Keys, South Florida report up to an inch or more of rain

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

THURSDAY UPDATE: Significant rainfall soaked the Keys overnight Wednesday and into Thursday morning, according to the citizen observation network CoCoRaHS.

An observer in Key West reported 1.60 inches; an observer in Lower Sugarloaf Key checked in with 1.18 inches; and a CoCoRaHS member in Islamorada found 0.98 of an inch in the backyard bucket.

Peninsula rainfall totals from the National Weather Service (24 hours): Miami Shores, 1.09; North Miami, 0.78; Hollywood, 0..56; Lantana, 0.50; Miami, 0.49; Fort Lauderdale, 0.45; West Palm Beach, 0.20; and Naples, 0.06.

Up to a quarter of an inch fell in parts of inland Collier County, with up to a third of an inch falling in southern Palm Beach County.

A few hundredths of an inch fell in Central Florida and as far north as Lake City. The panhandle remained dry.

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WEDNESDAY POST: West Palm Beach and Naples managed to squeeze 0.02 and 0.05 of an inch of rain, respectively, out of Tuesday’s somber skies, the first rainfall of the year. But Miami and Fort Lauderdale remained dry, with just a trace of rain wetting windshields as a frontal system lingered over the area.

Actually, there was some measurable rainfall on the West Coast from Marco Island up to Port Charlotte; and on the East Coast from around Hollywood up to southeastern Brevard County.

The winner of Tuesday’s precip sweepstakes was East Naples, where 0.28 of an inch fell, according to the citizens observation network, CoCoRaHS.

The new forecast issued Wednesday by the National Weather Service in Miami called for as much as 0.65 of an inch falling from the central Everglades up to Boca Raton — and much of that will likely fall late tonight and during the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Another cold front is forecast to push all the precip out of the way by the weekend, after which highs will only be in the mid-60s in South Florida, low 60s in Central Florida, and upper 50s in North Florida.

Sunny or partly sunny conditions should be the rule over the weekend, but the Weather Service is calling for cloudy skies late Sunday into Monday. In fact, Monday’s forecast for Martin Luther King Day — which caps a three-day weekend for many people — is for clouds and highs struggling to hit 70.

A day that probably will not make it into the state’s tourism brochures.

Umbrella alert: Front set to deliver first precip of new year

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Hooray! The first measurable rainfall of 2021 is headed into South Florida by mid-week, the National Weather Service says.

HOW DRY WE WERE: Through Monday, none of the four major observation sites in South Florida — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Naples — have had any measurable rain.

In Miami, you have to go back to December 28 to find 0.01 of an inch of precipitation; 0.09 of an inch fell on Christmas Eve before the major cold front crashed South Florida’s holiday party.

Even so, Miami ended December with just 1.60 inches in the bucket, a monthly rainfall shortage of nearly half an inch.

Wednesday’s rain chances increase to around 50 percent by Wednesday, with a cold front moving into the area and then washing out.

“There will not be a noticeable difference in cooler temperatures behind this frontal passage,” forecasters in Miami said in their Tuesday morning forecast discussion.

Rainfall totals of around a half-inch are expected through the end of the week. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

And . . . there’s this from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center: Florida may see a return to above normal temperatures at the end of the month. This is supported by the GFS forecast model, which suggests highs in the 80s for at least several days as January enters its final week.

(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

A.I. storms into the weather forecasting biz

NOAA issued its January forecast today, calling for above normal temperatures in Florida and the entire tier of southern states, as well as the eastern U.S. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

FRIGID FRIDAY MORNING? The cold front that is cruising down the Florida peninsula today will deliver some cool weather by morning — but the cold snap should be short lived. Easterly winds return by Friday night so Saturday morning could be 8-10 degrees warmer.

Expected lows on Friday: Miami, 57; Orlando and Tampa, 41; Jacksonville, 35; Gainesville, 32 with widespread frost and wind chills as low as 27; and Tallahassee, 33.

RAINFALL REPORT: A member of the CoCoRaHS citizens observer network reported 2.81 inches of rain Wednesday in Lake City, North Florida. Rainfall totals over the three county area — Suwanee, Columbia and Baker — ranged from just under 2 inches to around 2.50 inches.

