Lows in 40s forecast by end of week; Irma goes under the microscope

Severe storm potential

(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Consider it an Alice-In-Wonderland forecast: Today is the last full day of winter and it will feel like spring. The first full day of spring is Wednesday and it will feel like winter.

March continues to stutter-step its way across the calendar, with winter-style cold fronts bringing a January chill, alternating with temperature rebounds that remind everyone that the warm weather season is just around the corner — no matter what.

Melbourne tied a record low Friday with 39, matching the mark set just a year ago. It was 33 in Vero Beach, breaking the old record of 35 set in 1988. Fort Pierce’s low of 34 on Friday tied a record set in 1988.

But by Sunday, Melbourne’s high temperature had jumped to 88 degrees.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center puts North Florida at an Enhanced risk for severe storms on Tuesday, with a Slight risk in Central Florida and a Marginal risk for areas north of Lake Okeechobee. The SPC is calling for a risk of thunderstorms in South Florida.

Post-cold front, the coolest mornings in South Florida will be Thursday and Friday, according to the National Weather Service, with temperatures bottoming out in the 40s and 50s before bouncing back to closer to normal for the weekend.

Forecast lows are in the upper 40s Friday in Tampa and Orlando; 40 in Gainesville and 42 in Jacksonville.



Hurricane Irma approaches the northern coast of Cuba on September 8. (Credit: NOAA-NASA GOES-16 satellite via Wikimedia Commons)

IRMA UNVEILED: The Hurricane Irma Tropical Cyclone Report, released recently by the National Hurricane Center, shows just how lucky Florida was, even though the Lower Keys were hit hard and Marco Island suffered a big wallop as well.

The storm clipped Cuba’s northern coast on September 9 and plowed through barrier islands at Category 5 strength, the first time Cuba has been slammed with a Category 5 hurricane since 1932.

Just a day or two earlier, the NHC was predicting that Irma would miss the Cuban coast and make its northward turn near Florida’s East Coast, perhaps ramming up through Key Largo and then up the peninsula, just west of the coast. Had that happened, it would have been “a transformative event” for South Florida, as Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters told me in an interview last fall.

Instead, the NHC report notes: “Irma tracked along the Cuban Keys throughout that day, and its interaction with land caused it to weaken significantly, first to a Category 4 storm a few hours after landfall in the Cuban Keys and then down to a Category 2.”

When it made its turn to the northwest, toward the Florida Keys, it did restrengthen and clobbered Cudjoe Key with 132 mph sustained winds as a Category 4 hurricane.

The NHC picks it up: “The convective pattern of the hurricane then became more ragged, likely due to increasing southwesterly vertical wind shear, and in response, Irma weakened to a Category 3 hurricane [on September 10]. Irma made its final landfall near Marco Island … with estimated maximum winds of 100 kt and minimum pressure of 936 mb. Once inland over southwestern Florida, Irma weakened quickly, due to the influences of land and strong wind shear ….”

The key event for Florida was that on September 8, after hammering Little Inagua Island in the Bahamas Irma “turned slightly to the left, due to a building subtropical ridge ….”

That’s what drove it into Cuba and spared the Florida peninsula from the worst of it.


Severe storms possible across Florida on Tuesday, forecasters say

NFL storms

Tuesday’s severe weather threat coincides with the arrival of spring. (Credit: NWS-Jacksonville, above; NOAA/ SPC below)


After a pleasant St. Patrick’s Day weekend, the arrival of astronomical spring is going to be accompanied by some potentially severe weather across Florida, followed by another shot of unseasonably cool air.

Crisp afternoon temperatures should round out the week, along with chilly overnight lows reminiscent of January — a continuation of winter’s unlikely hold on the Florida peninsula after a record warm February.

The Climate Prediction Center keeps promising a longer-term return to seasonable temperatures, but nature seems to have other ideas and keeps pulling wintry cold front out of her hat.

This week’s cold front could unleash some severe weather in North Florida on Tuesday, the National Weather Service says. The main area of concern is from Jacksonville south to around Daytona Beach and west to the Nature Coast.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has put the area into the Enhanced Risk category, which is the highest risk the SPC has, and the forecast is calling for severe thunderstorms, damaging wind and hail, and possible tornadoes

There’s a Slight chance of severe weather in the Orlando-Tampa area on Tuesday with Marginal chances north of Lake Okeechobee and thunderstorms in the forecasts for South Florida.

As noted, the CPC is calling for normal temperatures after this cold air once again moves out of the way at the end of the week. And the 3-4 week forecast is for above normal temperatures across the southern U.S. as we move into early April.

