Tampa and Orlando running almost 10 degrees above normal for February

WFL forecast

(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Florida’s February weather has been food for table talk lately, with records falling almost every day. With the month at the half-way point, where exactly do we stand?

Comparing monthly average temperatures with climate history data from The Southeast Regional Climate Center at the University of North Carolina, if the trend continues it looks like some sites may have their warmest February on record. Or close to it.

Orlando and Tampa are the cities most above average so far this month, with each running almost 10 degrees above normal.

Here’s the breakdown:

SOUTH FLORIDA: Miami 6.6 degrees above normal with an average high of 82 and an average low of 70. West Palm Beach plus-7.2 80 and 69; Naples, plus-7.9, 83 64. Fort Lauderdale plus-3.9 79 and 70.

Key West plus-5.4, 80 and 72.

These are highs typical late March and lows typical of late April.

EAST-CENTRAL FLORIDA: Fort Pierce plus-7.0, 79 and 62; Vero Beach plus-7.0, 79 and 62; Orlando plus-9.8, 79 and 64; Daytona Beach plus-7.4, 75 and 58.

WEST COAST: Tampa plus-9.8, 81 and 63; Fort Myers plus-7.7, 84 and 63.

NORTH FLORIDA: Jacksonville plus-6.6; 72 and 51; Gainesville plus-6.2, 74 and 51.

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TROPICS TALK: Tropical Cyclone Gita powered up into a monster Category 4 storm earlier this week and pounded the South Pacific island nation of Tonga with a direct hit, according to Weather Underground.

Gita slammed American Samoa on Friday and caused massive damage, and the island group was declared a disaster by President Trump.

The storm was losing its punch at mid-week, but its remnants were expected to hammer New Zealand with heavy rain on Monday.

Water temperatures off New Zealand are record warm, helped by the nation’s warmest month ever recorded in January, Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters said.

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Tampa and Naples notch record highs; islands may ask Washington for storm aid

Tampa beat a 79-year-old high temperature record Friday with 86, besting the old record of 85 set in 1939. Also on Friday, Naples set a record high of 86, beating the previous record for the date set on February 9, 1965.

Several record warm lows were set on Friday as well. As Naples set a record high, the city also set a record warm low with 68, beating the previous mark of 67 set in 2008.

Fort Pierce also set a new record warm low Friday with 70, besting the old mark of 69 set in 1939.

Unofficially, two observation stations in Collier County topped out at 88 degrees Friday.

Expect more record warm lows on Florida’s East Coast — and record highs on the West Coast — over the weekend, the National Weather Service in Miami said.

forecast highs SFL

Full sunscreen alert for visitors to the Orlando attractions, where highs in the mid-80s are forecast this weekend. (Image credits: Above, NWS-Miami; below: NWS-Melbourne)

CFL weekend highs

FUN FEB FACT: February 10 is the first day of the year in which the record high temperature at West Palm Beach has hit 90. That happened in 1949. In Miami, the first 90-degree record high doesn’t occur until March 2; In Fort Lauderdale it’s February 14; Naples, March 8.

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TROPICS TALK: We’re more than three months away from the hurricane season in the continental U.S., but tropical weather is front and center in another part of the country — Hawaii and, to the southwest, American Samoa. The latter was smacked on Friday by Tropical Cyclone Gita, causing high winds, flooding and mudslides.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed the port at Pago Pago, the capital of the island chain. The National Weather Service office there was closed, and forecasts were being issued from Honolulu, according to Radio New Zealand.

The storm damaged homes and caused power outages. American Samoa Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga declared an emergency and said it was likely he’d ask for assistance from the U.S. government in Washington.

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KW radar upgrade

OFFLINE IN THE KEYS: The radar in Key West will be down next week for “a major upgrade,” the National Weather Service said. In the meantime, radar in Miami covers the Keys. (Credit: NWS-Key West)

Forecasts: Balmy spring weather may be followed by early start to hurricane season

ENSO forecast

Neutral ENSO conditions are in the forecast for this summer. What will that mean for the 2018 hurricane season? (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

An unusually warm and dry spring in Florida — and an early start to the hurricane season — were among predictions issued by forecasters Thursday.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its monthly assessment of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions in the tropical Pacific, calling for the current La Niña to transition to neutral conditions during the spring months.