Totals of around an inch-and-a-half were reported in the Jacksonville area.

Observers in the Tampa area reported around a third-of-an-inch up to more than inch in northern Hillsborough County.

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A RADICAL NEW APPROACH to weather forecasting uses artificial intelligence to analyze weather patterns over the past 40 years to predict what will happen next, a breakthrough that could increase speed of forecasting and eventually boost accuracy.

Currently super-computers analyze real-time data from across the globe to produce weather forecasts. Forecast models like NOAA’s GFS sift through all the (very complex) data and come up with a scenario, which is then weighed against other models. Meteorologists generally use a blend of the models, called ensemble forecasting, along with their own skills to make a prediction.

The new technique is being developed by researchers at the University of Washington in cooperation with Microsoft.

The A.I. approach “is essentially doing a glorified version of pattern recognition,” said UW’s Jonathan Weyn, lead author of the study. “It sees a typical pattern, recognizes how it usually evolves and decides what to do based on the examples it has seen in the past 40 years of data.”

For now, the new model is less accurate than traditonal weather forecasting, but it uses 7,000 times less computing power, which means faster results. And when applied to ensemble forecasting, meteorologists may be able to use the approach to more quickly predict where a hurricane might make landfall, for example.

“After training on past weather data, the A.I. algorithm is capable of coming up with relationships between different variables that physics equations just can’t do,” Weyn said. “We can afford to use a lot fewer variables and therefore make a model that’s much faster.”

Southwest Florida slammed with more than 3 inches of rain

BUNDLE UP: Lows in the mid-30s to upper 40s are forecast for West-Central Florida, with even colder temperatures for Wednesday morning. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Southeastern Florida was still dealing with a few sprinkles Monday morning, but it was mostly just overcast to the north as a cold front moves in. Miami was under a Flood Advisory that expired at 9 a.m.

Here were the rainfall totals through 9 a.m.: Naples, 2.02 inches; Pompano Beach, 1.90; Fort Myers, 1.40; West Palm Beach, 1.32; Punta Gorda, 1.10; Key West, 1.09; Miami, 1.00; Fort Pierce, 0.36; Vero Beach, 0.46; Melbourne, 0.38; Brooksville, , 0.31; Gainesville, 0.26; Tallahassee, 0.03; Jacksonville, 0.01.

The citizens observation network CoCoRaHS showed 3.59 inches falling just east of Naples; 3.45 inear Immokalee; 3.30 inches in Clewiston; 2.82 inches in Deerfield Beach; and 2.36 in Pahokee.

FRIGID SECOND WEEK OF DECEMBER: The cold front behind the rain will keep the Florida peninsula in the refrigerator for almost the entire week, according to the National Weather Service. South Florida lows are forecast to be in the 40s to near 50 for three nights this week, with highs in the mid- to upper-60s. A slight warm-up begins Thursday and temperatures return to near normal for the weekend.

As was the case last week, Wednesday morning looks to be the coldest of the week. The forecast low in Orlando is 39. Tampa’s forecast low is 42; Miami, 55; Gainesville, 33; Jacksonville, 36; Lake City, 32 with areas of frost; and Tallahassee, 34. Patchy frost is in the forecast for the panhandle.

Consulting our old friend, the GFS, lows on Wednesday around the Florida peninsula — with the exception of the southern coasts — are expected to be colder than temperatures in Nebraska and South Dakota.

But it looks like beach weather may return the following week, with highs in the 80s over much of the peninsula toward the end of the week of the 13th.

In fact, the week before Christmas looks toasty, but the forecast model is calling for bitterly cold air to invade the Upper Midwest, with low of up to 24 degrees below zero edging into Minnesota and Wisconsin.

However, ultra-long-range forecast models suggest above normal temperatures over most of the U.S. for the first two weeks of January.

Normal highs and lows for this time of the year: mid-70s and low-60s in South Florida; low 70s and low 50s for Central Florida; and North Florida, mid-to-upper 60s with lows in the mid-40s.

Forecasters weigh more ‘excessive rainfall’ chances as front rolls down peninsula

(Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

How does South Florida’s dry season look so far? In a word, wet.

