Rain still in Florida forecast; Gulf system fizzles

Expected precip

Forecast rainfall totals through Sunday. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

The skies over central Palm Beach County were full of sound and fury on Wednesday, pretty much signifying nothing. Palm Beach International Airport reported just a trace of rain, bringing the July deficit for West Palm Beach up to 3.62 inches.

Miami also reported a trace of rain, while Fort Lauderdale picked up 0.18 of an inch, not much to get excited about.

Rainfall totals through 7 a.m. Thursday were light all over South Florida, despite southwesterly winds pumping moisture up from the tropics. An observer in Lake Worth reported 0.54 of an inch to the National Weather Service in Miami.

Key West picked up an impressive 0.84 of an inch, but drivers in the Middle Keys barely saw enough to wet their windshields.

The heavy rainfall action was in West-Central Florida and in Northeast Florida, where observers for the citizens CoCoRaHS network reported as much as 4 inches.

An observer on the St. Johns River in Clay County found 4.24 inches in his backyard bucket, and there were numerous reports of more than 3 inches elsewhere in the county.

In Hernando County on the West Coast, a CoCoRaHS station picked up 2.95 inches, while in Pinellas County near Dunedin, an observer reported 3.78 inches.

Gainesville reported 1,3 inches through 7 a.m. Thursday and Sarasota reported 1.86 inches.

More rain was on the docket for Thursday before high pressure begins building in for the weekend and into early next week, the National Weather Service said.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting above normal rainfall during the first week in August in South Florida; normal amounts in the rest of the state. We’ll have to see if that pans out, or if August picks up where July is likely to leave off.

In leiu of rain, South Florida was subjected to another round of intense heat. The high in both Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach was 95, the warmest temperatures posted in July. The heat index topped out at 106 in West Palm; 101 in Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Pierce also hit 95, with a heat index of 102.

TROPICS WATCH: Chances of tropical development in the Gulf of Mexico were reduced to near zero on Thursday.  Forecasters said upper level winds would likely prevent development.

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Front bringing rain to dry Florida peninsula; NHC watching Gulf

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Rain is on the way for Central and South Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

With a week still to go in July, some of Florida’s East Coast cities are struggling with a rainfall deficit at the hottest time of the year — not a good combination.

In South Florida, Miami is running an inch surplus, largely because of hefty rainfall totals on July 3 and 8, when 1.47 inches and 1.89 inches, respectively, fell.

Miami’s 5.91 inches sounds decent, but West Palm Beach has measured just 0.89 of an inch all month — 0.84 of that falling on July 8. That’s a big July shortfall of 3.45 inches.

Fort Lauderdale, meanwhile, is dealing with a 2.69-inch deficit with just 1.88 inches falling all month.

The Lower Keys have been dry, too. Key West has picked up 0.92 of an inch, a deficit of 1.71 inches.

Up the coast, Fort Pierce is 1.35 inches in the hole; Vero Beach stands at minus 2.43 inches; and Melbourne is 1.66 inches short. Even Orlando is carrying a 1.42-inch shortfall, although Daytona Beach has an inch surplus thanks to July 5, 6 and 8 totals of 1.75 inches, 1.06 inches, and 1.93 inches, respectively.

Jacksonville reports a shortfall of just under a half-inch.

With a frontal boundary actually making its way into the Florida peninsula on Wednesday, forecasters said southwest winds would push showers and thunderstorms over to the East Coast, so some relief may be on the way. But there’s a lot of ground to be made up by next Thursday, which is August 1.

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(Image credit: NHC)

The end of that frontal boundary, tailing off into the Gulf of Mexico, is of interest to the National Hurricane Center, which is forecasting an area of low pressure to develop over the next few days off the northern Gulf Coast. They put development chances at just 10 percent in their 2 p.m. Tropical Weather Outlook.

“Dry air and unfavorable upper-level winds, however, are likely to inhibit significant development during the next couple of days while the disturbance meanders near the northwestern Gulf Coast,” the NHC said.

