Cristobal finally makes forecast turn; CSU ups its seasonal hurricane outlook

TS Cristobal

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

PM UPDATE: As expected, Cristobal regained tropical storm status as it emerged into the Gulf of Mexico. It was still expected to make landfall as a 60 mph storm late Sunday or early Monday on the Louisiana cost. Storm Surge Watches were posted for Coastal Citrus, Coastal Hernando, and Coastal Levy counties. A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Intracoastal City Louisiana to the Alabama/Florida border.

INTERESTING TIDBIT: Dew point temperatures were soaring in South Florida today. It was a tropical 79 degrees in Miami, with a heat index of 100.

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CRISTOBAL WATCH: The storm, reduced to a depression Thursday as it meandered over the Yucatan Peninsula, neared the border with Belize overnight with convection spreading into the Caribbean. But the difficult to find center had finally made its northerly turn by 5 a.m., the National Hurricane Center said.

The system was forecast to emerge into the Gulf of Mexico late tonight and quickly ramp back up into a tropical storm. The forecast is for Cristobal to make landfall during the wee hours of Monday morning in Louisiana.

From the NHC this morning: “There is a risk of tropical storm force winds this weekend from Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle and a risk of dangerous storm surge from Louisiana to the Florida Big Bend. These hazards will arrive well in advance of and extend well east of Cristobal’s center. Storm surge and tropical storm watches will likely be issued for a portion of the U.S. Gulf Coast later today.”

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THURSDAY RAINFALL TOTALS: From the National Weather Service — 1.77 inches in Miami; 2.07 inches in Orlando; 2.15 inches in Vero Beach; 0.84 of an inch in Tampa; and 0.65 in Jacksonville.

Key West only checked in with a tenth of an inch Thursday after getting hammered with 2.99 inches on Wednesday, a record for the date. That beat the previous rainfall record of 2.58 inches set in 1968.

Tallahassee reported only a trace of rain Thursday, and in fact the city has yet to receive any measurable rainfall this month. But that should change this weekend with the arrival of Cristobal.

Amounts of up to 2 inches or more were reported to CoCoRaHS in South and Central Florida.

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BUMPED UP: Researchers at Colorado State University increased their Atlantic hurricane season forecast Thursday from 16 to 19 named storms and added one more hurricane for a total of nine. They continued to predict four majors. The new forecast, released Thursday, includes the three storms that have already formed: Arthur, Bertha and Cristobal.

The reasoning has been outlined by CSU and other forecasters: Abnormally warm water temperatures and a trend toward La Nina conditions in the tropical Pacific, which should keep a lid on wind shear in the Atlantic.

“We anticipate an above-normal probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” said CSU’s Philip Klotzbach, Michael Bell, and Jhordanne Jones.

CSU has a generally good track record with their June forecasts, although last June’s forecast was low-balled at 14 named storms. The season ended with 18 storms, six hurricanes and three majors.

Heavy rain wipes out drought in most of Florida; latest on Cristobal

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(Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

DROUGHT UPDATE: Rainfall over the past week on the Florida peninsula worked its magic on drought conditions that had been building in South and Central Florida this spring. All drought conditions, including the Abnormal Dryness that had been in place throughout much of the area — and Moderate to Severe Drought in the Everglades — were wiped out in this morning’s report by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Moderate and even Severe Drought was hanging on in the far western panhandle, but this is the area that is likely to get drenched this weekend by Tropical Storm Cristobal.

[PM UPDATE: Cristobal was downgraded to a tropical depression at 11 a.m. Forecasters said it would regain tropical storm status by Friday night when it is forecast to re-emerge over the Gulf of Mexico.]

When we check in next Thursday, I would not be surprised to see all yellows and tans and browns eliminated from the state completely, which is a nice place to be as we head into the hotter and drier mid-summer period.

And remember that the report is based on conditions through Tuesday, so some of these areas are probably continuing to improve.

Looking at CoCoRaHS, Walton County in the panhandle had substantial rainfall on Wednesday, and that’s right where it was needed. With the panhandle expecting heavy rain from Cristobal, goodbye drought.

