Orlando sizzles; only slight cool-down expected from weekend front

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NEXT WEATHER MAKER: The cold front entering the panhandle Thursday was on its way to the Keys, where it was expected to wash out over the weekend. Temperatures will edge down slightly over the weekend before rebounding again next week, according to the National Weather Service. (Image credit: NOAA)

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That Mickey Mouse suit is starting to get a little uncomfortable. Orlando tied an 81-year-old record high Wednesday with a sultry 88 degrees, matching the mark originally set way back in 1939.

Record highs were also set in Sanford with 87, beating the old record of 86 set in 2018; Leesburg with 86 (tied with 2013); and Jacksonville (high of 84 matched the record set just one year ago). Naples tied a record high for the second day in a row with 89.

Record warm minimum temps were tied or set in Fort Lauderdale (74); West Palm Beach (76); and Naples (72).

National Weather Service forecasters said earlier this week they wouldn’t be surprised to see a few 90-degree temps around South Florida, and that’s what happened Wednesday, with a few popping up out in the Everglades.

Naples Municipal Airport, where official temperatures are kept by the National Weather Service in Miami, reported a high of 89.6 degrees, but it was rounded down to 89. But an unofficial observation site near Everglades City reported a high of 91. And the Bureau of Land Management reported a high of 90 at Big Cypress Swamp north of Alligator Alley.

A cold front that was just entering the Florida panhandle today was forecast to roll down the peninsula on Friday, bringing scattered rain showers as it heads to the Keys, where forecasters expect it to stall out.

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being a lallapalooza that brings heavy rain and thunderstorms, followed by a shot of frigid air, this front should rank at about a minus-1. The National Weather Service is calling for less than a quarter of an inch in Central Florida and perhaps up to a third of an inch at the southern tip of the peninsula as the front stalls just to the south.

Then, after a Saturday with close to normal temperatures, another warm-up begins with more highs in the 80 forecast for next week.

A shot of more wintry air is still suggested by forecast models for the last weekend of the month.

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Areas of West-Central Florida affected by Abnormally Dry conditions shrank slightly in the latest analysis of drought conditions in Florida by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Sarasota County returned to normal status and the designation was removed from parts of Manatee, Hillsborough and Hardee counties.

However, Abnormally Dry conditions spread in North Florida, crossing the state from around Citrus County on the Gulf to Flagler County on the Atlantic. A small swath of the Central Panhandle remained under Moderate Drought.

Flood Warnings, Wind Advisories issued; drought spreads in Florida panhandle

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UPDATE: A Marginal Risk (Level 1) was expanded by NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center Thursday morning to include all of South Florida. (Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

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ORIGINAL POST: Weather advisories and warnings were posted up and down the peninsula on Thursday as a potent storm system closed in on the state.

The western panhandle was under a Tornado Watch Thursday morning from east of Panama City and Apalachicola to the state line west of Pensacola.

Near Tampa, a Flood Warning was issued for the Alafia River at Riverview, near U.S. 301. The National Weather Service said water will rise in Tampa Bay and cause “brief flooding at high tide” with the highest levels occurring just before midnight Thursday.

Wind Advisories were in place throughout the state. In North Florida, parts of which were under a Level 3 or “Enhanced” threat for severe storms, winds were expected to gust up to 45 mph. “A few power outages may result,” the National Weather Service in Tallahassee said.

In East-Central Florida, and in South Florida, a Wind Advisory was posted. Forecasters said wind gusts of up to 40 mph could cause tree limbs to be blown down, and possible power outages. The advisory runs through 10 p.m. in South Florida.

A warm-up is still on schedule for next week as high pressure takes over the Florida peninsula from the Atlantic and to the south into the northwest Caribbean, forecasters said. Areas in South Florida and Central Florida should see highs well into the 80s next week.