Nevertheless, they see La Niña impacts on North America continuing into the spring season, translating to a March-May period in Florida with above normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation.

“The outlooks generally favor above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation across the southern tier of the United States, and below-average temperatures and above median precipitation across the northern tier of the United States,” CPC forecasters said.

At the same time, AccuWeather released its spring forecast Thursday, calling for dry conditions through April in Florida, after which “the dry pattern could be turned on its head come May, when an early tropical feature threatens to impact the region.”

AccuWeather forecaster Paul Pastelok warned about May tropical development in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the southwestern Atlantic.

“I do feel there’s going to be something popping up,” he said.

Early season tropical storms aren’t unusual in the Atlantic Basin — Tropical Storm Arlene formed last year on April 19. In 2016, Tropical Storm Bonnie formed on May 27 and in 2015, Tropical Storm Ana formed on May 8.

anoma.2.8.2018

(Image credit: NOAA/ NESDIS)

The latest sea surface temperature anomaly assessments by NOAA, also released Thursday, show a lot of below-normal water temperatures have built up off Florida’s coasts, as well as in the Gulf of Mexico and northwestern Caribbean.

After a cool January, high pressure has taken control this month over the southwestern Atlantic and Caribbean, and water temperatures can rise quickly if that pattern holds.

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RECORD WATCH: Melbourne busted a 61-year-old temperature record Thursday with a balmy low of 69. The previous record warm low was 68 set in 1957. The low in Naples was 68, which tied the record warm low set in 1986.

The high in Punta Gorda Thursday was 89; and it was 87 in Fort Myers. But both were short of records for the date.

Rain in Florida weekend forecast; fearless Phil weighs in

SAY IT AIN’T SO: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow when he crawled out of his burrow at 7:35 a.m. Friday and declared that we’re in for six more weeks of winter.

The Washington Post reported: “How he managed to see his shadow with clouds blocking the sun is a bit of a mystery.” Thousands of observers, The Post said, were “unfazed by the biting wind, blowing snow and bone-chilling temperatures in the teens.”

In Georgia’s Georgia’s Dauset Trails Nature Center near Jackson — southeast of Atlanta — local groundhog celeb Gen. Beauregard Lee also spotted his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter.

In Ohio, Buckeye Chuck concurred.

Should we be concerned? Not really.

As Phil Connors said during one of his many commentaries at the Pennsylvania event: “When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”

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Groundhog Day storm Keys

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

STORMS OF GROUNDHOG DAY PAST: A Groundhog Day storm slammed into the Florida Keys in 1998 and dropped a record-setting 2.34 inches of rain in Key West. Two tornadoes and thunderstorms caused widespread damage in the Keys. “Coastal flooding was observed as well, with at least two boats washing up onto South Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West,” meteorologists at the National Weather Service office in Key West noted on Friday, the 20th anniversary of the storm.

Also, this is the 68th anniversary of the Groundhog Day tropical storm, which raked Key West on the night of February 2, 1950 after forming in the northwestern Caribbean a day earlier. The storm also walloped Miami with sustained winds of 60 mph and gusts to 68 mph.

Parts of South Florida reported up to 4 inches of rain from the storm.

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WET WEEKEND? A few showers up and down the peninsula will dampen the first weekend of the new month, forecasters said. The trigger will be two very weak cold fronts that stall over or near South Florida.

Next week looks drier — and warmer, with South Florida highs reaching the upper 70s by mid-week, according to the National Weather Service. Central Florida also looks nice, with highs in the mid- to upper-70s.