Farther south, parts of Manatee County received almost 5 inches of rain Wednesday; more than 4 inches fell in the Fort Myers area; 1-4 inches in Indian River County on the East Coast; almost 6 inches in the Stuart area. Two to five inches fell in Palm Beach; and up to 4 inches was reported in coastal Broward County.

Obviously, the danger here is too much of a good thing, since the ground is now saturated in these areas and flooding is very possible this weekend.

When it comes to precipitation, this is often the story in Florida: feast or famine.

According to the National Weather Service in Miami, this week’s rainfall is the result of copious amounts of moisture being drawn up from the Caribbean, and even the Tropical Pacific Ocean. As Cristobal enters the Central Gulf on Saturday, the lopsided system will bring a lot more moisture to the entire state.

All of South and Central Florida remain under a Flood Watch; South Florida through at least Friday morning and Central Florida through at least Saturday morning. The South Florida Flood Watch could also be extended into Saturday, the National Weather Service said.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center explained Thursday morning: “The global models indicate that Cristobal’s wind field will expand as the cyclone deepens over the south-central Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, the size of the NHC wind radii have again been increased primarily over the eastern semicircle at 36-72 hours. Indeed, the models suggest that when the storm reaches the northern Gulf coast the worst conditions may occur at a large distance from the center.”

This morning, though, Cristobal was barely clinging to tropical storm status as it meandered over the Yucatan Peninsula. It was expected to begin its turn to the east, and then the north, tonight and Friday. Landfall on the Louisiana coast was forecast late Sunday or Monday. Although winds were down to 40 mph, Cristobal was forecast to be generating sustained winds of 60 mph as it makes landfall.

“There is a risk of storm surge, heavy rainfall, and wind impacts beginning over the weekend along portions of the U.S. Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida Panhandle,” the NHC said. “While it is too soon to determine the exact location, timing, and magnitude of these impacts, interests in these areas should monitor the progress of Cristobal and ensure they have their hurricane plan in place.”

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Venice tornado

A brief tornado was confirmed in Venice, Sarasota County, on Monday. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

 

‘Uncertain’ Cristobal track aims at Central Gulf Coast

SFL heavy rain

UPDATE: All of South and Central Florida was under a Flood Watch Wednesday afternoon, from Fort Myers on the West Coast to New Port Richey and from Martin County to Brevard County on the East Coast. The Treasure Coast was hammered as a formerly stalled front moves north over the Florida peninsula. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

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TS Cristobal 060320

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee/ NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: Tropical Storm Cristobal was nearing the coast of Mexico this morning with winds of 60 mph. But it was expected to move on shore and could slide as far south as the border of Guatemala before hooking north and back into the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center were projecting a landfall on the Louisiana coast as a 65-mph storm on Monday.

But a lot of what eventually happens depends on how much time Cristobal spends over land before the turn north.

Wednesday morning forecast models seemed to be in pretty good agreement on that scenario, although a few ensemble members of the European model (ECMWF) were taking it a little farther east. A couple of models had it just off Pensacola before making landfall.

Unless Cristobal does the unexpected and really ramps up over the weekend (only one model was predicting that it will become a Category 1 hurricane by Saturday), its biggest threat should be heavy, flooding rains. And as NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center shows below, much of the heaviest precipitation will be to the storm’s east.

7 day rainfall

(Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

The peninsula is in for some heavy rain, too, since Cristobal will draw deep tropical moisture up from the northwestern Caribbean on its eastern side. National Weather Service forecasters in Miami explained it like this in their forecast discussion:

“Some forecast variability due to Cristobal is possible through the end of the extended. A weaker storm will likely be more disorganized with a larger area of convection and moisture which could increase rain chances for the peninsula of Florida. On the flip side, a more concentrated storm in the Gulf could lead to a moisture focus to the west of the peninsula with drier air potentially entering the region to help lessen the rain chances.”

INTERESTING FACTOID: Cristobal is the earliest third named storm on record in the Atlantic, beating out Tropical Storm Colin, which formed on June 5, 2016. The formation of Cristobal was 62 days ahead of the average third-named storm, which on average forms on August 13.

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RAINFALL REPORT: The Treasure Coast is getting battered today by storms streaming up from the south and east. An area from Fort Pierce up to Vero Beach was under a Flood Advisory this morning.