The cold front that has been advertised for the past several days is now forecast to bring some potentially problematic rainfall to the peninsula from South-Central Florida all the way down to Miami.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center put metro Palm Beach under an “Excessive Rainfall” watch for late Monday as the front nears, and precipitation from the front may cause some problems for points south on Tuesday.

“There could be some decent rainfall rates, which we will need to monitor in subsequent packages (could require hydro headlines again),” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said in their Monday morning forecast discussion. “Not trying to sound like a broken record but, again given antecedent conditions across Broward and portions of Miami-Dade, very little can create a problem.”

And the drier, slightly cooler weather that follows the front — highs should remain in the 70s for a couple of days — apparently won’t last. In fact, an upper-level low is forecast to form over the Bahamas late in the week and approach South Florida over the weekend.

“There is still a high amount of uncertainty in the forecast during this time period as the models are still in disagreement as to how far west this feature actually makes it,” forecasters in Miami said. “Most of the models show it keeping the deepest moisture offshore at this time.”

Slightly cooler weather may be on the way for Thanksgiving week, but it’s interesting to note that highs around the southern peninsula have been almost at summertime levels over the past week, following the shellacking by Eta.

Heat index readings were in the low 90s over the weekend around East Coast metro areas and in the mid-90s inland and toward the West Coast.

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HURRICANE IOTA was just below Category 5 strength with winds of 155 mph as it neared the coast of Central America on Monday morning. National Hurricane Center forecasters said it has “explosively deepened” over night and that the rapid intensification that had taken place was “incredible.” It may in fact make landfall as a Category 5, the first of the season. Iota’s predecessor, Hurricane Eta, was previously the strongest of 2020 with winds of 150 mph.

Iota was expected to move across Central America and dissipate over El Salvador on Wednesday.

Monday morning’s run of the GFS showed nothing else of note forming in the western Atlantic through December 2. The hurricane season officially ends November 30.

New tropical depression in Caribbean expected to become hurricane

UPDATE: Tropical Depression 31 formed in the Central Caribbean Friday, and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicted it would become Tropical Storm Iota by Saturday and a hurricane late this weekend or early next week. They said it could rapidly intensify before making landfall as a strong Category 2 storm with winds of 110 mph. That’s slightly below major hurricane status. (Image credit: NHC)

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ORIGINAL POST: Some drier air was trying to work its way into South Florida on Friday, but the National Weather Service kept a Flood Watch in place for Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Rain was still falling near the southern tip of the peninsula, and Homestead picked up another 2 inches Friday morning.

“Residual flooding of roadways and neighborhoods is possible as it will take time for the rainfall accumulations to recede, particularly along the southeast Florida coast,” forecasters said in Miami.

Drier weather — and a cold front that should bring more seasonal temps — were in the forecast for late this weekend and early next week.

Tropical Storm Eta smashed rainfall records on Florida’s West Coast this week. Tampa officially received 3.99 inches of rain on Wednesday, which obliterated the previous record for the date of 0.83 of an inch set in 1968.

Sarasota reported 6.41 inches, which busted the old record of 4.70 inches set a century ago in 1920.

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TROPICS WATCH: Eta became a post-tropical cyclone off the coast of the Carolinas Friday while the Caribbean disturbance, Invest 98L, appeared to be consolidating. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center were giving it a 90 percent chance of becoming the next depression, or Tropical Storm Iota, by Sunday. Forecast models continue to show it ramming into Central America — near the area ravaged by Hurricane Eta last week — and possibly continuing west into the Pacific.

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BAD NEWS/ GOOD NEWS: La Niña conditions in the Pacific strengthened in October, and a strong La Niña will likely continue through the winter. La Niña -cooler than normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific — was bad news during the hurricane season and was at least partly responsible for the record-breaking year we’ve had.

But it’s good news for Florida’s winter, since La Niña normally delivers a warm and dry winter season to the peninsula.

The phenomenon is forecast to weaken next spring, and if we’re lucky maybe we’ll transition to an El Niño, next year, which would give us a slow hurricane season in the Atlantic.

