It is surprising to me that the National Hurricane Center has not yet declared the storm a hurricane. While it does not yet possess an eye structure, hurricane hunter planes are finding winds that are nearly hurricane force. Additionally, the storm's central pressure continues to fall and the forward speed is slowing down. All are signs of strengthening; this is similar to an ice skater who brings their arms in and speeds up.
The track from earlier this afternoon show the storm targeting the northern Gulf coast from Destin, Florida to Morgan City, Louisiana. A possible landfall could occur near Houma after midnight tomorrow night:
In this pattern, New Orleans, Gulfport, Biloxi and to a lesser extent Mobile could see a significant impact in the way of storm surge and flooding. The tropical wind field of the storm is rather large, extending 200 miles from the center and the area of hurricane force winds may be concentrated to just where the storm makes a landfall. Because of where the storm is, Gulf water will pile up funneling into Lake Pontchartrain, stressing the levee system protecting New Orleans. Here's what the expected storm surge looks like:
Your eye is probably drawn to the large purple area representing a storm surge up from 9 to 15 feet impacting the tip of southeastern Louisiana.
Many have asked me what are the chances that the storm will skirt the coast and drift toward Lafayette and possible Lake Charles. Right now, that isn't very likely, but it also isn't out of the question. As always, we should stay alert to any chances in the storm track. The next update on the position and track occurs at 10 pm.