Franklin becomes first hurricane; Bahamas low heads for Florida

Hurricane Franklin

FRANKLIN IS FIRST:¬†The ¬†Gulf of Mexico storm became the 2017 Atlantic season’s first hurricane at 5 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center said, with winds of 75 mph. Further strengthening was forecast before the storm wallops the East Coast of Mexico early Thursday, forecasters said. They were predicting an 85-mph hurricane at landfall. (Credit: NOAA/ NHC)

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UPDATE: The low over the Bahamas, marked in yellow, was given a 10 percent chance of tropical development Wednesday afternoon by the National Hurricane Center. National Weather Service forecasters said the system will bring rain to the Florida peninsula on Thursday. Meanwhile, disturbance 99L was given a 50 percent chance of developing east of the Bahamas by early next week. (Credit: NHC)

An upper level low poised to sweep in from the Bahamas could bring more than an inch of needed rain to South Florida over the next couple of days, while forecasters cast a wary eye on tropical disturbance 99L to the east.

Rain chances shoot up to 70 percent on the southeast coast Wednesday night and into Thursday as the Bahamas low moves west-northwest over the southern part of the peninsula. Rain chances rise in Central Florida, too, but the better chances will be on the Treasure Coast and points south. West-Central Florida should be in line for some showers, too, south of I-4, according to the National Weather Service in Tampa.

The tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles — a subject of speculation and debate by forecasters and weather watchers since moving off the coast of Africa a week ago on August 2 — showed signs of organizing Tuesday, and the National Hurricane Center upped its five-day chances of development into a depression or tropical storm to 40 percent.

Looking at the forecast models, the system appears to be no threat to Florida or the U.S. East Coast, since those that develop it have consistently called for the storm to sweep out to sea east of the Bahamas. Still scenarios can change quickly and National Weather Service forecasters in Miami noted Wednesday: “Residents and visitors of South Florida need to continue to monitor the latest information on the disturbance from the National Hurricane Center into early next week.”

RECORD WATCH: Melbourne and Vero Beach tied record warm lows Tuesday with 81 and 80 degrees, respectively.

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Franklin is forecast to make landfall early Thursday morning as a Category 1 hurricane. (Credit: NHC)

FRANKLIN POWERS UP: The storm was near hurricane strength Wednesday morning with winds of 70 mph, and it was likely to become the Atlantic’s first hurricane. Winds are expected to top out at 80 mph, making it a Category 1 storm.

In Mexico, hurricane watches were upped to hurricane warnings from Puerto de Veracruz to Tuxpan, and watches were extended from Tuxpan to Rio Panuco.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami were calling for up to 15 inches of rain with flash flooding and mudslides, and a storm surge of up to 4 feet above normal tides. That’s with hurricane conditions, meaning winds of up to 95 mph in a Category 1.

Interesting to note that based on climatology from 1966-2009, the average date of the season’s first hurricane is August 10, so Franklin could join the club one day early.

The last Colorado State University forecast called for eight hurricanes this year, so Franklin could be just the start of a long string that stretches into October or November.

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Forecasters weigh tropical disturbance’s potential impact on Florida

NWS tropics

Next week’s weather in Florida is dependent on what happens with the tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles. (Credit: NWS/ NHC)

The tropical wave designated Invest 99L has been tracked by the National Hurricane Center for almost a full week — since August 2, when it rolled off the coast of Africa.

It has waxed and waned since then, and various models have spun it up into a strong tropical storm or even a hurricane with some potential to slam the East Coast of the U.S.

The system struggled, though, and the GFS eventually dropped it. On Thursday, an interesting thing occurred: The respected European model (ECMWF) began forecasting development as it neared the Bahamas, and the ECMWF has continued to support at least a tropical depression or storm perhaps forming this weekend. It’s joined by the Canadian (CMC) and the Navy’s global forecast model.

What actually happens to the system will make a big difference to Florida’s weather next week, according to the National Weather Service in Miami. If the GFS is right and 99L remains a tropical wave, it’s likely to slide across the peninsula early next week. That would bring some needed rainfall to the area, but nothing more serious.

