Colorado State calls for busy hurricane season, higher chances of Florida landfall

Panhandle tornado

FRIDAY UPDATE: The National Weather Service in Tallahassee confirmed that three tornadoes tore through Madison County in North Florida on Tuesday, uprooting trees, snapping off a utility poll and causing roof and window damage to a business. The longest duration tornado was on the ground for almost 12 miles and for a duration of 10 minutes. Earlier, an EF-0 tornado touched down in Walton County, east of Pensacola. In all, four tornadoes were reported in Florida.

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The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season turned out to be a doozy after a slow start. There were 18 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, including Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas and swiped Florida’s East Coast with its outer bands. (Image credit: NOAA via Wikimedia Commons)

ORIGINAL POST: As if we don’t have enough to worry about as we head into a very uncertain spring and summer: The first 2020 hurricane season forecast was issued today, calling for another busy year.

Colorado State University is calling for 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four majors, Category 3 or stronger. Probabilities for a U.S. landfall are also above average, according to the team of CSU researchers — Philip Klotzbach, Michael Bell, Jhordanne Jones.

“Current warm neutral ENSO conditions appear likely to transition to cool neutral ENSO or potentially even weak La Niña conditions by this summer/fall,” they said in the analysis.

“Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are somewhat above normal. Our Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation index is below its long-term average; however, most of the tropical Atlantic is warmer than normal. We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

Floridians like to practice social distancing with hurricanes, keeping them at least 600 miles away, but we’ve had several close calls over the past several years with Dorian in 2019 and Matthew in 2016, along with a direct hit from Hurricane Irma in 2017.

We could see more nail-biters this year, the report suggests.

The CSU forecast kicks off the pre-season analyses, with more forecasts to come this month from the United Kingdom’s Tropical Storm Risk, AccuWeather and The Weather Channel. NOAA’s forecast is released at the end of the May, right before hurricane season starts on June 1.

The next CSU updated hurricane season forecast will be issued on Thursday, June 4.

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Florida drought

DRY EVERYWHERE:  Most of Florida is now under Moderate Drought. (Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor)

DROUGHT TAKES HOLD: Nearly the entire State of Florida is now dealing with Moderate Drought, with a few pockets of Abnormally Dry conditions, a new analysis by the U.S. Drought Monitor revealed this morning.

Moderate Drought stretches from around the Nature Coast on the Gulf of Mexico northeast to around St. Augustine on the Atlantic side. That includes all of South Florida with the exception of southeastern Palm Beach, eastern Broward and northeastern Miami-Dade, areas that have been designated Abnormally Dry.

Moderate Drought and a pocket of Severe Drought affect the central panhandle south of Tallahassee, and Escambia County in the far western panhandle is also under Moderate Drought.

“In Florida, a number of observing stations around the state recorded their driest March on record including Lakeland Linder Regional Airport (0.00”), St. Petersburg Albert Whitted Airport (0.00”), and Vero Beach International Airport (0.02”),” said David Simeral of the Western Regional Climate Center.

“According to the March 30 USDA Crop Progress and Condition Report, pasture conditions in Florida were steadily deteriorating around the state because of the abnormally warm temperatures and decreasing soil moisture levels.”

More dry weather is in the forecast for the next 10 days or so; below normal precipitation is called for over most of the Florida peninsula through at least April 11.

Dry weather Keys

It was the third driest March in Marathon, the National Weather Service reported today. The threat of wildfires around the state has increased due to unusually dry air following Wednesday’s cold front, forecasters said. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

Thunderstorms possible around peninsula, with severe threat in panhandle

Tallahassee storms

STORM THREATS: Rain associated with the cold front entering North Florida will likely be heavier in north and the panhandle. (Image credits: NWS-Tallahassee, above; NOAA/ SPC, below).

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March came in like a lamb but will go out like a lion in parts of the state as a cold front brings a chance of storms followed by much cooler temperatures.

We’ve had summer-like weather for the past week, but it’s still early spring, and it looks like temps will head back to more normal territory for late week and over the weekend. That means the first week of April should be pretty nice, even if you do have to enjoy it from your backyard instead of the beach or your favorite park.

March will likely find a spot in the record books thanks to unusually warm temperatures from north to south. We were mostly under the influence of high pressure, keeping cold strongest fronts to the north. Only a handful of days featured below normal temperatures.

Temps in South Florida and the Keys averaged around 4-6 degrees above normal for the month; 5-7 degrees in East-Central Florida as well as the Tampa area; and an incredible 9 degrees above average in the Jacksonville and Tallahassee areas.

But with the cold front scheduled to roll down the peninsula late Tuesday and Wednesday, here are the forecast lows for Wednesday night/ Thursday morning: Miami, 70; Tallahassee, 49; Jacksonville, 52; Gainesville, 46; Tampa, 57; and Key West, 73.

