Franklin becomes first hurricane; Bahamas low heads for Florida

Hurricane Franklin

FRANKLIN IS FIRST: The  Gulf of Mexico storm became the 2017 Atlantic season’s first hurricane at 5 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center said, with winds of 75 mph. Further strengthening was forecast before the storm wallops the East Coast of Mexico early Thursday, forecasters said. They were predicting an 85-mph hurricane at landfall. (Credit: NOAA/ NHC)

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UPDATE: The low over the Bahamas, marked in yellow, was given a 10 percent chance of tropical development Wednesday afternoon by the National Hurricane Center. National Weather Service forecasters said the system will bring rain to the Florida peninsula on Thursday. Meanwhile, disturbance 99L was given a 50 percent chance of developing east of the Bahamas by early next week. (Credit: NHC)

An upper level low poised to sweep in from the Bahamas could bring more than an inch of needed rain to South Florida over the next couple of days, while forecasters cast a wary eye on tropical disturbance 99L to the east.

Rain chances shoot up to 70 percent on the southeast coast Wednesday night and into Thursday as the Bahamas low moves west-northwest over the southern part of the peninsula. Rain chances rise in Central Florida, too, but the better chances will be on the Treasure Coast and points south. West-Central Florida should be in line for some showers, too, south of I-4, according to the National Weather Service in Tampa.

The tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles — a subject of speculation and debate by forecasters and weather watchers since moving off the coast of Africa a week ago on August 2 — showed signs of organizing Tuesday, and the National Hurricane Center upped its five-day chances of development into a depression or tropical storm to 40 percent.

Looking at the forecast models, the system appears to be no threat to Florida or the U.S. East Coast, since those that develop it have consistently called for the storm to sweep out to sea east of the Bahamas. Still scenarios can change quickly and National Weather Service forecasters in Miami noted Wednesday: “Residents and visitors of South Florida need to continue to monitor the latest information on the disturbance from the National Hurricane Center into early next week.”

RECORD WATCH: Melbourne and Vero Beach tied record warm lows Tuesday with 81 and 80 degrees, respectively.

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Franklin is forecast to make landfall early Thursday morning as a Category 1 hurricane. (Credit: NHC)

FRANKLIN POWERS UP: The storm was near hurricane strength Wednesday morning with winds of 70 mph, and it was likely to become the Atlantic’s first hurricane. Winds are expected to top out at 80 mph, making it a Category 1 storm.

In Mexico, hurricane watches were upped to hurricane warnings from Puerto de Veracruz to Tuxpan, and watches were extended from Tuxpan to Rio Panuco.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami were calling for up to 15 inches of rain with flash flooding and mudslides, and a storm surge of up to 4 feet above normal tides. That’s with hurricane conditions, meaning winds of up to 95 mph in a Category 1.

Interesting to note that based on climatology from 1966-2009, the average date of the season’s first hurricane is August 10, so Franklin could join the club one day early.

The last Colorado State University forecast called for eight hurricanes this year, so Franklin could be just the start of a long string that stretches into October or November.

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Author: jnelander

Freelance writer and editor

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