Tropical waves that do develop are usually pulled more toward the north, so if the ECMWF-CMC-NAVGEM scenario pans out, the disturbance — which would get the name Gert if it becomes a tropical storm — would probably stay east of the Bahamas and have few, if any, impacts on Florida.

National Weather Service forecasters said in their Tuesday discussion.: “Will keep an easterly wind flow over the area with the typical summer time weather pattern until the models become more in agreement on the strength and path of the disturbance.”

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center shows more than 2 inches of rain falling across South Florida through next Tuesday, but much of that will come from an upper-level low near Puerto Rico that’s forecast to move into the Florida peninsula over the weekend.

Invest 99L, still east of the northwestern Lesser Antilles, did show some signs of pulling together on Tuesday, and the NHC bumped up development odds from 20 percent to 30 percent.

RECORD WATCH: Miami and West Palm Beach both tied record warm lows Monday with 82. Melbourne tied a record warm low with 81, and Vero Beach tied a record warm low with 80.

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Tropical Storm Franklin was moving over the Yucatan Tuesday. (Credit: NOAA)

TROPICS WATCH: The BIG QUESTION with Tropical Storm Franklin is: Will it become the season’s first hurricane? The official forecast by the National Hurricane Center has Franklin staying just under hurricane strength after it emerges off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula and heads across the Bay of Campeche toward the coast of Central Mexico. It was forecast to make landfall as a 70 mph tropical storm, but just a slight uptick would make it a Category 1 hurricane, the season’s first.

As a result, a hurricane watch was posted for Puerto de Veracruz to Rio Panuco. The potential for hurricane development will become more clear Wednesday after it’s had some time over the warm Gulf of Mexico waters. Franklin is forecast to make its final landfall in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

Either way, it’s a formidable storm, with tropical storm force winds extending 140 miles from the center. Isolated rainfall amounts of up to 15 inches, triggering flash-floods and mudslides, are possible on Thursday across an area of the coast that spans 300 miles or more.

As we head toward mid-August in what experts say is going to be a very busy peak hurricane season, it’s interesting to note that outside of Invest 99L, Franklin is the only game in town for the Atlantic. None of the models are showing anything else spinning up over the next seven to 10 days, and the long-range GFS suggests systems coming off the coast of Africa will get eaten up through August 24, presumably by dry air.

This time of the year, however, weather can change quickly in the tropics.

Rain back in Florida forecasts for end of week; Tropical Storm Franklin aims at Mexico

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Tropical Storm Franklin will have no impacts on Florida, but a low pressure area expected to slide over the peninsula at the end of the week should boost rain chances significantly. (Credit: NWS-Miami/ NHC)

Rain is back in the forecast for South Florida and Central Florida after a relatively dry start to August.

Some areas such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale are approaching a 1-inch precipitation deficit — and Marathon in the Middle Keys hasn’t recorded a drop of rain this month.

The June-July period was the wettest on record in parts of the central and southern peninsula, according to the South Florida Water Management District, with an average total of 23.45 inches across the district. The National Weather Service in Miami has details in its mid-rainy season report published last week.

But since then it’s been hit-and-miss. West Palm Beach and Naples are in the plus-column for August rainfall but that’s due to very localized rainfall that fell near the airports on August 1. Also, Naples picked up 1.43 inches of rain on Sunday.

Precipitation chances area-wide rise to around 40-50 percent by the end of the week from Central Florida down to the Keys.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center shows about 2.4 inches of rain falling across South Florida through next Monday as an upper-level low slides across Florida, National Weather Service forecasters said.

RECORD WATCH: Palm Beach International Airport broke a 54-year-old record Sunday with a low of 82. That beat the record for the warmest low, 81, set in 1963.

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TROPICS WATCH: Tropical Storm Franklin, the season’s sixth named storm, formed Sunday night in the western Caribbean. Tropical storm warnings were up for the Yucatan Peninsula and a hurricane watch was also posted for parts of the coast of Mexico. A tropical storm watch was posted as far south as Belize City.

Franklin is expected to cross the Gulf of Mexico’s Bay of Campeche and make landfall on Mexico’s East Coast early Thursday morning.

In the Central Atlantic, Invest 99L continued to deteriorate and the National Hurricane Center lowered odds of development to 20 percent by the end of the week. It should have no impact on Florida.