A CoCoRaHS observer near Stuart reported a 6.04-inch shellacking on Tuesday, with 3-5 inches falling in other parts of northeastern Martin County. Around 3-4 inches fell in southeastern St Lucie County.

East-Central Broward County picked up 2-4 inches.

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RECORD WATCH: Key West tied a record warm minimum temperature Tuesday with 83. That matched the previous record set in 2017.

Eyes on the Gulf as wet week looms for Florida

PM UPDATE: TROPICAL STORM CRISTOBAL FORMS IN GULF OF MEXICO, EARLIEST ‘C’ STORM ON RECORD

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Official forecast track for Tropical Storm Cristobal. (Image credit: NHC)

ORIGINAL TROPICS WATCH: Tropical Depression Three strengthened slightly overnight, and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicted it would become Tropical Storm Cristobal later today or tonight. But this is an oddball system that is presenting an unusual challenge to NHC forecasters.

There are actually more questions than answers. Will the storm make landfall in Mexico and dissipate? Will a second low pop up north of the Yucatan later in the week and move into the Central Gulf of Mexico?

And of course, for us: What will the impact on Florida be, if any?

“Given the complexity of the situation, both the track and intensity forecasts are currently low confidence,” the NHC said this morning.

TUESDAY MORNING MODEL SNAPSHOTS: The 00Z European (ECMWF) has the storm making landfall Monday near the Texas-Louisiana state line. The 06Z GFS has it coming ashore on the Louisiana Coast, as does the Canadian (CMC). The Navy’s model (NAVGEM) is farthest east, with landfall in southeastern Louisiana. The German ICON model has it dawdling longer in the Bay of Campeche until the weekend when it starts its northward trek on Sunday.

Among hurricane models, the HWRF has the system off-shore of South Texas on Sunday.

There is a partial answer to the last question — there’s no indication of a direct impact on Florida, even in the panhandle, at this point. But as is the case with so many tropical and subtropical storms early in the season (and late in the season), TD Three (or Tropical Storm Cristobal) could be a very lopsided system, with the heaviest rains to the east.

This is what NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center is suggesting. This morning’s analysis had 7-10 inches of rain falling in the Big Bend area through next Tuesday (seven-day rainfall totals) with possibly 3-4 inches in Central Florida.

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Expected rainfall totals in South Florida through Friday morning. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

But some of this precipitation will be the result of another weather feature. A frontal boundary (they don’t call them cold fronts this time of the year) was sliding down the peninsula this morning and was forecast to stall out over Palm Beach for a couple of days before retreating back to the north. That will be a rainfall trigger in South and Central Florida according to the National Weather Service.

“Localized heavy rainfall and flooding is not out of the question along parts of the east coast,” NWS forecasters in Miami said.

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RAINFALL REPORT: Monday’s action was confined to the coasts. CoCoRaHS observers in Englewood, Sarasota County, reported 3.86 inches of rain through 7 a.m. Tuesday, and the heavy rain also spread south of that area into coastal Charlotte County.

On the East Coast, more than 2 inches fell in parts of coastal Brevard County, and an observer near Vero Beach in Indian River County checked in with 2.52 inches.

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RECORD WATCH: Naples tied a record high Monday with 94, matching the mark set in 1971. Record warm lows were tied Monday in Key West (83); Orlando (77); and Melbourne (76).

Gulf system on track for tropical development; wettest May on record in Miami

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UPDATE: Invest 93L was upgraded at 5 p.m. to Tropical Depression Three, and Tropical Storm Cristobal was likely in the western Gulf of Mexico by tonight or early Tuesday. The system developed from the remnants of Tropical Storm Amanda in the northeastern Pacific after it moved over Guatemala and the Yucatan Peninsula. The storm was forecast to meander around the Bay of Campeche through Thursday. NHC forecasters said the storm could move inland over southern Mexico and dissipate, but a new storm could spin up north of the Yucatan by Saturday. Alternatively, the existing depression or storm could begin to move north-northeast into the Gulf by the weekend. (Image credit: NHC)

TROPICS WATCH: Today marks the start of the 2020 hurricane season, six months of unease if you happen to live near the Atlantic or Gulf Coast. This year, it’s another layer of unease and uncertainty, since there are already so many alarming events vying for our attention.

