Heavy rains target Florida’s East Coast

Excessive rainfall

Much of Florida is at risk for Excessive Rainfall over the weekend. (Credit: NOAA/ WPC)

The first weekend of fall is expected to be a wet one for Florida’s East Coast.

The area was at risk for Excessive Rainfall on Saturday with another stormy day due Sunday, according to NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center and the National Weather Service.

Hurricane Maria is churning north-northwest east of the peninsula and the Bahamas, but the trigger for the wet weekend is an upper level low in the Gulf of Mexico and what NWS forecasters called a “robust area of deep moisture” across Florida.

The entire East Coast from Miami to Jacksonville was under at least “Marginal Risk” for excessive rainfall — defined as rainfall exceeding flash flood guidance — and a slice of the Treasure Coast and Space Coast is under “Slight Risk,” one level up from Marginal.

WPC graphical forecasts showed up to an inch-and-a-half of rain falling along Florida’s East Coast over the weekend, and as with any Florida rainfall event local amounts could be higher.

“With drainage difficulties from sewers with debris still around from Irma, this could lead to some urban type street flooding, especially along the east coast metro areas,” NWS forecasters in Miami warned.

Hefty rainfall totals were posted Friday as well. Miami reported 2.17 inches on top of the 2.29 inches measured on Thursday. Fort Lauderdale had 0.61 of an inch and West Palm Beach, 0.45 of an inch.

The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network said 3.64 inches fell in East-Central Martin County through 7 a.m. Saturday.

Rain chances diminish next week as the west side of Hurricane Maria pumps drier air into the Florida peninsula, forecasters said.

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TROPICAL FORECAST MODEL SNAPSHOT: Saturday’s run of the GFS showed two Atlantic systems, one near the Greater Antilles and another near the coast of Belize in the Caribbean toward the end of the first week of the new month. The European had nothing new on its map over the next 10 days.

As usual, the Canadian (CMC) was a bit more aggressive and had a storm developing near the northeast coast of Hispaniola next weekend and moving into the Bahamas and South Florida on Tuesday, October 3 as a tropical storm. Saturday’s CMC run also featured another low latitude storm in the eastern Atlantic tracking west toward the Lesser Antilles.

The Navy model (NAVGEM) also suggested something brewing in the Caribbean next weekend.

With all of the unusually warm water in the tropical Atlantic, and with wind shear likely to remain low/ favorable due to an approaching La Niña in the Pacific, it seems likely that people in the coastal U.S., Central America and the Caribbean will be watching the National Hurricane Center website carefully through October and early November.

“Unfortunately, current W. Hemisphere SSTs match up well with what is typically observed when end of Atlantic hurricane season is active,” Colorado State University’s Philip Klotzbach said in a Tweet Thursday.

Caribbean SAT

Maria had turned to the north-northwest on Saturday. (Credit: NOAA)

HURRICANE MARIA UPDATE: The official NHC forecast had the storm remaining off the U.S. East Coast before turning northeast by mid-week. However, several forecast models suggest a brush with North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Maria is forecast to begin losing strength late Sunday or Monday, dropping from a major 125-mph storm Saturday to an 85-mph Category 1 hurricane by Wednesday.

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South Florida may see wet weekend as Maria slides by to the east

Caribbean SAT

Hurricane Maria should begin its turn toward the north over the weekend, east of the Bahamas and the Florida peninsula. (Credit: NOAA)

Showers and thunderstorms are expected to “pin wheel” into the Florida peninsula Friday, driven by the outer fringes of Hurricane Maria, the National Weather Service said. Winds will pick up Saturday as the storm moves north around 500 miles east of Palm Beach.

A half-inch of rain is possible in some areas, forecasters said, and wind gusts could kick up to around 20 mph.

But the breezy conditions are due to the pressure gradient between Maria and points west. “No direct impacts to South Florida are expected,” forecasters said Friday morning.

Despite the chaotic visit from Hurricane Irma earlier this month, West Palm Beach could use the rain. Ironically, the city is looking at a September rainfall deficit of almost 2 inches, while all other areas around the Florida peninsula have hefty rainfall surpluses due to the hurricane.

Maria is forecast to slide east of the coast on a due-north and then north-northeast track, and that’s expected to pull drier air into the peninsula next week.