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CLOSER LOOK: The slice of the Florida peninsula under a Level 1 “Marginal Risk” was edged to the north slightly on Thursday, with southern areas still at risk for thunderstorms. The National Weather Service in Miami said areas near and west of Lake Okeechobee were at risk of damaging wind gusts, and tornadoes. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

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DROUGHT REPORT: Abnormally Dry conditions have been eliminated in the Everglades, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday. Abnormally Dry conditions remain east and south of the Tampa area, analysts said. Abnormally Dry conditions exist in Northwest Florida, and the area of Moderate Drought expanded in the central panhandle up to the Alabama state line.

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EUROPE’S TOASTY WINTER TEMPS: It was the warmest January on record in Europe, scientists at the Copernicus Climate Change Service reported Wednesday. Temperatures were a hefty 5.6 degrees Fahrenheit above average, enough to beat the previous record set in 2007, Bloomberg reported.

The service uses measurements from satellites, ships, planes and weather stations.

Russia and Norway were more than 6 degrees above average. In Norway, people went swimming fjords that are normally ice covered and the country had its warmest January day on record.

“Temperatures were also much above average over most of the USA and eastern Canada, over Japan and parts of eastern China and Southeast Asia, over the state of New South Wales in Australia and over parts of Antarctica,” Copernicus said in a statement accompanying the report.

Gusty winds hammer Keys, Florida’s East Coast

Keys wind gusts

Winds were gusting up to 39 mph in the Keys on Thursday due to a tight pressure gradient between high pressure to the north and low pressure to the south. Windy weather was in the forecast through Sunday. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Top wind gusts along South Florida’s East Coast (and inland) as of Friday morning: Fowey Rocks, Biscayne Bay, 39 mph; Sunrise, 38 mph; Tamiami Executive Airport, Kendall, 38 mph; Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Aiprort, 37 mph; Miami International Airport, 36 mph; Palm Beach International Airport, 35 mph; Immokalee, 35 mph;

East-Central: Melbourne, 32 mph; and Fort Pierce, 31 mph. Winds were calmer on Florida’s West Coast and in North Florida.

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MORE ON 2019: Annual average temperatures in East-Central Florida for each year since 2015 have been among the top 10 warmest on record for cities from Daytona Beach to Fort Pierce, the National Weather Service in Melbourne said in a report posted Thursday.

“Extreme warmth [occurred] at times, especially into February and the fall season,” meteorologists said. “Most notably, Vero Beach had their warmest September and October on record. It was also the warmest October on record for Daytona Beach and Orlando.”

Check out the full report for complete details.

Separately, Weather Underground discussed a NOAA report that said Florida had its second-hottest year and the U.S. had its second-wettest year on record in 2019.

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PONDERING THE PACIFIC: ENSO neutral conditions are expected in the Tropical Pacific through spring and perhaps through summer as well, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in an analysis released Thursday.

The gave neutral conditions — neither El Niño, abnormally warm waters, nor La Niña, abnormally cool waters — a 60 percent chance of lasting through spring and a 50 percent chance of lasting through summer. Neutral conditions currently prevail.

It’s an important forecast in terms of the 2020 hurricane season. Under El Niño, tropical activity in the Atlantic is suppressed due to increased upper-level wind shear, while La Niña is usually accompanied by above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

When El Niño conditions ended last summer, hurricane activity spiked, producing such storms as the deadly Hurricane Dorian.

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FLORIDA DROUGHT UPDATE: Drought conditions faded throughout Florida after a wet December, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday. Moderate Drought lingered, though, in the Central Panhandle and Moderate Drought was reduced to Abnormally Dry conditions in the Everglades.

Second round of heavy rain possible for weekend, forecasters say

Excessive rainfall risk

The Southeast Florida Coast is at “Marginal Risk” for Excessive Rainfall Saturday and Sunday. That means potential flooding, especially in areas already saturated by last week’s storms. (Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

Looks like things will be “going out with a bang weather-wise for the last weekend of the decade,” forecasters at the National Weather Service in Miami said Friday.

Another weekend of potentially heavy rainfall is on the horizon for South and Central Florida — but minus the thunderstorms and severe weather.