AccuWeather has a story on “disaster fatigue,” which talks about what we’ve been going through and what potentially awaits.

It’s hard to imagine what the headlines are going to look like when you open the home page of your favorite news source on November 30, the final day of the hurricane season. The season could end with as many as 22 named storms (North Carolina State University forecast). That’s five fewer storms than the record-busting season of 2005.

The average season, over the past 30 years, has 12 named storms but we already have two on the books, Arthur and Bertha. There’s an 80 percent chance that a new tropical depression, or Tropical Storm Cristobal, will be spinning in the Gulf of Mexico by midweek.

The trigger will be the remnants of Tropical Storm Amanda, which was a northeastern Pacific system but is now headed north over Central America toward the Bay of Campeche.

All of the forecast models show this low regenerating in the Gulf. Monday morning runs suggested that the newly minted storm would eventually make a run at the Texas Coast, although on Sunday the hurricane model HWRF had the storm making landfall just west of Pensacola.

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MAY WRAP: Miami had its wettest June on record with 18.89 inches. That edged out the old record set in 1925, when 18.66 inches swamped the city. All four South Florida observation sites — including West Palm, Fort Lauderdale and Naples — closed out the month with significant precipitation surpluses.

Both Key West and Marathon had rainfall surpluses last month.

In Central Florida, Orlando had a slight surplus of 0.40 of an inch (3.85 inches fell), but Tampa had a dry May and turned in a deficit of 1.35 inches. Jacksonville had a shortfall of just over an inch. Tallahassee had a slight surplus.

Almost all of the major reporting sites around the state were slightly warmer than normal, the exception being Miami, which ended up a half-degree below the 30-year average. Undoubtedly that was due to all the cloudy, rainy conditions in Miami.

June forecast

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

THE PROVERBIAL LONG HOT SUMMER? NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued its new June forecast Sunday, calling for above normal temperatures across almost the entire country, with the exception of the extreme northwestern U.S. Precipitation may be near normal around most of the country, but above normal in Florida and the Gulf Coast.

The CPC issued its June-August forecast on May 21, calling for warmer than normal temperatures throughout most of the U.S.

RECORD WATCH: The high temperature in Apalachicola Sunday was a blistering 95 degrees, which set a new heat record for May 31. The previous record was 93 set just last year.

Forecasters turn attention to possible midweek development in Gulf

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HERE’S THE SETUP: In the Pacific, Tropical Storm Amanda, which made landfall in Guatemala, is expected to slide north Sunday and Monday, potentially getting back over water early Tuesday in the southern Gulf of Mexico. The system could redevelop into the next Atlantic storm, forecasters said. (Image credits: NHC)

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TROPICS WATCH: 92L in the Central Atlantic fizzled out Saturday night, leaving forecasters to focus their attention on the southwest Gulf of Mexico, where remnants of Pacific’s Tropical Storm Amanda may make a reappearance after plowing across Central America.

Forecast models have been toying with this scenario for the last couple of days — and the NHC is giving the idea a 40-50 percent chance of happening over the next two to five days in the Bay of Campeche.

All the major models support at least some development, and potential tracks range from Mexico’s West Coast to the North-Central Gulf Coast in the U.S. There’s no indication at this point that it could affect Florida.

If Amanda does regenerate in the Gulf, it would likely get a new Atlantic name. The next name on the Atlantic list is Cristobal.

This is part of the very complex Central American Gyre, a broad area of low pressure over the northwestern Caribbean, the landmasses of Central America, the southern Gulf of Mexico and the northeastern Pacific.

The CAGs can cause “a variety of trouble,” meteorologist Bob Henson said in a Weather Underground post late Saturday. “One or more tropical cyclones may spin off from the gyre, and there is a good chance of torrential rains, flooding, and mudslides in the coming week regardless of any tropical development.

“CAGs tend to develop on either end of the Atlantic hurricane season, as large-scale weather features rearrange themselves during the waxing and waning of northern summer. CAGs tend to have relatively weak surface winds, but they can sprawl over hundreds of miles, and they are notoriously long-lasting and slow-moving, both of which make them dangerous rain producers.”