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Jan CFL summary

DRENCHED IN DAYTONA: It was the fifth-wettest January on record in Daytona Beach, which racked up 6.46 inches of rain. See Thursday’s Florida Weather Watch post for a complete statewide January wrap-up. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

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SUPER BOWL FORECAST: Fans packing into Minneapolis for the Eagles-Patriots game will be braving bitterly cold temperatures, with a high Sunday of 7 heading down to a low of 2 below zero. Kickoff temp: 3 degrees, the coldest ever for a Super Bowl, according to forecasters.

Fortunately, U.S. Bank Stadium is domed, and inside it’s a toasty 70 degrees.

Harvey becomes second-costliest hurricane in new NHC analysis

harvey-saturday-goes7am

Satellite image of Hurricane Harvey on August 26 as the storm meandered over eastern Texas, dropping massive amounts of rain. (Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

Two hurricanes from the brutal 2017 season made the list of the top five costliest storms in U.S. history in a new National Hurricane Center report released Thursday.

Hurricane Harvey, which lashed the Texas Coast in August with up to 60 inches of rain, was second only to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina at $125 billion. Harvey replaced Hurricane Ike from 2008 as the second-costliest hurricane in U.S. history.

Hurricane Irma, which smashed Florida in September, became the fifth-costliest storm on record with $50 billion in damage.

Andrew dropped to number 7 and Wilma dropped to ninth in the NHC survey.

Other ranked hurricanes that socked Florida included Charley (11th, 2004); Frances (14th, 2004); and Jeanne (16th, 2004).

The NHC released its full Hurricane Harvey report on Tuesday. It said Harvey struck the Texas coast with winds of 132 mph. But it was the stalling of the system right over the coast, causing days of torrential rain, which caused the most damage.

“Harvey was the most significant tropical cyclone rainfall event in United States history, both in scope and peak rainfall amounts, since reliable rainfall records began around the 1880s,” the agency’s Eric Blake and David Zelinsky wrote. “The highest storm total rainfall report from Harvey was 60.58 inches near Nederland, Texas, with another report of 60.54 inches from near Groves, Texas.”

“Both of these values (and from five other stations) exceed the previously accepted United States tropical cyclone storm total rainfall record of 52.00 inches at Kanalohuluhulu Ranger Station, Hawaii. (1950)”

“The exceptional rainfall fell over some of the most densely populated areas of the U.S. Gulf Coast,” they added.

The full report on Hurricane Irma has not yet been released by the NHC. But the agency set damage figures at around $50 billion for the storm, which clobbered Cudjoe Key as a Category 4 on September 10.

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Wind speeds

Winds up to 35 knots were forecast for the Florida Straits on Saturday. (Credit: NWS-Key West)

East-northeast winds continued to crank on Saturday, with a reported gust of 36 mph at Palm Beach International Airport at 7 a.m.

Miami International had a maximum gust of 30 while Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood reported a 32 mph gust.

A 43 mph wind gust was reported on Key Biscayne, where a Small Craft Advisory was in effect through Sunday morning.

Winds are forecast to begin tapering off in advance of a low pressure system and cold front that could bring heavy rain to North Florida, and showers and thunderstorms to Central and South Florida late Sunday and early Monday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

POST-COLD-FRONT: By mid-week, highs may only touch the 70-degree mark before a warm-up begins in time for the weekend, forecasters said.

7 day Tampa forecast

(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Florida weather in a word: Windy!

Small Craft Advisory

The National Weather Service in Miami is calling for 10-foot seas in the Gulf Stream, but NWS forecasters in Key West say they could reach 12 feet. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Hold on to your hat, keep a tight grip on your steering wheel and use extra caution if you’re at the beach or on the water. Gusty winds are in the forecast for the end of the week and into the weekend on both coasts and especially as you head south toward the Keys.

A Small Craft Advisory is in effect through Friday for South Florida’s Atlantic waters, stretching around through the Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico.

East-northeast winds of up to 30 knots are likely with seas up to 12 feet in the Gulf Stream, and even on land, winds are expected to gust up to near 30 mph on Thursday.

