Over the past 24 to 36 hours, the projected tracked for the storm has shifted westward so that it rides up the coastline or even somewhat inland.
The National Hurricane Center tracks the storm over the Big Bend of Florida (the region connecting the peninsula and panhandle) on Thursday. Then it forecasts the storm to head northeastward through the Southeast Friday and into the Mid-Atlantic Saturday before reaching a position off the Delmarva coast on Sunday.
The exact path it eventually takes has major implications for weekend conditions in coastal areas and as far west as Interstate 81 (Roanoke to Hagerstown).
We see three possible scenarios, in decreasing order of likelihood, keeping in mind this is a low confidence forecast that could change significantly:
Scenario 1 (60 percent chance): The storm tracks directly up the Mid-Atlantic coast or even inland, with heavy wind and rain from the beaches to the I-95 corridor, possibly even farther west.
Ugh. This is a nor’easter type scenario in which both coastal and inland areas are lashed with wind and heavy rain. An increasing number of models suggest this is a real possibility.
Wind-driven rain would rake the Outer Banks late Friday into Saturday morning. And a storm surge could produce some coastal flooding and beach erosion.
The Virginia beaches would deal with similar impacts Friday night to midday Saturday, while the Delmarva catches the brunt of the storm during the day Saturday, possibly continuing Saturday night or even into Sunday morning.
In this scenario, coastal flooding could close roads, and travel to/from the beaches, at least for a time, may be difficult or restricted.
Areas as far west as the Interstate-95 corridor (Richmond, Washington, Baltimore) and even to the Interstate-81 corridor could have a period of moderate to heavy rain and some strong winds mostly during the day Saturday. Some models suggest the storm could stall close to the area, keeping rain around into Sunday.
Scenario 2 (25 percent chance): The storm hits the Outer Banks head-on and is a close call for Virginia and Delmarva beaches. Inland areas mostly dry.
In this scenario, the Outer Banks would have a period of wind-swept rain, very rough surf, and coastal flooding, most likely late Friday into early Saturday. If the storm intensifies to hurricane strength — which is unlikely but can’t be ruled out — evacuation orders become a possibility.
The Virginia, Maryland and Delaware beaches might get grazed in this scenario — meaning heavy surf, gusty winds and perhaps showers. But the storm would be more of a nuisance — mainly during the day Saturday — rather than a major disruption.
Areas west of the Delmarva toward the Interstate-95 corridor enjoy a nice weekend with just some partial cloud cover from the storm offshore and just a chance of a showers — the odds increasing closer to the coast.
Scenario 3 (15 percent chance): The storm brushes the Outer Banks and heads out to sea. Inland areas dry.
This is the most benign scenario, which we hope materializes — but most models are moving away from it. It would bring some gusty showers to the Outer Banks — mainly Friday night — but most of the Mid-Atlantic would stay dry.
Even in this optimistic scenario, rough surf and dangerous rip currents would be likely at all of the beaches for a good part of the weekend.
Note that the details of the scenarios are very sketchy and will depend on how quickly the storm organizes, how intense it ultimately becomes, and the specifics of the storm track in any of the scenarios.
We will try to narrow down the scenarios over the next two days and provide more specifics about what to expect, where and when.
Please continue to monitor the forecast for this storm, especially if you plan to go to the Atlantic beaches this weekend.
In a worst-case situation, access to coastal areas may be restricted for some time.