Hurricane Michael, the devastating Category 5 hurricane that leveled parts of the Florida panhandle in October 2018, was spawned from a CAG.

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RAINFALL REPORT: Parts of coastal Collier County were smacked with more than 3 inches of rain Saturday. Naples officially picked up 1.71 inches. A CoCoRaHS observer near Punta Gorda checked in with 2.40 inches, while Fort Myers officially picked up 1.98 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Tampa.

In Central Florida, a CoCoRaHS observer in St. Cloud, Osceola County, reported 3.45 inches, making it the wettest part of the state. Other nearby counties received up to an inch or more.

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PRECIP OUTLOOK: Rain chances for the Florida peninsula jump into the 60-70 percent range by the weekend, but not because of the developing low in the Gulf. Rather, a frontal boundary is forecast to slide down the state on Monday and stall out in the Keys. Moisture is expected to spread over the state on southeasterly winds.

Parts of South Florida and Central Florida could see heavy rain once again by the weekend, forecasters said.

RECORD WATCH: Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach both posted record warm lows on Saturday with 80 and 79, respectively. Both temperatures tied records.

May rainfall record set in Marathon

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PM UPDATE II: It’s still May, but the National Hurricane Center in Miami added a second area of interest to the Atlantic tropical weather map. This one is in the Bay of Campeche, the approximate area that the forecast models have been looking at over the past few days. Forecasters said a low pressure system could form there by mid-week, and gave it a 20 percent development chance over the next five days. The area of interest in the Mid-Atlantic, meanwhile, dropped to a 20 percent chance of development Saturday night, and the NHC said the door to development was quickly closing. Officially, the hurricane season starts Monday. (Image credit: NHC)

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PM UPDATE: Invest 92L is running out of time to develop into a depression or subtropical storm. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said shower activity had diminished, and they reduced development chances from 50 percent to 40 percent Saturday afternoon. (Image credit: NHC)

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ORIGINAL TROPICS WATCH: Invest 92L continued to consolidate in the Central Atlantic, and this morning the National Hurricane Center knocked development chances up to 60 percent. But the window for development is small — if it doesn’t earn tropical or subtropical cyclone status by tonight, it will probably lose its chance, forecasters said.

If it gets beyond depression status, the next named storm on the Atlantic list is Cristobal.

“It could become a short-lived subtropical depression while it moves northwestward over the central Atlantic. After that time, further development is not anticipated due to unfavorable environmental conditions,” the NHC said Saturday morning.

In any case, it doesn’t appear that 92L will become a threat to the U.S. Forecast models show it moving due north over the next several days with the only possible impact on Newfoundland.

The GFS forecast model keeps pushing the projected development of a system in the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean back. It was showing development consistently during the first week of June; Sunday’s run of the GFS showed the Gulf system at the very end of its run on June 15.

One of the reasons NOAA upgraded the GFS last year was to minimize these “ghost storms” that are advertised on consecutive runs, only to keep delaying them further into the future.

However, other major forecast models are still projecting development in the Gulf toward the end of next week, possibly in the Bay of Campeche or a bit east off the north coast of the Yucatan.

Bottom line is that the jury is still out on whether anything comes of it. Certainly the weather picture for the coming week will become clearer over the next day or two.

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Marathon precip record

After a dry start to the month, May will turn out to be abnormally wet in many areas of the state, especially South Florida and the Keys. Marathon already has had the wettest May since record keeping began there in 1950. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

RAINFALL REPORT: Action switched over to the interior and West Coast on Friday. A member of the community precipitation observation program in Clay County, northeast Florida interior, received a 3.70-inch shellacking on Friday, while other areas of the county reported between 2-3 inches.

Sarasota County, just north of Port Charlotte, reported a hefty 2.41 inches on Friday; and an observer near Plant Cithy checked in with 2.34 inches.

Another CoCoRaHS member northeast of Orlando, in Seminole County, found 2.42 inches in the backyard bucket.

RECORD WATCH: The low in Fort Lauderdale Friday was 79, which tied a record warm low for the date set in 2011.