The prospect that a tropical storm and a hurricane — or possibly two hurricanes — could strike Florida on the same day is something meteorologists say they have never seen.
“It’s almost unheard of,” state meteorologist Ben Nelson said.
Disaster officials are keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Bonnie as it spins toward the Florida Panhandle, bringing heavy rains that could cause flooding. The other eye is trained on Hurricane Charley, aimed at the Florida Keys at the opposite end of the state.
Bonnie was expected to come ashore southwest of Tallahassee Thursday morning, with Charley hitting the Keys late Thursday or Friday morning. Charley also could hit the mainland later Friday.
The 'Fujiwara effect'
There is a rare phenomenon called the Fujiwara effect, where two storms can essentially collide and spin around each other, but meteorologists said that’s not likely to happen with Bonnie and Charley.
Florida emergency officials have faced large storms and wildfires in the past, but officials say the storm systems will test their skills, making it difficult to track both.
“We’ve had experience dealing with different disasters running at the same time,” said Craig Fugate, the state’s emergency management director. “It is more work but it is something that this team’s designed to do.”
The last time two tropical storms struck Florida within days of each other was in 2000, when Gordon hit west-central Florida on Sept. 17 after being downgraded as a hurricane. Days later, Helene slammed the Panhandle.
The only time two tropical systems have hit Florida within 12 hours was in 1906, when storms had numbers instead of names.
Storm 9 made landfall on the morning of Oct. 17 near Daytona. Twelve hours later Storm 8 hit the southern tip of Florida over the Everglades, AccuWeather meteorologist Ken Reeves said.
Officials say that this time around, each county is managing its own response, with help from the state. About 8,000 Florida National Guard members also were available to help with the aftermath, spokesman Lt. Col. Ron Tittle said.