Hurricane Center tracking 97L; flooding closes schools, roads near Gulf Coast

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(Image credit: NOAA)

TROPICS WATCH: The low pressure system off the East Coast looked pretty healthy Monday morning and it was designated Invest 97L by the National Hurricane Center. But forecasters’ earlier analysis that there was “a slight chance for significant organization to occur” was shifted in the 8 a.m. outlook to “significant development of this system is now unlikely.”

Nevertheless, they were giving the system a 10 percent chance of becoming a depression, or Tropical Storm Chantal, as it moves toward the northeast 200 miles east of Norfolk, Virginia. It was no threat to the U.S. in any case, although some of the forecast models have been showing 97L spinning out into the open Atlantic and then making a turn toward the southeast.

It was the only tropical game in town on Monday — forecast models were showing nothing else in the Atlantic over the next seven to 10 days.

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North Florida rainfall

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

WAY TOO MUCH WATER: Ongoing flooding in Levy County and Dixie County in the northwest peninsula has taken a toll, with as many as 30 roads closed due to high water and schools closed in Dixie County, according to WCJB Gainesville.

Cedar Key School was also closed on Monday.

Seven inches of rain fell in Cross City in one hour, WUFT Florida Public Radio reported. Ten to 12 inches were reported in western Dixie County, and seven people were rescued from flood waters. Forty-five homes were flooded and a shelter was set up for those forced to evacuate.

“Rain will significantly drop off today and we may even see some sun,” Levy County Emergency Management officials said on the agency’s Facebook page Monday. “Significant flooding is still happening throughout the county and several roads are still flooded.”

“If you are stuck in your home and have no way of getting out, please call us at 352-486-5155 or 352-486-5111. If you experience an emergency, please call 911.”

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RECORD WATCH: Unusually balmy nights have taken hold in the Keys. Key West tied a record warm low Sunday with 85, matching the mark last set in 2014. Marathon’s low of 84 tied a record warm low set in 2017.

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Saturday heat: Florida … or Alaska?

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Counties north of Tampa remained under a Flood Watch Sunday. “Many rivers and creeks are near or above flood stage,” National Weather Service forecasters said. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Lots has been written this month about temperatures in Alaska, which had its hottest July on record. Several cities reported their first ever 90 degree temperatures. People flocked to the beaches. Vegetables were being planted and grown successfully that had never been grown in Alaska before.

Here’s an interesting note from Saturday: The high in Gainesville, Florida was 10 degrees cooler than the high in Kodiak, Alaska, where the temperature topped out at a balmy 86.

Gainesville’s high was only 76 — a record cool high for the date. It broke the old record of 78 set in 1962.

The high in Jacksonville was 79, which broke a 97-year-old record. The previous record cool high was 82 degrees set in 1922.

Of course, with a frontal boundary draped over North Florida, there wasn’t much sun to heat things up. Many areas were rain-cooled.

To the south and west, Crystal River on the Gulf Coast was hammered with 6.30 inches of rain, according to a CoCoRaHS observer.

In South Florida, West Palm Beach checked in with 1.10 inches on Saturday, bringing the August total to 10.19 inches. That’s 6.02 inches above where the city should be at this point in the month. The August record, by the way, is 20.12 inches set in 1995.

Conditions are forecast to dry out in South Florida until a couple of tropical waves arrive mid-week and for the weekend, the National Weather Service says. No tropical development is on the radar, except for the disturbance off the coast of the Carolinas, which was given a 30 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone as it moves northeast over the Atlantic.

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(Image credit: NHC)

The long-tracking systems that usually emerge off the coast of Africa this year — and cause considerable nail-biting on the islands as well as the Florida peninsula — are noticeably absent this year. For now.

Heavy rain chances diminish in North Florida and Central Florida by mid-week, but expect more seasonal afternoon showers, the National Weather Service says.

More than 6 inches of rain soaks North Florida; remembering Camille … and Andrew

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(Image credit: NHC)

Citrus County in northwestern Florida was slammed with 6.66 inches of rain Friday and early Saturday morning as an area of low pressure — the tail end of a frontal boundary — revved up in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.

The system grabbed the attention of the National Hurricane Center Friday night, and forecasters said it had a 20 percent chance of becoming the next tropical depression, or Tropical Storm Chantal, over the next five days when it reaches the Atlantic near Georgia or the Carolinas.

It was the only game in town in an otherwise dead-quiet August. It’s the first color on the NHC Tropical Weather Outlook map since August 4, when a couple of systems fizzled out in the Atlantic.

But tropical weather news this weekend has been dominated by the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille’s landfall on the Mississippi coast with winds of 175 mph.

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Track of Hurricane Camille in 1969. (Image credit: NOAA)

Here’s the National Weather Service’s article on Camille and the very thorough piece by Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters, including the long-standing debate on whether there was, or was not, a hurricane party, can be accessed here.