Summer arrives with sizzle: heat index hits 113 in Fort Myers

Heat index readings

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Some like it hot. But not this hot.

The heat index in Fort Myers on Friday topped out at 113 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The air temperature was 96 with a very tropical dew point of 78.

Naples Friday reported a heat index of 108. Both were in or close to heat advisory territory — an apparent temp of at least 108 for two hours or more.

In fact, the National Weather Service in Miami issued a heat advisory for Collier County and Mainland Monroe counties on Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday looks like rinse and repeat.

In Naples, the heat index was 108 at 3 p.m., then it edged down to 105 at 4 p.m. before bouncing back up to 108 at 5 p.m. At 7 p.m., the index was still at 103.

The actual air temperature high was 92 — the heat index is a combination of the air temperature and dew points, which have been sky-high. There were several dew point readings of 79 degrees on Friday.

Other South Florida heat index readings on Friday: West Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport, 108; Hollywood (North Perry Airport), 106; Opa-locka, 105; Miami, 103; West Palm Beach, 103; and Fort Lauderdale, 102.

Keys: Boca Chica Naval Air Station, 108; Maraton, 106; and Key West, 103.

Central Florida: Melbourne, 106; Okeechobee, 104; Vero Beach, 104; Kissimmee, 102; and Orlando, 101.

West Coast: Venice, 107; Tampa, 105; and Punta Gorda, 101.

North Florida: Gainesville, 102; and Cross City, 102. Gainesville’s dew point reading hit 79 degrees, which tied a record high dew point for the date, originally set in 2009.

The National Weather Service credited moist southwest winds off the Gulf of Mexico for the high dew points. (The city also set a wind gust record with 39 mph, beating the previous record of 38 mph set in 2014.)

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Moderate Drought and Abnormally Dry conditions were pushed back slightly this week in the northern tier of Florida counties. The U.S. Drought Monitor reported Moderate Drought was still in control in extreme northeastern Florida, and in parts of the central panhandle.

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HAPPY SUMMER SEASON! Summer begins officially at 11:54 a.m. EDT. It ends on Monday, September 23 at 3:50 a.m.

North Florida drought conditions recede; new GFS gets high marks

Panhandle cold front

WARM, BUT DRY: The cold front that’s expected to make its way down the Florida peninsula, and stall out in Central Florida, was just moving into the Florida panhandle on Thursday morning. Not much cooler weather is expected after the cold front moves through, but drier air will arrive in areas to the north of the front. In Dothan, Alabama northwest of Tallahassee, humidity levels are forecast by Weather Underground to be as low as 30 percent on Thursday. But National Weather Service forecasters in Tallahassee added: “Even though it’s a cold front… highs will actually be warmer tomorrow than the last few days!” (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

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DWINDLING DROUGHT: Drought conditions in Florida receded slightly this week and are now confined mostly to the northern tier of counties, from Nassau County in the northeast west into the Central Panhandle. Several counties in the Big Bend area swapped Moderate Drought for Abnormally Dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

There were actually few areas of drought in the U.S. this week. Outside of North Florida and coastal areas of Georgia up through North Carolina, the only areas on Thursday’s map were in extreme northern North Dakota; western New Mexico; and parts of Washington and the Northwest.

California is clear of drought, although the southwestern corner near San Diego is Abnormally Dry.

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‘MODEL-CANES’ ON THE WAY OUT? NOAA officials have high hopes for the new and improved GFS forecasting model they began using Wednesday, the Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere, or FV3. Will their confidence be justified?

Truth be told, the European model (ECMWF) always had a little more respect than the GFS in some forecasting circles — although the GFS performed well on occasion — but NOAA officials are hoping the upgrade changes all of that.

“The significant enhancements to the GFS, along with creating NOAA’s new Earth Prediction Innovation Center, are positioning the U.S. to reclaim international leadership in the global earth-system modeling community,” Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator, said in an agency news release posted after a morning press conference.

An important question for people in Florida, Texas and the southeast coast is how the new model will fare during hurricane season. That wasn’t specifically addressed in the NOAA news release, but Matt Gray, a meteorologist for NBC2 based in Fort Myers, posted a blog on the topic Wednesday night.