Forecast highs and lows look close to normal as September winds down, but any mention of rain chances disappears from the forecast by mid-week.

TROPICS WATCH: The GFS was still showing two potential systems toward the end of its Friday morning run, one of them clipping the Lesser Antilles as it moves west-northwest and another heading from the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico.

That forecast was for the end of the first week of October, which is so far out that should be taken with a shrug.

The European (ECMWF) had nothing on the forecast map through October 2, and the Canadian (CMC) had another storm coming off the coast of Africa.

Meanwhile, Jose became post-tropical off New England Friday, and the system was forecast by the National Hurricane Center to become a remnant low on Sunday or Monday.

The National Weather Service in Miami has issued its preliminary report on Hurricane Irma.

Fall (Florida style) arrives Friday; Maria threatens South and Central Bahamas

Have you noticed a change in the air? A breeze with the promise of a refreshing taste of coolness? A briskness in the early morning wind?

Nope, I haven’t noticed those things either on Florida’s southeast coast. But I thought I’d check, since Friday is the first day of fall. Autumn arrives officially at 4:02 p.m. EDT.

Northern states will soon be ablaze in color but not so in most of the Florida peninsula. It took Hurricane Irma to change the color of the leaves — from a lush green to a dingy brown, thanks to broken limbs and drying winds.

Outside of that, in Florida nature shrugs at the calendar when it turns over to September. The official arrival of autumn is an astronomical footnote, not a time to haul the sweaters and light jackets out of the back of the closet.

Fall temps
The forecast through December is for above normal temperatures almost everywhere in the U.S. (Credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Are there any signs of a cool-down this year? Well, no.

The temperature in Tampa Wednesday was 94, which tied a record high set in 1991. Miami’s high on Tuesday of 94 also tied a record set in 1995.

Miami, in fact, only failed to hit 90 on three days this month — two of them related to Hurricane Irma. Overall temperatures are running 2.3 degrees above average for September. West Palm Beach is running 1.9 degrees above average, and the Treasure Coast is running about a half-degree above normal.

The West Coast is running between a half-degree to a degree above normal.

South Florida and Central Florida usually get their first significant cold front in mid-to-late October, although the normal high in Miami doesn’t drop below 70 until November 7.

The all-time coolest October temperature in Miami is 45 degrees set on October 29, 1938.

The normal low drops below 70 for the first time in West Palm Beach on October 27; November 17 in Fort Lauderdale and October 19 in Naples.

Record cold October temperatures in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples are 44, 46 and 46, respectively.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above normal temperatures throughout the entire U.S. in October, November and December, except for a very small slice of the northern Rockies. Even Alaska is expected to be warmer than normal.

There’s a good chance we’ll be going into another La Niña winter, according to the CPC. That generally means a warm and dry season for the Florida peninsula.

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TROPICS WATCH: Hurricane Maria was still moving northwest at 9 mph Thursday off the northeast coast of Hispaniola, but a gradual turn toward the north was forecast for Friday, pulling the storm east of the Bahamas. Nevertheless, Hurricane Warnings were posted for the Turks and Caicos and Southeastern Bahamas, and a Tropical Storm Watch was posted for the Central Bahamas.

Thursday’s run of the GFS was depicting two weaker systems, one clipping the northeastern Lesser Antilles and another trying to spin up in the western Caribbean the first week of October.

The European (ECMWF) cleared the map after Maria, while the Canadian (CMC) showed a weak area of low pressure trying to form off Honduras on October 1.

Maria socks Puerto Rico; October tropical weather outlook

Maria track forecast

(Credit: NWS-San Juan)

Winds will gust into the mid-20s-mph range in coastal South Florida this weekend as Hurricane Maria makes its closest approach to the peninsula. That should be around 500 miles due east of Palm Beach at the same time Maria is forecast to drop below major hurricane status.

On Wednesday, as Maria battered Puerto Rico, tropical storm-force winds extended about 150 miles from the center.

Maria made landfall early Wednesday near Yabucoa with winds of 155 mph, dropping just below Category 5 status.

San Juan reported a wind gust of 113 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Here’s a Wednesday morning video of Maria in San Juan.

Livecam on YouTube.