NOAA’sWeather Prediction Center has the southeastern coast under a Marginal Risk for Excessive Rainfall, and forecasters are concerned that showers — there doesn’t appear to be any threat of thunderstorms or severe weather this time around — will be falling over ground already saturated from last weekend’s lambasting.

“A reasonable worst case scenario at this time would be around 2 inches in an hour at times,” forecasters in Miami said Friday. “However, any changes aloft, or additional mesoscale dynamics could still cause locally higher amounts.”

Drier air finally filters in on Thursday as a cold front makes it through the Florida peninsula, but South Florida forecasters noted: “Even with this next cold front, not much in the way of cooler temperatures. High temperatures in the upper 70s to low 80s throughout the forecast period.

“Low temperatures drop into the low to mid-60s Wednesday and Thursday mornings which are still running about 5 to 8 degrees above normal.”

Last weekend’s heavy rains wiped out Abnormally Dry conditions in much of South-Central Florida, and it eliminated Moderate Drought in the western panhandle.

Abnormally Dry conditions were also eliminated in the Jacksonville area. However, Moderate Drought continued in interior areas of South Florida, and Miami-Dade County, along with Mainland Monroe County, remained Abnormally Dry in the latest U.S. Drought Monitor analysis released Thursday.

The biggest improvement, along with the western panhandle, was in West-Central Florida and interior areas of Central Florida south of Orlando.

RECORD WATCH: West Palm Beach tied a record warm low Thursday with 74, matching a mark set in 2016.

Forecasters weigh risks for tornadoes, severe storms this weekend

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South Florida and the Treasure Coast are at Marginal Risk for severe weather on Sunday, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. (Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

WEEKEND STORM UPDATE: A warm front expected to lift north from the Florida Straits into the peninsula Saturday night and Sunday seems to be a primary focus of concern for the National Weather Service, with up to 3 inches of rain predicted in some areas. The Gulf low that drags a cold front across the peninsula is forecast to trigger a second shot of rain and storms, but forecasters are still uncertain about the potential for severe weather, including thunderstorms and tornadoes.

Severe weather is more likely while the area is in the warm sector, forecasters said.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has virtually the entire state at risk for thunderstorms on Sunday, with a Marginal Risk for severe weather in South Florida north into the Treasure Coast.

SFL rainfall

(Image credits: NWS-Miami, above; NWS-Melbourne, below)

ECFL rainfall

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RAINFALL REPORT: There were mostly sprinkles, and a few hundredths of an inch, around the state on Thursday. The exceptions were in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, where observers for CoCoRaHS reported up to 0.78 of an inch in the Miami area and 0.63 in the Key Largo area. A quarter of an inch fell west of Delray Beach in Palm Beach County.

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Thursday’s analysis of drought conditions in Florida came in basically unchanged from the previous week. But the report only covers conditions through Tuesday, so we may expect to see some improvement in the map next week. For now, the map issued by the U.S. Drought Monitor continues to show Moderate Drought over parts of interior South Florida, and Abnormally Dry conditions through most of the South Central peninsula, with the exception of eastern Broward, Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Indian River and Brevard counties. Martin County is drought free.

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RECORD WATCH: Cool winds off the Atlantic kept a lid on temperature in South Florida Thursday — leading to record cool highs around the area. Miami and Fort Lauderdale reached a high of 71, which easily broke previous record cool highs of 77 set in 2016.

West Palm Beach posted a high of 73, breaking the 2016 record of 74. And Naples’ high was 71, breaking the previous record of 72 set way back in 1948.

Week-ending rains expected to bust December dry spell

With Moderate Drought edging into South Florida and Abnormally Dry conditions taking control in Central Florida, we’ll take whatever precip nature can squeeze out during December, normally one of the driest months.

South Florida reporting sites have had only sprinkles so far this month. West Palm Beach is at the bottom end with just 0.01 of an inch thus far, with about a third of the month already in the books.

That’s also true in Central Florida, where a few hundredths of an inch have fallen. North Florida is even worse shape — Jacksonville reports only a trace of rain this month and Gainesville has been bone dry.