A bit brisk in the morning in Central and North Florida, but warming up nicely during the day to keep the tourists happy — those we have left.

The cooler weather that kicks off April will eventually give way to more above-normal temperatures in Florida, according to the long-range CFS forecast model. The model is calling for chilly weather elsewhere in the eastern U.S.

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RECORD WATCH: Tallahassee broke a 74-year-old record high with 89 degrees on Monday, beating the old record of 88 set in 1946. Fort Myers busted a 75-year-old record high with 91, beating the previous record of 90 set in 1945.

Marathon reached a high of 88, which tied a record high last set in 1994.

Sanford broke a record high with 93, beating the old record of 91 set in 2000; and Leesburg hit 92, beating the old record of 91 set in 1991. Jacksonville tied a high of 89, while Marathon tied a record high with 88.

Record warm lows were set or tied in Sanford (68) and Key West (77).

Cooler weather on the way next week after record-busting weekend temps

NFL temps

RECORD-BREAKING HEAT: “Enjoy your indoor social distancing in the A/C!” the National Weather Service in Jacksonville said on its Facebook page Saturday. (Image credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

Summer-like heat is the story this weekend in Florida, from Jacksonville and Tallahassee all the way down to the southern tip of the peninsula.

Records will likely be broken in North Florida and Central Florida, according to the National Weather Service. There will be some mid-week relief as a cold front finally rolls through, bringing cooler temps that will probably be slightly below normal.

After highs approaching the mid-90s in interior areas of Central Florida, Thursday morning’s forecast low in Orlando is 59. Thursday morning’s forecast low in Gainesville is 51.

Of course, this is the end of March, so daytime highs will be very pleasant, near 80 degrees in Central Florida and South Florida.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

STORMY SATURDAY: More than 70 million Americans were under a severe weather threat Saturday as a strong storm system spins across the Upper Midwest, CNN reported, gusty winds and large hail were targeting a 45-million-square-mile area that included all of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

“Confidence is increasing for a potentially potent severe weather setup as ingredients needed for this are appearing to favorably align on Saturday,” the NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. Northern Illinois is under a Level 4 or “Moderate Risk” of severe weather.

The bad weather will spread into the Northeast on Sunday, but it won’t be as severe, the SPC said, with states like West Virginia, and parts of Pennsylvania and New York under a Level 1 or “Marginal Risk.”

In Florida, the panhandle is under a Level 2 or “Slight Risk” of severe weather on Tuesday.

Rain chances jump into the 30-40 percent range Central and South Florida with the passage of the front, but NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center isn’t impressed; Graphical forecasts suggest only minimal rainfall around the peninsula.

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RECORD WATCH: Tampa tied a 91-year-old high temperature record Friday with 89, a record set on March 27, 1929. Fort Myers set another record high for the second day in a row with 94. That beat the old record of 91 set in 1989.

Jacksonville set a record high with 90, beating the old mark of 89 set in 1991.

Leesburg broke a record high with 90, beating the old record of 89 set in 2011. The city also tied a record warm low with 71 degrees.

First 90-degree day of the year in Orlando, Vero Beach

ECFL temps

More record highs are possible today before a cold front rolls down the peninsula on Friday. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Orlando had its first 90-degree day of the year on Wednesday with a record high of 90. It was the first since October 31, when the temperature topped out at 91. Orlando’s previous record for March 4 was 88, last set in 1989.

It was also 90 in Vero Beach, which hasn’t seen a 90-degree temperature since October 27 (91). The previous record for March 4 was 89 set in 2001.

Record highs were also set Wednesday at Naples (88); Leesburg (88); and Jacksonville (88).

With southwesterly winds ahead of the next cold front (due tonight and Friday), look for more East Coast cities to notch record high temperatures. For a change, it will be slightly cooler on the West Coast with winds off the Gulf.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

Some severe weather is possible with the arrival of the cold front in North Florida, but the front is expected to lose much of its punch by the time it gets into Central and South Florida on Friday.

Nevertheless, Florida will see one more cool day on Saturday before winds swing around to the east again and the next warm-up begins. But rather than the record levels we are seeing this week, temps are forecast to be near normal over the Florida peninsula.