With Maria’s exit to the north early next week, forecast models suggest that things may finally quiet down in the eastern Atlantic. Ex-Tropical Storm Lee may regenerate in the Central Atlantic, but the NHC forecasts a due-north track that should not affect land.

In the coming weeks, it’s a good bet that more attention will be focused on the western Caribbean. That’s where many if not most of the October storms originate as the season progresses.

On que, Wednesday’s run of the GFS had a system brewing in the Caribbean off the coast of Central America on October 1 (a week from Sunday), spinning up into a strong tropical storm or hurricane in the Caribbean and then slicing across Cuba toward the Bahamas.

The Canadian (CMC) showed another system developing off the coast of Africa, but losing punch as it treks across the Atlantic.

The next name on the Atlantic storm list is Nate.

peakofseason_sm
(Credit: NHC)

Based on climatology, two named storms have formed in October on average from 1966-2009, one of them a hurricane.

Last year, October saw hurricanes Matthew, Nicole and Otto. October had only one storm in 2015 — Hurricane Joaquin. Hurricane Kate developed on November 8.

Although the statistical peak of the hurricane season is September 10, there is historically a small uptick in activity around October 20.

Jacksonville flooding

Flooding along the St. Johns River Basin in northeastern Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma.  Tidal flooding has been a concern near Mayport, east of Jacksonville. (Credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

 

Maria deals devastating blow to Caribbean

Caribbean satellite

Hurricane Maria recovered Category 5 strength after striking Dominica and other islands on Monday night. (Credit: NOAA)

The five-day forecast from the National Hurricane Center continued to show Category 5 Hurricane Maria missing Florida and most of the Bahamas to the east — and it may bypass the U.S. entirely.

The East Coast’s ace in the hole has been Hurricane Jose to Maria’s north, which is busting up the ridge of high pressure over the Atlantic that often steers storms toward the west.

On Sunday, Hurricane Maria was forecast to be about 500 miles due east of Palm Beach. Tropical storm-force winds extend 125 miles from the center, according to the NHC, which would put the Florida peninsula beyond Maria’s reach.

However, average NHC five-day forecast track errors are about 225 miles.

But Maria, with sustained winds of 160 mph, dealt a crushing blow to the Caribbean island of Dominica late Monday and early Tuesday morning. And it was headed for mass destruction in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

“My roof is gone. I am at the complete mercy of the hurricane,” Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said on Facebook just before midnight on Tuesday. “House is flooding.”

He posted moments later: “I have been rescued.”

“So, far the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with,” he said in a statement posted several hours later on the website of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. “The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.

“Come tomorrow morning we will hit the road, as soon as the all clear is given, in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble.

“I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating … indeed, mind-boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured.”

Here’s a YouTube video of the hurricane strike on the island. “The world needs to know about the devastation,” Skerrit said.

An observer on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands posted on the Caribbean Hurricane Network:  “We have had major damage to the house. All the doors on three levels have blown off. Everything is wet or destroyed. Never seen such winds, We are all fine but the cleanup will be awful. Will post photos when we get a chance. St John is in bad shape. Generator is still going (thank God) We move on.”

The core of Maria is small enough — hurricane-force winds extended 30 miles from the center — so that the mountainous terrain of Dominica slightly disrupted the storm and knocked it back to a Category 4 hurricane. But it had regained Category 5 strength by 8 a.m. EDT.

For Dominica, population 72,000, it was the first Category 5 hit on record, according to Weather Underground.

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FLORIDA RAINFALL REPORT: Parts of coastal Brevard County were socked with more than 3 inches of rain on Monday, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network. The National Weather Service posted an official total of 1.84 inches in Melbourne .

Maria set to slam Caribbean, but forecast tracks edge away from U.S.

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Forecast tracks for Hurricane Maria have been trending away from the U.S. It was declared a Major Hurricane at 11 a.m. with winds of 120 mph. (Credit: NHC)

Hurricane Maria was heading for the Lesser Antilles Monday and it looked like Dominica was in for a direct hit. Winds were at 90 mph but forecasters predicted strengthening, and the storm is expected to be a major hurricane with 140 mph winds by Wednesday, when it will likely slam Puerto Rico.

Here’s the radar loop from Martinique.

Here are observer reports from Dominica, which is expected to take a direct hit Monday night.