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RECORD WATCH: Apalachicola tied a record high Thursday with 85, matching a mark set in 2015.

Record warm minimum temperatures were set or tied Thursday in West Palm Beach (77); Naples (75); Daytona Beach (73); Orlando (73); Vero Beach (75); Sanford (73); and Leesburg (72).

Eta on its way into the Atlantic; let the dry-out begin

Much drier weather is in the long-term forecast for most of Florida; even normal precipitation in South Florida would be a big improvement. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

Hooray! Rain chances “are on a downward trend,” National Weather Service forecasters said Thursday morning. That’s not only across Central and South Florida, but North Florida, too, once Tropical Storm Eta gets out of the way later today.

In South Florida, flood waters should start receding today and a dry weekend is coming up.

“In short, it is looking like the dry season is getting the memo a month late,” NWS forecasters in Miami said in their Thursday morning forecast discussion.

Next week’s cold front is coming into better focus, too, with temps closer to normal a week before Thanksgiving.

Next Wednesday’s foreast highs: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Naples, 78 under sunny skies. Orlando’s forecast high is 74 (after an overnight low of 58); Tampa, 76; Melbourne, 75; Jacksonville, 70 (after a low of 51); and Tallahassee, 69 (after a low of 48).

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TROPICAL STORM ETA was moving across North Florida this morning with winds of 45 mph, but the system was hard to identify on satellite. It was forecast to move into the Atlantic near Jacksonville today and continue tracking northeast off the U.S. coast, becoming post-tropical on Friday.

Jacksonville, and northeastern Florida, were under a Tropical Storm Warning, with forecasters predicting wind gusts of up to 60 mph.

Tampa International Airport picked up 4.16 inches of rain from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 8 a.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service said. St. Petersburg/ Clearwater Airport reported 6.04 inches over the same period.

Heaviest rains were reported in southern Hillsborough County, including 9.37 inches east of I-75 and U.S. Highway 301, according to CoCoRaHS.

Another 7.69 inches fell in the Bradenton area.

Florida West Coast braces for Thursday storm as Eta strengthens in Gulf

Eta reached hurricane status in the NHC 10 a.m. advisory but was forecast to come ashore on Florida’s West Coast as a tropical storm. (Image credit: NHC)

You could call Eta The Storm That Would Not Die, appropriate since the National Hurricane Center has been tracking it since Halloween, when it formed in the Caribbean as a Tropical Depression.

It peaked as a Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds on November 3, then proceded to pound Central America for several days with up to 75 inches of rain.

In its latest iteration, Tropical Storm Eta is projected to become Hurricane Eta once again as it spins in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, an eye feature apparent on Key West Radar. The early Wednesday morning forecast from the NHC is for Eta to make landfall north of Tampa as a strong tropical storm.

“However, it would take only a small forecast error to allow Eta to come ashore as a hurricane, and hence a Hurricane Watch has been issued this morning,” NHC forecaster Eric Blake said.

The watch covers an area from Santa Maria Island, north of Bradenton Beach, to Yankeetown just north of Crystal River. A Tropical Storm Warning was posted for the West Coast from Bonita Beach — which was the northern terminus of the warning area when Eta was threatening Florida’s East Coast on Sunday — to Suwanee River.

A Tropica Storm Watch went all the way up the coast to the Aucilla River south of Tallahassee on Apalachicola Bay.

Eta is forecast to cut across North Florida and exit into the Atlantic near Jacksonville during the wee hours of Friday morning. By then, it’ll likely be downgraded to a tropical depression, according to the NHC.

But as folks in South Florida and the Keys saw earlier this week, the real threat is rain, although the system is expected to pick up speed, so 2-4 inches are in the forecast for the western half of the peninsula. South Florida is forecast to pick up additional rain in the meantime, and total storm accumulations may be up to 20 inches in spots.

South Florida has absorbed just about all the water it can hold. “Any showers that do form and move across the area have the potential of producing heavy rainfall and aggravate ongoing flooding over metro [southeastern) Florida,” the National Weather Service in Miami said in its early morning discussion. “Therefore, the Flood Watch for SE Florida remains in effect through at least this evening and [NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center] has a marginal risk of excessive rain for South Florida through Thursday morning.”