So a potentially wetter forecast is welcome news, even if this is the time of the year when lots of outdoor activities are schedule due to the cooler temperatures.

A stalled front is expected to jump start December rainfall through much of the peninsula, and a second front toward the end of the weekend may add to the precipitation totals. Predicting rainfall totals is notoriously difficult for forecasters, but here’s what things look like in South Florida and Central Florida over the next three to 10 days:

SFL forecast precip

(Image credits: NWS-Miami, above; NWS-Melbourne, below)

ECFL forecast precip

North Florida and the panhandle can also expect some wetter weather over the next week or so, according to NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center, with the heftiest totals in the western panhandle.

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PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE: The National Weather Service in Miami issued the 2019-2020 winter edition of its Tropical Winds Newsletter Monday, with a look back at our narrow miss with Hurricane Dorian, as well as a look forward to the upcoming winter season.

With neither El Niño or La Niña present in the Tropical Pacific — two phenomena that have big impacts on Florida weather — forecasters are calling for pretty much normal dry season conditions across South Florida in terms of precipitation, potential for severe weather and potential for a freeze. Temperatures, though, are forecast to be above normal, which has been the trend over the past several seasons.

Here’s the skinny:

SFL dry season outlook

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

With respect to Dorian, it always eye-opening to run the photo showing the catastrophic Category 5 hurricane rolling toward the Florida peninsula just before it stalled over the northern coast of Grand Bahama Island.

The highest wind gust in South Florida was 61 mph at the Juno Beach Pier, but Cape Canaveral had gusts closer to hurricane force. This was indeed the definition of a close call.

Hurricane Dorian

(Image credit: NOAA)

Warmest fall on record in Miami, Naples

FL fall temps

(Image credit: NOAA/ NWS-Miami)

Temperatures in the second half of November cooled down dramatically in South Florida and elsewhere in the state, but it was the nevertheless the warmest fall on record in Miami and Naples, the National Weather Service in Miami said in a report Thursday.

It was the third-warmest meteorological autumn — which runs from September 1 to November 30 — in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Miami also had the second-driest autumn on record, with 8.08 inches measured at Miami International Airport. That’s 11.38 inches below normal for September through November.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport checked in with 10.57 inches of rain, a short fall of 8.08 inches. That made it the 11th driest fall since record keeping began in Fort Lauderdale in 1911.

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DROUGHT MOVES INTO SOUTH FLORIDA: Parts of four South Florida counties are struggling with Moderate Drought, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday. Most of South Florida remains Abnormally Dry, with the exception of eastern Broward and eastern Palm Beach counties.

Up the East Coast, most of Martin and almost all of St. Lucie counties have been designated as Abnormally Dry.

Areas newly designated with Moderate Drought include northwest Miami-Dade, western Broward, northeast Mainland Monroe and southeastern Collier. A tiny slice of southwestern Palm Beach County is also under Moderate Drought.

Most of Central Florida remains Abnormally Dry and most of the panhandle is under a Moderate Drought designation.

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COLD OPEN: South Florida has had four days in a row with below normal temperatures and the first week of December is running up to 7 degrees below average (Fort Lauderdale). Ditto for Central Florida, where Orlando is almost 5 degrees below average for the new month. Tampa is 3.5 degrees below average so far in December.

On Friday morning, it was in the 60s in the Keys, the upper 50s on both South Florida coasts, and the upper 40s northwest of Lake Okeechobee to near 50 in the Orlando area.

North Florida was in the 30s, but there were no freezing temperatures on the Weather Underground map and in fact it was actually warmer in the western panhandle with temps in the upper 40s — a sign of the warmer air to come this weekend, perhaps.

A real warming trend begins Saturday when winds begin drawing warmer and more humid air off the Atlantic. A cold front entering North Florida this weekend won’t make into South or Central Florida, the National Weather Service says. Another front by mid-week probably will make it down the peninsula, bringing a few showers, but northeasterly winds should keep temperatures closer to normal for the end of next week, according to forecasters.