It was looking better Monday for Florida and the U.S. East Coast, with the National Hurricane Center five-day forecast trending east of the Bahamas. The two major forecast models, the GFS and the European (ECMWF), with the Canadian (CMC) the remaining outlier.

Even the CMC — which is not considered among the most reliable models — has Maria sliding north just east of Grand Bahama Island on Sunday.

The National Weather Service in Miami said Monday: “It is still too early to tell what, if any, impacts Maria may or may not bring to South Florida.”

The NWS in Miami continues to predict an uptick in rain chances for the weekend, along with breezy conditions.

october
Typical October hurricane tracks. (Credit: NOAA)

The NHC’s Tropical Weather Outlook shows nothing new brewing over the next five days, which would put us into the last week of September. That would set the table for the October portion of the hurricane season, in which attention usually shifts from the eastern Atlantic to the western Caribbean.

More searing heat as storm-weary Florida watches Maria

Heat index forecast

For people still without power, the heat index becomes the misery index. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Friday is the first day of fall with the equinox occurring at 4:02 p.m. EDT. But there will be no frost on the pumpkins in Florida, where highs have been in the low- to mid-90s, and the heat index in Miami topped out at 101 degrees on Saturday.

Actual highs were 95 in Clearwater and 94 in Tampa.

Still, a weather pattern “more typical of the dry season” has taken hold in much of the peninsula, with north- to northeasterly winds pumping in dry air on the west side of Hurricane Jose, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

The dry pattern is forecast to stay in place until at least next weekend, when possible effects from Tropical Storm Maria could begin to move in.

Rain chances jump to 40 percent on Saturday with breezy conditions in the forecast.

“It is too early to tell what if any impacts Maria may bring to South Florida,” NWS forecasters said in their Sunday analysis. “There remains considerable uncertainty with what will eventually happen with Maria. Continue to monitor the National Hurricane Center for the latest regarding Tropical Storm Maria.

“With Irma fresh in our minds, it is a good idea to continue remaining vigilant and prepared, and to review hurricane plans as we continue to remain in the middle of hurricane season.”

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Maria became the seventh hurricane of the 2017 season Sunday night.  Hurricane Warnings were posted for the Lesser Antilles, and Maria was forecast to hit Puerto Rico as a major hurricane on Wednesday. (Credit: NHC)

The official National Hurricane Center forecast has Maria hitting Puerto Rico as a major hurricane on Wednesday before moving north of the Dominican Republic late Thursday or early on Friday. After that, Maria may spin into the Bahamas, but then things get dicey.

SUNDAY MODEL SNAPSHOTS: GFS — Maria strikes Puerto Rico on Wednesday, brushes the Dominican Republic on Thursday and Friday, then after having slammed the Turks and Caicos gets drawn north by Jose. The European Model (ECMWF) shows a similar scenario but has a Carolina landfall early next week.

The CMC has Maria’s track a little farther south, brushing the south side of Puerto Rico on Thursday, then rolling over Hispaniola and Cuba on Saturday and hitting Miami on Sunday. After that the CMC has it moving up Florida’s East Coast, most likely as a strong tropical storm.

The Navy Model (NAVGEM) is slower and has Maria off the northwest coast of Haiti on Saturday.

The HWRF ends its run with Maria north of the Mona Passage between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola on Friday as a hurricane, and the HMON has it due north of Hispaniola on Friday as a hurricane.

Eight of 50 ECMWF members (16 percent) depict a Florida hit or brush; three of 20 members of the Canadian Ensemble group (15 percent) impact Florida; but none of the GFS Ensemble members show a Florida hit.

Remember that new model runs come out every six to 12 hours, and often change run-to-run.

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IRMA RECOVERY: My neighborhood nursery had some interesting points to make about getting your landscaping back in shape following a storm. You tend to think of a hurricane or tropical storm as a rain event, leaving plants well-watered.

In fact, according to this report from SmartyPlants in Lake Worth, Florida, hurricane winds actually pull moisture out of plants and leave them dry. Whatever leaves are left after the storm may drop off.

“This is normal, but water diligently for the next couple of weeks to rehydrate trees and help them to keep as many leaves as possible,” the gardening center suggests.

Some trees that have been uprooted can be replanted and staked, they note.