NWS TampaBay: “Oh what 24 hours can do in the world of weather… Yesterday`s NOAA aircraft recon data on the periphery of Tropical Storm Eta has likely influenced the forecast models to come into better agreement on the eventual path of the system. Unfortunately, this is not the desired path for West Central and Southwest Florida as Eta is expected to move northward and then northeast over the next 48 hours, bringing the storm into the Nature Coast as a tropical storm. Conditions will begin to rapidly deteriorate throughout the day today, with the system making its closest approach to Tampa Bay early Thursday morning.”

RECORD WATCH: West Palm Beach soaked up another 1.90 inches of rain Tuesday, breaking a 96-year-old rainfall record. The previous record for November 10 was 1.45 inches set in 1904. Melbourne picked up 0.54 of an inch, but that was good enough to set a record, beating the old mark of 0.51 of an inch set in 1971.

Fort Lauderdale posted a record warm low Tuesday with 79, beating the previous record of 78 set in 2010.

The low in Daytona Beach was 73, breaking a previous record warm low of 72 set in 1992. The low in Orlando was 75, easily busting the old record warm low of 71 set in 2009.

Hurricane Center wrestling with forecast for slow-moving Eta

UPDATE: A Tropical Storm Watch issued Tuesday afternoon for the west coast of Florida from Englewood northward to Suwannee River.

“The biggest surprise is the large eastward shift in all of the NHC model guidance … further eastward shifts in the track may be required,” the National Hurricane Center’s Stacy Stewart said in the agency’s 4 p.m. EST forecast discussion.

The National Hurricane Center Tropical Outlook map showed unusually busy activity as we head toward mid-November. (Image credit: NHC)

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away, but if you were judging the time of the year strictly by the weather, you’d say we were coming up on Labor Day rather than the start of the holiday season.

The rainy season ended officially on October 15. Since then, Miami has had 15.32 inches of rain, Fort Lauderdale, 17.35 inches; and West Palm Beach, 12.35 inches.

Dew points fell for a brief three-day period as November began, and we imagined the wondrous dry season stretching out before us, day upon day of bright blue skies, hiking and biking weather that is the envy of the nation.

Nature never got the memo, apparently.

Tuesday morning’s Tropical Weather Outlook map featured the ugly cousins Eta and Theta, with the potential storm Iota lurking in the Caribbean. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center were giving the Caribbean disturbance a 70 percent chance of development by the weekend as it moves into the western Caribbean.

Eta, meanwhile, the source of considerable misery over the past week in Central America, Cuba, and Florida, was loitering off the western tip of Cuba, drawing copious amounts of tropical moisture into the Florida peninsula and in no hurry to exit the scene anytime soon.

The latest NHC forecast has Eta due west of Tampa early Friday morning, on its way to the storm-ravaged northern Gulf Coast as a weakening but no doubt wet tropical depression.

“The storm has basically become stationary overnight,” NHC forecaster Eric Blake said in the agency’s early morning advisory.

But some models have Eta hooking northeast, back into Florida, and Blake added: “I have little confidence in the long-range track forecast due to its seeming dependence on the intensity, and the wide spread in the guidance.”

While this morning’s runs of the GFS and European (ECMWF) depict Eta running out of gas in the northern Gulf of Mexico, the NAVGEM showed it crashing back into the Florida peninsula around Tampa late Thursday or Friday. So did one of NOAA’s hurricane models, the HMON.

Meanwhile, all of South Florida was still under a Flood Watch Tuesday, with bands of heavy rain streaming into Palm Beach County and the Upper Keys, with more apparently on the way. Showers were headed into the Treasure Coast, too, and even northeastern Florida. The National Weather Service in Miami had the South Florida Flood Watch in effect through Wednesday.

“The implications for our region is the southerly or southeasterly flow around the eastern periphery of [Tropical Storm Eta, which] will continue to pump tropical moisture northward into our region from both the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean,” forecasters said in their Tuesday discussion. “Soil conditions are beyond primed, so any additional rainfall that may occur could worsen residual flooding.”

