Note: As late as Saturday morning, Sept. 24, Tropical Depression 9 was referred to as the developing Tropical Storm and Hurricane Hermine by many media, until the National Hurricane Center decided to assign the name of Hermine to Tropical Depression 10, in the eastern Atlantic, and Ian to what would have been Hermine. It did so ostensibly to avoid confusion between Hurricane Hermine in 2016 and Hurricane Hermine in 2022. The article below reflects the original chronology. See the more updated story here.
The National Hurricane Center is forecasting that Tropical Depression Nine, currently in the southeastern Caribbean Sea, will become a tropical storm by Saturday and a Category 2 hurricane by the time it reaches the east of Cuba next Tuesday. A consensus forecast based on significantly diverging models then has the hurricane’s’s path potentially striking the Florida Peninsula in the middle of next week.
But the more immediate local concern, says Jonathan Lord, Flagler County’s emergency management director, are the combination of the lingering effects of Hurricane Fiona, the king tide developing next week, and the significant rain expected ahead of Hurricane Hermine. The combination, Lord says, will almost certainly result in flooding along the Intracoastal and low-lying areas of the county, possibly into some properties.
That’s what Lord wants Flagler Beach and other residents of low-lying areas, such as those along Palm Coast’s canals, to focus on and to prepare for. “That to me is the most pressing thing for residents to be aware of that possibility,” Lord said. That includes acquiring sandbags from hardware stores. “A lot of residents that experienced that already have sandbags.”
The county is not providing sandbags at this point. “As we approach hurricane mode we may look at that but at the end of the day people who need to protect their own property need to take the action they need to take to protect their property,” Lord said. The county and other local governments will “fill gaps” only if conditions deteriorate significantly. Meanwhile, the county’s Emergency Operations Center has not been activated beyond its 24/7 on-call status. “Jonathan Lord has been activated,” Lord said.
The highest tide period won’t be until September 27 to 29, or Tuesday through Thursday, but tides will get increasingly higher from now until then. If the highest-period tide coincides with Hermine’s proximity, flooding from storm surges becomes even more of a concern.
The county experienced a king tide last spring, with some street flooding. But it did not take place on top of other weather developments. This time, the additional factors will exacerbate the effects, Lord said. One of the problem ahead is the capacity of the Intracoastal to drain rapidly enough. Flagler has no inlets. So tide water gets backed up, and floods inland. That’s what happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017, when 400 homes in Flagler Beach were flooded. (See: “In Flood-Pummeled Flagler Beach, Mountains of Heartbreak, But Surges of Grit And Samaritans,” and “For Flagler Beach’s 400 Homes Flooded By Irma, Millions in New Repair and Rebuild Grants Bus In.”)
One other concern: with every passing year, the ocean’s level is fractionally higher as it moves toward an elevation of a foot higher than it is today by the middle of the century, because of global warming and polar ice melt.
The National Weather Service in Jacksonville is cautioning of “dangerous beach conditions” into the weekend, with a high risk of rip currents and high surf, especially today and Saturday. Those are the local remnants of Hurricane Fiona. Elevated high tides will continue within the St. Johns River Basin, with minor tidal flooding possible along the coast over the weekend. That’s not encouraging news for Flagler Beach, where unusually high tides in late summer sheared off colossal portions of the sand dunes just north of the pier. Some of the sand has since returned, especially under the pier, but not as much elsewhere.
“With these higher tides and waves, the odds of the dune system having a rough week to say the least is very very high, starting as early as this weekend because of Hurricane Fiona,” Lord said. “But the dunes are there for a purpose, they’re there to protect the property and the people behind them.” They’re also there to be sacrificed to that end. The problem is that in some places along Flagler’s 18-mile coast, the dunes have already been eroded to alarmingly low levels.
As for what is referred to as Tropical Depression 9 for now (the gestating Hurricane Hermine), it is likely within the next 24 hours to become a named tropical storm, Lord said, head towards Jamaica, swing north and head for the Florida Peninsula. Lord said it could go either way: up against the west coast or the east coast, and could also potentially head further west into the Gulf, as some models have it doing. The European forecast model, which has often been the most accurate, has it heading into Florida from the west. The American model has it going further into the Gulf. The National Hurricane Center this morning opted to split the difference, which still has the hurricane striking Florida by mid-week.
“It definitely means Flagler County is at risk of seeing tropical storm impacts or potentially even hurricane storm impacts in the middle of next week. This is a very early educated guess on my behalf because we are still more than five days out,” Lord said.
The forecast for this weekend is for pleasant weather. That’s ideal, Lord said, for residents to prepare–update their disaster kits, stock up on supplies while the stores are not overrun, accumulate enough supplies and food to “live off the grid for seven days,” Lord said, if necessary. Residents can also practice putting up their storm protective covers on windows and panes.
In 2016, another hurricane named Hermine struck Florida, and was the first hurricane to do so in 11 years. The last hurricane to make landfall
It is the most active part of the 2022 hurricane season to date, with two hurricanes–Fiona and Gaston–continuing their swerves north and east in the Atlantic, far from the American mainland, and three weather systems drawing the attention of forecasters.