a much earlier turn to the west-northwest and a second Florida landfall on the Panhandle. The outcome will depend in part on the strength of a weather system currently steering Fay northward. In either case, it is highly unlikely that Fay will be able to draw sufficient energy from the ocean surface to achieve hurricane status.”

Should Fay find itself again over warm ocean waters, there is a chance that it will reintensify, according to AIR. The risk modeler does not expect significant insured wind losses to onshore properties in the U.S. from Fay.

Source: AIR Worldwide

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