“How will the new FV3 GFS do when the next hurricane comes? NOAA has tested it using data from storms over the past few seasons, so we have a pretty good idea,” he said.

The new FV3 will be better than the old GFS at forecasting intensity, he said. The old model tended to over-sell intensity, or keep storms stronger longer.

“The new GFS did a lot better with how intense Hurricane Florence was when it made landfall in North Carolina last year,” Gray said. “It’s just one of many examples where the new model did a lot better with storm strength.”

An attendant advantage to the new model is that since it’s better at forecasting strength, the FV3 may be better at avoiding what some weather watchers call “ghost storms,” or what Gray calls “model-canes.” These are tropical storms or hurricanes that pop up on model runs more than 10 days in advance, with no support from other models. The next day they may be dropped.

“Since the new GFS looks like it will be better at not strengthening tropical systems too much, that may also keep these ‘fake storms’ from showing up at all.”

Track accuracy looks about the same as the old GFS, Gray said.

Florida had warmest May on record, NOAA says

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SIZZLING END TO SPRING: Florida had its warmest May on record, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information reported Thursday. Other states in the Southeast had May temperatures among the top 10 warmest, aided by what the NCEI called a “record-setting heat wave,” late in the month. Many locations saw the earliest 100-degree day ever, the agency said. Northern counties in Florida, the Nature Coast, and the extreme southern tip of Florida reported the warmest temperature anomalies for the month. States in the West, meanwhile, were anomalously cool. (Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

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Heat, humidity, and widespread rainfall — that pretty much sums up the forecast for the weekend around the Florida peninsula. And forecasters expect the wet conditions to continue into next week.

The East Coast and adjacent interior areas may get the bulk of the precipitation, according to the National Weather Service, with winds out of the south-southwest pushing storms toward the north-northeast.

Here are high-end rainfall forecasts for the East Coast from Miami up to Daytona Beach:

SFL rainfall

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

CFL rainfall

RAINFALL REPORT: According to CoCoRaHS observers: The Orlando area had up to 3.12 inches of rain Thursday; up to a half-inch fell in parts of Hillsborough County; 1.06 inches fell near Palm City in Martin County; and 1.5 inches fell east of Deltona in Volusia County.

Some of the heaviest rain was in the western panhandle, with 3.41 inches reported in Escambia County; and up to 2.5 inches reported in Okaloosa and Bay counties.

Through Tuesday, Moderate Drought had returned to much of the Florida panhandle and northern areas of the peninsula (which means Thursday’s rainfall was not taken into consideration). Drought conditions were reported as far south as Levy County on the Gulf Coast, angling northeast to Nassau and Duval counties on the East Coast.

Most of Georgia, and a large swath of South Carolina, are dealing with Moderate to Severe Drought, according to a report Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

RECORD REPORT: Thursday’s high in Marathon was 95, which set a new record for the date. The previous record high was 92 set most recently in 2018.

Temperatures edge down in North Florida, but records still fall

Radar outage Key West

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAPHIC OF THE DAY: Key West radar was “under the weather” Thursday due to technical difficulties. To find out what’s gong on in the Keys, check the Miami radar. (Image credit: NWS-key West)

The temperature finally dipped below 100 in Gainesville on Wednesday — the high was only 99!

Highs in Gainesville from Saturday to Wednesday: 99, 100, 102, 101, 99. Still, Wednesday’s high tied a record set 111 years ago in 1908.

Jacksonville’s high of 99, however, easily beat the record high for the date of 97 set on May 29, 1967.

Other records: It was 95 in Daytona Beach, which tied a record high set in 1990. And in Marathon, the low Wednesday was 81, which tied a record warm low for the date set in 1984.

A lot of areas in the state haven’t seen rain since mid-May, as dry heat took control during the second half of the month. Fortunately, precipitation probabilities begin edging up this weekend and into next week, particularly in South and Central Florida, according to the National Weather Service.