Winter Keys

MORE WINTER DATA FROM THE KEYS: Key West had its ninth warmest winter on record while Marathon had its seventh-warmest. Records date back to 1872 in Keys West, so the record is fairly impressive. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

 

Severe storms possible late this week in panhandle, North Florida

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NEXT COLD FRONT AND STORM SYSTEM: Another cold front will pack a punch on Thursday and Friday as it rolls down the peninsula, the National Weather Service says, but the potential for severe weather stays mostly to the north. An area from the Nature Coast on the Gulf of Mexico northeast to around St. Augustine is under a Level 2, or “Slight Risk” for severe thunderstorms, and possibly a tornado. The threatened area extends west into the central panhandle. In South Florida, “widespread meaningful rain amounts are not anticipated,” NWS forecasters in Miami said. Here’s a close-up of the main warning area (credit: NWS-Jacksonville):

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Post cold front highs on Saturday: Miami, 70; Orlando, 65; Tampa, 68; Gainesville, 62; and Jacksonville, 60. A warm-up begins on Sunday and continues into early next week.

Warm winter days

WINTER WARMTH: More information is coming in about the meteorological winter. In South Florida, the number of 80-degree days during the 2019-2020 winter months was well above normal, but not quite as high — in Miami and Fort Lauderdale — as the winter of 2016-2017. Exceptions were at Naples and West Palm Beach, where the number of 80-degree days surpassed the last four winters.

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ATTENTION COLLEGE STUDENTS: If you’re headed into the weather forecasting biz, here’s your chance. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville is looking for students to work with staff forecasters this summer. Students selected will volunteer at least 20 hours a week. The Weather Service is looking for students in meteorology or a related field with a grade point average of at least 2.0. Click here for information on how to apply.

Central Florida under Marginal risk for severe storms as cold front rolls through

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STORMS, THEN COLDER TEMPS: Central Florida was under a Level 1 (Marginal) threat Wednesday for severe weather, while more garden variety thunderstorms were in the forecast for South Florida and North Florida. Heaviest rains were expected in Central Florida during the afternoon and overnight into Thursday. Here are the expected rainfall totals around the central and southern peninsula:

ECFL rainfall forecast

SFL rainfall forecast

Image credits: NOAA/ SPC (top); NWS-Melbourne (center); NWS-Miami (bottom)

RECORD WATCH: Naples tied a record high Tuesday with 86, matching the mark set in 2018. It was the 13th temperature record (high or warm minimum) set this month in Naples.

Both Vero Beach and Fort Pierce tied record highs with 87, matching marks set in 2017.

Storm knocks out power, topples trees; warmer, quieter week coming up

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Above normal temperatures are on the way for all of Florida next week. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

FRIDAY STORM WRAP: Thousands were without power in North Florida, a tornado was reported in the Tampa Bay area, and an unofficial wind gust of 74 mph was reported north of Tallahassee.

Schools in Florida’s Big Bend area were closed Thursday afternoon as were local government offices, the Tallahassee Democrat said. A 45 mph wind gust was reported at the National Weather Service’s office at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

A personal weather station in the Golden Eagle development north of Tallahassee reported a wind gust of 74 mph, “though forecasters weren’t sure about the accuracy of that report,” The Democrat said Friday.

State Road 408 in the Orlando area was closed on Thursday when scaffolding was damaged in high winds, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The Tampa Bay Times reported: “Pinellas County may have gotten the worst of it. A powerful squall line came ashore late Thursday, thrashed the Tampa Bay area, produced at least one tornado and pushed a crane over onto Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg.”

A woman was trapped in her house when a tree fell on it, the newspaper said. There were numerous reports of more minor damage on the National Weather Service’s Facebook site.

The storm caused at least three deaths in Alabama and Tennessee.

South Florida maximum wind gusts: Juno Beach, 45 mph; Lake Okeechobee (South Florida Water Management District station), 44; Miami International Airport, 43; and Palm Beach International Airport, 35.

East-Central: Orlando International Airport, 40 mph; Melbourne, 36;  and Fort Pierce, 31.

West-Central: St. Petersburg, 49 mph; Brooksville, 44; and Ocala, 44.

TOP RAINFALL TOTALS (CoCoRaHS): Northern Leon County (Tallahassee), 2.55 inches; Chiefland (Levy County), 1.83; and North Port (Sarasota County), 2.01. Many areas across the peninsula, including Central and South Florida,, picked up between a half-inch and an inch.

OUTLOOK, SOUTH FLORIDA: “Near average temperatures early in the period should trend towards above average late in the week with
highs climbing well into the 80s away from the Atlantic coast,” the National Weather Service in Miami said.

EAST-CENTRAL: “Strong Atlantic high pressure ridge will keep any frontal intrusions at bay until possibly Fri at the earliest. This will keep weather conditions dry and warm, with above normal temperatures through at least Thursday,” the NWS in Melbourne said.

WEST-CENTRAL: “The front at the end of the week will stay north of the area. Temperatures initially on the cool side gradually warm through the week,” the NWS in Tampa said.

NORTH FLORIDA: A cold front nears the area on Wednesday and Thursday and but then lifts back to the north. “Temperatures will be above normal,” the NWS in Jacksonville said.