Caught on camera: The icing on winter’s cake

St. P Day Key West

SATURDAY UPDATE: PERFECT WEATHER FOR ST. PATRICK’S DAY: What luck! Highs should be near 80 up and down the Florida peninsula with clear skies and no rain in the forecast. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)


Nature Coast frost

JACK FROST NIPPING AT YOUR LAWN: Patch frost showed up around 5 a.m. Friday in areas north and east of Tampa, the National Weather Service reported. NWS Facebook followers also reported frost on their roofs. The swath of potential frost stretched all the way from Cross City down to Lakeland, in areas not directly on the Gulf shore. Parts of North Florida, including Gainesville and Lake City, were under a Freeze Watch for early Friday morning. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Spring officially arrives on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m., but nature doesn’t pay much attention to the calendar. And Florida’s cold weather season is apparently preparing to take at least one more parting shot next week.

That’s according to the National Weather Service and AccuWeather, which forecasts another shot of unseasonably cold air, driving lows back down into the upper 40s as far south as West Palm Beach next Friday morning. Highs will once again struggle to hit 70 around the peninsula, forecasters say, although the cold snap looks to be fairly short-lived.

Highs next weekend bounce back quickly into the 80s, if these forecasts pan out.

Friday morning was another chilly one across the state, with lows in the mid-50s along the southeast coast, the upper 40s on the southwest coast, upper 30s to around 40 in interior parts of the central peninsula, and upper 30s in North Florida.

There were a few readings at or just below freezing in the Big Bend area.

(To give you an idea of the punch of this cold air mass, it was 57 early this morning in Havana, Cuba, and there were 50-degree readings in the Bahamas as well.)

All of these temperatures were 10-15 degrees below normal for this time of the year.

Of course, the afternoons have been ultra-pleasant up and down the peninsula. I was at a spring training game Thursday afternoon in Kissimmee and I could not imagine more ideal baseball weather, with a cool breeze taking the edge of an already-blazing spring sun.


Moderate Drought conditions move into South Florida

(Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

Florida’s dry winter weather is finally taking a toll.

Moderate Drought (D1) has taken hold in parts of Miami-Dade, Mainland Monroe, Collier, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday.

Abnormally Dry conditions spread west in Central Florida, from Brevard County to the Tampa area.

Moderate Drought spread in the panhandle, and Abnormally Dry conditions took over North Florida, from Jacksonville west to the Big Bend area.

In South Florida, it was the first appearance of drought conditions since last spring.


ECFL lows
Temperatures dropped into the 30s in some Central Florida areas on Thursday morning. (Credit: NWS-Melbourne)

COLD SNAP ROUNDUP: Some of the coldest temps since January popped up in South Florida Thursday morning to round out a March cold snap that provided some surprisingly cool mornings but delightfully crisp afternoons.

It was 45 in West Palm Beach, 5 degrees off the record low of 40 set in 1970, but 17 degrees off the normal low of 62. It was the coldest temperature in West Palm Beach since January 5.

It was 51 in Miami, the coldest since January 19; and 46 in Fort Lauderdale, the coldest since January 18. Naples’ 42 was also the coldest since January 18. In the interior, Palmdale was 34, Immokalee was 37 and Belle Glade was 42.

Other temps across the state: Tampa, 47; Brooksville, 30; Orlando, 44; Gainesville, 29; Vero Beach, 39; Daytona Beach, 40; and Tallahassee, 33.

The Big Weather Change Thursday for the Florida peninsula will be a wind switch from northwest to northeast, bringing in warmer and a little moister air off the Atlantic. On Florida’s East Coast, that should happen around 1 p.m., according to AccuWeather.

By Saturday, temperatures will zoom back into the 80s by the weekend.

Beach weather returns for the weekend; the true meaning of pi

WFL forecast

(Credit: NWS-TampaBay)

SFL forecast
Click to enlarge. (Credit: NWS-Miami)

COLD WEATHER TAKES A POWDER: The first half of March left most of Florida with much-below normal temperatures, ranging from around a degree below average in the Keys to almost 3 degrees in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The month has been more than 4 degrees colder than normal in Vero Beach and almost 5 in Fort Pierce.

West Coast cities from Tampa to Fort Myers have been a little more than a degree below their March averages.

The switch is set to be flipped on Friday, as a serious warm-up begins with no new blasts of cold air on the radar.

Friday’s highs should shoot back up to the mid-70s around the state, followed by a return to 80-degree weather late in the weekend, and into early next week, for south and central areas, according to National Weather Service forecasts.

The Climate Prediction Center is calling for above-average temperatures over most of the peninsula through at least March 27.

NOAA’s April forecast comes out Thursday, along with the agency’s updated 90-day outlook for April through June.


THREE POINT ONE FOUR BLAH BLAH BLAH YADA YADA YADA: You gotta love a day that celebrates mathematics. And since it only comes around once a year, it’s worth noting that Wednesday is Pi Day — 3.14, the first three digits of the irrational number that represents the circumference of a circle divided by its diameter.