Any light at the end of the meteorological tunnel? Perhaps early next week, forecasters said. That’s when a cold front could approach the peninsula from the northwest.

“If a frontal passage is in our future with this, it will be just beyond the [forecast] period, but at least it provides something to watch in the days ahead as we move deeper into autumn.”

In fact, GFS temperature forecasts now go all the way out to Thanksgiving Day. The holiday forecast is for highs near 80 around the peninsula with lows in the mid- to upper-60s following a cold front earlier in the week. Still, the model shows unusual warmth all the way up into the Great Lakes States, with 50s from Wisconsin east to Upstate New York.

Folks up there can figure on keeping their sled in the garage and taking the SUV to grandma’s house.

Hurricane Center predicts 65-mph tropical storm in Florida Straits by Monday

Latest NHC forecast brings Eta into Keys

(Image credit: NHC)
South Florida is looking at a heavy rain event this weekend, but effects beyond that remain unclear. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

ORIGINAL POST: Once-powerful Hurricane Eta deteriorated to a tropical depression over Central America Thursday morning and was forecast to become a post-tropical low later in the day.

But forecasters at the National Hurricane Center and at the National Weather Service advised people in Florida to stay tuned for Eta: Part II.

How soon will the system regenerate after it moves back out over the Caribbean? Most likely by Friday night, forecasters said.

Thursday morning forecast model snapshots: The European (ECMWF) — had the battered system re-strengthening in the Caribbean emerging from the northern coast of Cuba Monday, then sliding west into the Gulf of Mexico. The GFS had the system in the Upper Keys Monday and heading into the Gulf of Mexico by mid-week. It predicted landfall around the Florida Big Bend area the following weekend.

It’s interesting that beyond the GFS and Euro, which are in fairly decent agreement, other forecast models continue to go their own way once Eta nears Cuba.

For example, the Canadian (CMC) run was in sync with the GFS and Euro on a track through the Florida Straits into the Gulf of Mexico through Tuesday. But then the model turned the system back into the Florida peninsula and pushed it across South Florida mid-week, and back out into the Atlantic.

And the NAVGEM has rather stubbornly continued to insist on re-developing Eta back into a hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas and then spinning it into Palm Beach early in the week. The German ICON was taking it into the Bahamas and then through the Middle Keys.

NOAA’s hurricane model, the HWRF, brought Eta to hurricane strength over Central Cuba, then drove it up Florida’s West Coast, slightly inland, on Monday.

NOAA’s other hurricane model, the HMON, is onboard with the NAVGEM in taking the storm into Palm Beach from the Bahamas.

These latter forecast models have been unnerving, but hurricane expert Jeff Masters advised in a recent blog post: “For those puzzling over the various hurricane computer forecast models to figure out which one to believe, the best answer is: Don’t believe any of them. Put your trust in the National Hurricane Center, or NHC, forecast.”

That would be a 65-mph tropical storm in the Florida Straits on Monday into Tuesday.

Still, Senior NHC hurricane specialist Richard Pasch noted in his early Thursday analysis that the forecast has “low confidence in the forecast, especially at 3-5 days.”

Meteorologist Levi Cowan, of Tropical Tidbits, said late Wednesday: “Still expecting a sloppy system as it moves through the Caribbean, spreading rain over the region. Potential impacts to Florida remain several days away & uncertain. Need to wait for Friday to get more information.”

The National Weather Service in Miami, meanwhile, is calling for potentially flooding rains to begin affecting the Keys and South Florida as early as today as the leading edge of the moisture — consisting of the old cold front that stalled to the south — begins moving north.

For the weekend: “There remains considerable uncertainty during this portion of the forecast period owing to the complex steering pattern and interaction with the mid-latitude trough,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said. “Therefore it is too soon to determine the exact timing, magnitude, and location of potential impacts from wind and rainfall. That said, deteriorating weather conditions are anticipated.”

Since the ground is already saturated in South Florida due to heavy rains in late October, forecasters said a Flood Watch may be issued for parts of the area this weekend.

Beyond rainfall, forecasters noted: “This is a good reminder to be sure that your hurricane plan remains in order.”