In Miami, winds are forecast to gust over 30 mph Thursday night.

The winds will cause hazardous beach conditions, too, and forecasters say swimming is not recommended. If you go to the beach, check out the postings and pay attention to the hazards.

The trigger is high pressure building to the north and west, coming up against remnants of the cold front that moved through the Florida peninsula earlier this week. The pressure gradient is what causes the winds to whip up, National Weather Service forecasters note.

Winds should ease up by Sunday, forecasters said, but breezy weather is expected through the middle of next week.

Hurricane hazards

AND SPEAKING OF WINDY WEATHER: This is Severe Weather Awareness Week with Thursday highlighting one our most un-favorite topics in Florida: hurricanes. Each day this week featured a different hazard. Monday covered the dangers of lightning, Tuesday addressed rip currents and other marine hazards, Wednesday looked at tornadoes and thunderstorms. The week winds down Friday with a discussion of extreme temperatures and wildfires. (Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

Irma named top story of 2017 by National Weather Service

Top weather story

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

No surprise here — Hurricane Irma was named the top weather story of 2017 by the National Weather Service in Miami.

Irma, which caused massive damage in the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm, made landfall as a Category 4 on Cudjoe Key at 9 a.m. September 10 and on Marco Island at 3:35 p.m., where wind gusts were clocked of up to 129 mph. A gust of 142 mph was measured at Naples Municipal Airport.

Miami International reported a gust of 100 mph and Palm Beach International had a 91 mph gust.

East of Naples, Immokalee sustained massive damage east of the eyewall with 14.48 inches of rain.

“Widespread tree damage and some structural damage occurred across all of South Florida, with most structural damage on the minor side,” the Weather Service said in a review of 2017 released Friday night.

“Irma brought a significant storm surge on both coasts of South Florida. A maximum storm tide of 9 to 10 feet was observed in Chokoloskee and Everglades City, 6 to 7 feet in Goodland and 4 to 5 feet from Marco Island to Naples. Along the east coast, observed storm tide values of 4 to 6 feet were noted along Biscayne Bay from south of Miami to Homestead, and 2 to 4 feet elsewhere along the east coast from Key Biscayne to Palm Beach.”

There were 32 deaths attributed to Irma in Florida, almost all of them occurring during cleanup after the hurricane. The only direct death: An 86-year-old man was knocked down by a wind gust of wind when he opened the front door of his house in Broward County.

Irma powered up the West Coast but managed to stay inland, so it weakened quicker than originally forecast.

The hurricane “threaded the needle between the state’s major cities,” the Tampa Bay Times reported. “It did far less damage than feared.”

With Irma’s projected path bouncing from Florida’s East Coast to up the spine of the state and then the West Coast, hundreds of thousands of Florida residents evacuated — the largest evacuation in the history of the state, according to the New York Times.

Irma caused about $800 million in damage in South Florida, according to the NWS, with insured losses of $5.8 billion, the Insurance Journal reported. Total loss estimates ranged between $25 billion and $65 billion.

PRECIPITATION: “Despite the dry beginning to the year due to La Nina conditions, the wet season in South Florida was even more wet than usual,” analysts said. “Most of the climate sites registered yearly amounts that landed in the top 20 wettest.

“Two sites that stand out are Marco Island and Naples East, where both locations shattered their yearly rainfall records. The Opa-Locka Airport also ended up with its wettest year on record.”

TEMPERATURES: As of Saturday, Miami was on track to tie for its warmest year on record.

“Naples will end up 3rd warmest, Fort Lauderdale 4th, and Palm Beach 6th,” the Weather Service reported. “What really stands out in 2017 is the number of temperature records set. Miami set an astounding 53 high temperature records in 2017, with only 2 cold temperature records. Fort Lauderdale set 35 high temperature records and 6 cold records.

“Palm Beach set 28 high temperature records and 4 cold records. Finally, Naples set 22 high temperature records and 7 cold records. As has been the trend in previous years, high minimum temperature records made up a majority of the temperature records.”