The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that Abnormally Dry conditions have taken over all of North Florida, with dry conditions throughout the entire panhandle and as far south as Alachua County.

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SHOP TALK: Hurricane season starts Saturday. Florida residents — do you know where your storm supplies are?

After the three hurricanes that hammered Florida in 2004-2005 — Frances, Jeanne and Wilma — lots of retailers invested in generators to keep their operations going after a power outage. Notably, Publix should be back up and running fairly quickly despite power outages as will many gas stations.

Assuming that the state’s highway systems haven’t been laid to waste, stores should be restocked with water, canned food, batteries and even some fresh food in short order.

But it still makes sense to build a hurricane supply kit. First of all, it’s possible your water supply could be disrupted during the storm itself, and there’s no way you’re going to be running to the store to get provisions when winds are still howling.

It’s probably going to be a day or two before supply trucks can get through to individual stores and restock things like batteries, canned food and water. And as everybody who has been through these things knows, shelves get cleaned out pretty quickly when there’s a hurricane watch or warning.

Secondly, heaven forbid, but there’s always a chance that a hurricane stronger than anything you might have experienced before — Irma in the Keys, as one example; Michael in the panhandle as another. Never mind power outages, it could be several days before roads are even passable.

FEMA recommends a gallon of water per person per day for three days; a three-day supply of non-perishable food (don’t forget a hand can opener), flashlights, batteries, and a radio — either battery operated or one that recharges with a crank. (Some radios come with a solar recharging panel but they don’t seem to work very well.)

Also: A first aid kit, a plastic tarp, and a standard non-electric cooler.

The state launches its seven-day tax holiday on hurricane supplies starting Friday. Residents stand to save an estimated $800,000 on hurricane supplies during the tax holiday, and stores like Home Depot and Lowes are coupling the event with specials on some hurricane supplies.

For individuals, the savings may not seem like much, but it’s a good way to highlight the fact that storm supplies are still relevant, even in a 21st century world of generators and high speed deliveries.

Friday rains hammered Nature Coast, but most of Florida peninsula was dry

NFL humidity levels

Humidity levels on Saturday could sink as low as the upper teens in North Florida, according to the National Weather Service. (Image credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

Friday’s frontal passage was a non-event in Florida, despite NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center having put most of the peninsula at Level 1 risk for severe weather.

High winds did cause some damage in the Tallahassee area, with a wind gust of 69 mph reported and tree limbs blocking some roads.

The only tornado reports from the system were in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Nice, of course, to side-step the severe weather. But parts of South Florida have been building up rainfall deficits again, even though overall the state is in pretty good shape with April precipitation.

Fort Lauderdale, which remained high and dry Friday, now has a 1.49-inch deficit, and West Palm Beach, which also posted precipitation goose eggs, now has a 1.84-inch deficit. That’s with three days left to go in the month — and no rain in sight. Naples has a 1.28-inch deficit.

Miami and Key West have slight rainfall surpluses, as does Fort Pierce.

In East-Central Florida, Daytona Beach nears the end of April with a hefty 1.74 inch surplus, although Orlando has a 0.92 of an inch shortfall.

Tampa had 0.17 of an inch of rain Friday and has a 0.83 of an inch surplus. Brooksville has a 1.14 inch surplus.

Jacksonville and Gainesville have surpluses; Gainesville reported 0.43 of an inch of rain Friday.

April rainfall surpluses surpluses are the rule in panhandle as well.

According to the CoCoRaHS observation network, Florida’s heaviest rainfall on Friday was focused on the Nature Coast, with one observer in Citrus County, near Crystal River, reporting 1.55 inches.

A dry week is on the way with another weather system possible by Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

North-Central Florida temperatures sank as low as the low 50s on Saturday morning with dew points in the low 50s as well. As the day wears on, humidity levels should plunge with all the dry air around, particularly in inland locations.

RECORD WATCH: In the Keys, Marathon’s high temperature Friday was a steamy 94 degrees, which tied a record high for April 26. The record was originally set in 2015.