The digits go on infinitely without repeat or pattern. Why is this so compelling?

Steven Strogatz, professor of mathematics at Cornell University, puts it elegantly in a 2015 New Yorker piece:

“The beauty of pi, in part, is that it puts infinity within reach. Even young children get this. The digits of pi never end and never show a pattern. They go on forever, seemingly at random—except that they can’t possibly be random, because they embody the order inherent in a perfect circle. This tension between order and randomness is one of the most tantalizing aspects of pi.”

Record rainfall soaks Key West; ‘Storm of Century’ walloped Florida with 110 mph winds

Storm of the century

HISTORIC LASHING: Tuesday is the 25th anniversary of the “Storm of the Century,” a power-packed low pressure system that slammed Florida with 11 tornadoes and winds of up to 110 mph. It caused a storm surge of up to 12 feet in Taylor County north of Tampa in the Big Bend area, drowning 13 people. More than $2 billion in damage was caused by the storm, which unleashed blizzard conditions as far south as Georgia. An intense squall line trailing the low tore across the Florida peninsula during the pre-dawn hours. In southeastern Florida, wind gusts were clocked at 83 mph at Virginia Key and 74 mph in West Palm Beach. The strongest winds whacked Franklin County (Apalachicola) in the panhandle — 110 mph — and the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico, west of the Keys — 109 mph.  Many trees were uprooted and there was extensive damage to mobile homes. Three deaths in South Florida were attributed to the storm. Note that the “superstorm” occurred just seven months after the devastating South Florida hit by Hurricane Andrew. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)


Monday’s cold front barreled down the state with plenty of wind, but not much rain. One exception was in Key West, where a record 1.5 inches fell, breaking the previous single-day rainfall record of 1.15 inches set in 2014. Marathon checked in with 0.93 of an inch.

Key West rainfall record
(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Although Miami, West Palm Beach and Naples reported only sprinkles, Fort Lauderdale was hit with 1.13 inches (Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport).

Parts of Pasco County, northeast of Tampa, reported around a quarter of an inch.

HOW LOW DID IT GO? The temperature in West Palm Beach bottomed out at 48 (the normal low is 62) on Tuesday morning. Immokalee, in central Collier County, hit a chilly 41. It was 50 in Fort Lauderdale, (normal low is 66); and 52 in Miami (normal low is 65). It was 50 in Naples.

The coldest reported temperature in South Florida was in Palmdale in Glades County, where it was 38.

It was in the mid-40s in Central Florida and the mid- to upper 30s in North Florida.

The warm-up begins statewide on Friday. “Expect a generally dry and relatively warm weather pattern for the long-term,” National Weather Service forecasters said in their Tuesday morning discussion from Miami.

Florida flip-flop: Peninsula faces 30-40 degree temperature plunge

Tuesday AM temps

The cold front blew through South Florida Monday afternoon with very little precipitation, but plenty of wind. Gusts of up to 43 mph were reported at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, and up to 36 mph at Orlando International Airport. Calmer winds were forecast for Tuesday. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

The seasons they are a’ changin’ — from a summertime feel on Sunday to January weather Tuesday through Thursday.

The high was 87 in Miami and Fort Lauderdale Sunday; 86 in West Palm Beach, and it was in the 80s all the way into North Florida.

Now get ready for a 30-40 degree temperature drop as a cold front roars down the peninsula on Monday, followed by another reinforcing shot of cold air on Wednesday. After Sunday’s high of 84 in Orlando, Tuesday morning’s forecast low is 45 — a 39 degree plunge in 36 hours.

After the fresh shot of cold air Wednesday, wake-up weather in Orlando looks to be around 42.

That’s not just sweater weather, that’s time to start thinking about doing some layers.

But it’s mid-March, and the sun should warm things up during the day Tuesday through Thursday, with highs in the upper 60s in most places around the peninsula. Another saving grace is that there should be little or no wind, according to National Weather Service forecasts.

That can maximize cooling effects at night, but make for some pleasant winter-type conditions in the afternoons.

In terms of the more radical wintry cold fronts, this may be pretty much all she wrote.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for above normal temperatures throughout Florida from next Saturday through at least March 25. The ultra-long four-week outlook issued by the CPC on Friday is for above normal temperatures to hold through at least the first week of April.

As we move into mid-April, the chances of 30-degree or even 40-degree temperatures in Florida melt away faster than an ice-cube on black top on the Fourth of July.


ANOTHER WALLOP: Winter is far from finished with the Northeast, which was bracing for up to 2 feet of snow Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. In Boston, the heaviest snow should fall Tuesday, with up to 16 inches forecast. Portland, Maine could get up to 20 inches.