Twenty-four days away from the peak of the hurricane season, there’s a natural tendency to wonder if the Atlantic coast may get away free and clear this year, despite the updated outlook issued by NOAA last week calling for an above normal season. Saturday’s run of the GFS showed  nothing of major significance through September 2.

But it’s worth remembering that 27 years ago on Friday, not a single named storm had spun up in the Atlantic all season, a genuine climate oddity for the middle of August. But August 16, 1992 was the day that a tropical depression formed in the eastern Atlantic, and it sputtered its way west, becoming Tropical Storm Andrew the next day. It was named Hurricane Andrew on August 22.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Northwest Florida, from around Crystal River and Cedar Key up to Cross City, was under a Flood Warning Saturday, and a Flood Watch extended as far south as New Port Richey and as far north as Perry, southeast of Tallahassee.

Tampa officially measured 1.41 inches of rain through 7 p.m. Friday. Sarasota reported a 3.29-inch deluge, shattering a 49-year-old rainfall record. The previous mark was 2.10 inches set in 1970.

Fort Myers also set a record with 1.84 inches, busting the old record of 1.48 inches set in 2015.

Tropics: Will this Atlantic hurricane season echo 1982?

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The 1982 hurricane season was the last year the Atlantic had no tropical storms or hurricanes from July 15 to August 19. (Image credit: NASA/ NHC Atlantic Hurricane Database)

The dead-quiet hurricane season is getting attention from experts who wonder just how unprecedented it is to have had no named storms during both the second half of July and the first half of August.

The last named storm was Barry, which expired on July 14. The National Hurricane Center is predicting no tropical development through at least August 19. The last time there were no storms in the Atlantic from July 15 to August 19 was 1982, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach.

That year, there were only six named storms; two of them occurred in June, and there were three in September. There were three unnamed tropical depressions that year; this season so far there has been one.

Forecast models have been suggesting the possibility of this quiet period lasting all the way through the end of the month. How unusual is that?

A quiet tropical period from July 15 to August 31 happened only twice since hurricane records began in 1851, Klotzbach said in a Twitter post. That was in 1914 and 1922.

In 1914, only one tropical storm formed all season, and that was on September 15. One and done, with no hurricanes. It was the slowest tropical storm season on record.

The 1922 season had five tropical storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane, along with nine depressions that never made it to tropical storm status.

The lack of tropical storm formation is particularly noteworthy this year, since an El Niño in the Pacific ended and NOAA hiked its seasonal outlook on August 4 to as many as 17 named storms. The NOAA range was 10-17, making the average 13.5 — still an above-average season.

El Niño zaps tropical development by producing high wind shear in the Atlantic. That’s been one of the big issues this season, an indication that atmospheric conditions haven’t yet caught up with changes in tropical Pacific.

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RAINFALL REPORT: Another day, another Flood Watch. Florida’s Southeast Coast is under a Flood Watch Thursday until 8 p.m., as is the West Coast from Cedar Key south to Fort Myers. Things may dry out a bit over the weekend as high pressure moves over the state, but forecasters say there’s enough moisture in the air to keep rain chances up to 50 percent, focused on interior areas.

Tampa set a precipitation record Wednesday with 2.59 inches of rain. It broke the old record for August 14 of 2.11 inches set in 2013. Several CoCoRaHS observers in Hillsborough County reported close to 4 inches. And an observer in Hernando County, west of Brooksville, measured 5.43 inches.

RECORD WATCH: In the Keys, Marathon reported a record warm low on Wednesday of 85 degrees. That beat the previous record of 84 set in 2010 and 2017. Orlando tied a record warm low with 77, matching the mark last set in 2016.

A day for the record books in Jacksonville; remembering Charley

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Forecast heat index values for Monday in South Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Sunday was one for the books in Jacksonville as multiple records were smashed. The high of 98 set a daily high temperature record; while the city’s 3.18 inches of rain set a daily rainfall record. The dew point reached 80 degrees, which tied the record for the highest dew point for the date — set 69 years ago in 1950.

It was 97 at the Orlando Executive Airport.

Top heat index readings around the state Sunday: Naples, 113; Daytona Beach, 113; Brooksville, 112; Jacksonville, 112; Melbourne, 109; Ocala, 108; Tallahassee, 108; West Palm Beach, 105; Vero Beach, 104; and Orlando, 103.

North Florida is under another Heat Advisory Monday, from around Ocala to Daytona Beach and northward, but the National Weather Service in Miami said even South Florida may flirt with Heat Advisory criteria, which is 108 degrees for two hours or more.

On the opposite side of the state, Key West logged its wettest day so far in August with 1.02 inches. Unlike cities on the East Coast of the peninsula, Key West is slightly behind on normal rainfall this month. Ditto for Marathon, which picked up 0.88 of an inch on Sunday.

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Satellite image of Hurricane Charley on August 13, 2004. (Credit: NOAA)

HISTORIC HURRICANE: Tuesday is the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Charley plowing into Florida’s Southwest Coast as a powerful Category 4 storm. Charley crossed Cuba and moved over the Dry Tortugas with winds of 110 mph, then surprised forecasters by rapidly intensifying as it approached the Florida coast.

The hurricane made landfall on Captiva Island with winds of 150 mph and a pressure of 947 mb. It turned more toward the northeast and punched into Punta Gorda with winds of 145 mph.

Charley then charted a course north-northeast up the peninsula while weakening, but it was still packing winds of 85 mph when it slammed Orlando. It emerged into the Atlantic near New Smyrna Beach — still as a Category 1.

It was the start of a brutal year for Florida hurricanes, as Charley was followed up by major hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.

Naples heat index tops out at 115; more heavy rain soaks Palm Beach

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AND THE HEAT GOES ON: Another round of triple-digit heat index readings was forecast for Sunday. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Saturday was a day of blistering heat across the Florida peninsula. The heat index hit 115 degrees at 1 p.m. in Naples, but fortunately afternoon rain showers came to the rescue and the air temperature dropped to 84 degrees an hour later — but with a dew point of 82 the heat index was still 100.

South Florida’s East Coast was a bit cooler thanks to a sea breeze: West Palm Beach and Miami were 102; Fort Lauderdale, 100.

Here’s how the heat index values topped out around rest of the the peninsula Saturday:

East-Central: Melbourne, 111; Daytona Beach and Titusville, 109; Vero Beach, 108; Stuart, 104; and Orlando, 102.

North Florida: Cross City, 110; Ocala, 109; Brooksville, 109; and Gainesville, 107.

West Coast: Tampa, 103.

RAINFALL REPORT: West Palm Beach was socked again Saturday with 1.49 inches of rain, bringing the monthly total to 8.72 inches. Friday was the only day so far this month without precipitation in West Palm. Parts of Palm Beach County picked up as much as 1.72 inches of rain Saturday, according to CoCoRaHS.

A CoCoRaHS observer near Lakeland reported 1.38 inches. To the west near Plant City, 1.41 inches was reported. And an observer near Bradenton measured 1.98 inches. And in northeast Florida, Duval County near the St. Johns River, up to 1.76 inches was reported.

An observer outside Tallahassee said 1.40 inches fell in the backyard bucket.

RECORD WATCH: A record warm low was set in Tampa Saturday. The temperature bottomed out at 83, beating the old record warm minimum of 81 set in 2017. Fort Myers tied a record warm low on Friday with 79; and Sanford tied a record warm low Saturday with 79.

Record rain in Miami; celebrity bear marks 75th

Miami was slammed with 3.10 inches of rain Thursday, a record for the date. The old record of 2.08 inches was set back in 1950.

Impressive rain totals were posted up and down Florida’s East Coast. A CoCoRaHS observer west of West Palm Beach reported 2.41 inches of rain, although Palm Beach International Airport had a more modest 0.45 of an inch. The city has officially picked up 7.23 inches this month so far, 5.41 inches above normal.

An observer west of Sebastian in Indian River County reported 2.36 inches. Several spots in Brevard County received an inch and a half, and to the north in Live Oak, Suwanee County, an observer measured 1.60 inches in the backyard bucket.

RECORD WATCH: Jacksonville reported a record wind gust Thursday of 41 mph. That busted the old record wind gust for August 8 of 34 mph set in 1967.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

Florida had its seventh-warmest July on record, the National Centers for Environmental Information said this week. Temperature anomalies were even greater in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. New York State and Connecticut had their third-warmest July. Boston and Portland, Maine, had their warmest July on record.

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A NOD TO THE FOREST’S FURRY FRIEND: Today is the 75th birthday of Smokey Bear, who first appeared in public service ads by the U.S. Forest Service on August 9, 1944.

Here’s his story from the Forest Service:

“Artist Albert Staehle was asked to paint the first poster of Smokey Bear. It depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire and saying ‘Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires.’

“Smokey Bear soon became very popular as his image appeared on a variety of forest fire prevention materials. In 1947, his slogan became the familiar ‘Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!’

“Then in the spring of 1950, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, a young bear cub found himself caught in a burning forest. He took refuge in a tree, and while managing to stay alive was left badly burned. The firefighters who retrieved him were so moved by his bravery, they named him Smokey.

“News about this real bear named Smokey spread across the Nation, and he was soon given a new home at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The living symbol of Smokey Bear, he played an important role in spreading messages of wildfire prevention and forest conservation.

“Smokey died in 1976 and was returned to Capitan, New Mexico, where he is buried in the State Historical Park.”