Florida braces for stormy Friday; a look back at Tropical Storm Arlene

NFL severe storm risk

(Image credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

North Florida has been put under an “Enhanced” risk for severe weather on Friday by NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. “There is a good chance storms could produce damaging winds with isolated tornadoes possible,” the National Weather Service in Jacksonville said Thursday.

The Enhanced risk area includes cities of Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Gainesville and Lake City. The “Slight” risk area runs from Tampa on the West Coast over to the Treasure Coast on the Atlantic side and up to around Daytona Beach.

South Florida, from Lake Okeechobee south, is under a “Marginal” risk. Here’s the wider view:


(Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

Note that a whopping five states are under an Enhanced risk with this system — Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Areas as far north as Pennsylvania and New Jersey will be at Marginal risk with this powerful storm, which will send a cold front ripping down the Florida peninsula on Friday.

Not all that much rain is forecast from the front and its associated squall line, since it will be fast-moving. National Weather Service offices in Miami and Melbourne are forecasting around an inch in South Florida with perhaps up to 2 inches in Central Florida.


Off season TS NOAA

A plot of all off-season tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic. (Image credit: NOAA)

APRIL ANNIVERSARIES: “Don’t get lulled into a sense of complacency based on the calendar.” That’s the gist of a new piece posted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Wednesday — 43 days from the official start of the 2019 hurricane season.

“The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, but there is nothing magical about these dates,” NOAA, the parent agency of the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service says. “Tropical cyclones can appear almost anytime.”

It’s a timely reminder since Friday is the second anniversary of one of only two tropical storms ever to form during the month of April. That would be Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed east of Bermuda on April 19, 2017. No one knew it at the time, but Arlene kicked off what was arguable the most stressful Atlantic hurricane season since 2005.

The season featured 10 hurricanes and six majors, including blockbuster storms Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, the latter two being Category 5 storms. All three caused catastrophic damage.

The only other storm to form in April was Tropical Storm Ana in 2003 on April 20.

“Tropical storms have formed in every month outside of hurricane season, and there have been a few hurricanes too,” NOAA notes. “May is the most active month outside the official season, with seven named storms occurring during the past 10 years, including two in 2012 – Alberto and Beryl.

“And while it’s unusual, all it takes is the right combination of atmospheric conditions and warmer ocean waters for a tropical cyclone to form, regardless of the date.”

As the anniversaries of Ana and Arlene approach this weekend, the Atlantic is quiet, according to the National Hurricane Center.


El Niño likely to stretch into peak of the hurricane season, forecasters say

The weak El Niño in the tropical Pacific is likely to continue through the fall, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday in a forecast that has implications for the 2019 hurricane season.

Forecasters put summer El Niño chances at 65 percent, up from 60 percent in last month’s assessment, and 50-55 percent for fall, the agency’s first El Niño forecast for autumn. Since El Niño conditions have the effect of increasing wind shear in the Atlantic, it could keep tropical storm formation down into the peak of the season, which is August through October.

The Australia Bureau of Meteorology issues its updated El Niño outlook on Tuesday, but an analysis earlier this month predicted that warmer than average Pacific temperatures will “remain at El Niño levels at least to mid-year.”

Hurricane forecasters have been predicting a slightly below average hurricane season for 2019.


RECORD WATCH: The high in Marathon Thursday was 88, tying a record for the date, originally set in 2008.


Sunday panhandle storms

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

Strong storms are possible in the Florida panhandle on Sunday, NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center says.

Most of the western and central portions of the panhandle are under a “Slight” risk for severe weather — one step up from Marginal. But an “Enhanced” risk was posted for parts of Alabama and Georgia just north of the panhandle.

Most of the northern and central Florida peninsula are at risk for garden variety thunderstorms. South Florida was left out of the risk area completely on Friday, although forecasters said a thunderstorm or two “can’t be ruled out.”

The front that’s poised to bring the severe weather risk may deliver some slightly cooler air to the peninsula early next week, but it won’t last long, according to the National Weather Service.

“Any cooling and drying will be modest and short-lived as southeasterly flow will return by Wednesday,” NWS forecasters in Miami said Friday.


DOOMED ON THE MOON: Israel’s SpaceIL mission to the moon — a private company’s effort to land a spacecraft on the surface — ended in disappointment Thursday when the ship crash-landed. The lunar lander, called Beresheet, had been tasked with carrying out scientific measurements.

“As the spacecraft approached the moon, SpaceIL lost contact with Beresheet several times,” The Jerusalem Post reported Friday. “The scientists kept hope as the connection was restored, but just minutes before the spacecraft was supposed to touch down, contact was lost once again and it crashed on the moon.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel would keep trying.

Florida set to sizzle with first 90-degree highs in central, interior areas

FLORIDA SPRINGS INTO SUMMER: It’s the first weekend of the year with widespread forecast highs of 90 degrees around the peninsula. Orlando is expected to hit 90 on Sunday — which would be the first 90-degree temperature of the year in Orlando.

Arcadia is also expected to post a 90-degree high on Saturday, the first of the season.

North Florida and most of the coastal areas should reach the high 80s both days of the weekend.

ECFL Saturday

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

After a hot afternoon, storms with lightning strikes and gusty winds are possible in Volusia County and interior areas of East-Central Florida, the National Weather Service in Melbourne said.

A few 90-degree readings already popped up on Friday, including a high of 90 in Immokalee, in interior Collier County, according to the National Weather Service. Other 90-degree highs were reported by observers in suburban Naples.

Palmdale, west of Lake Okeechobee, hit a high of 91 on Friday.

Temperatures are expected to dip early next week when some rain moves into the peninsula, but then bounce back up in time for next weekend.

“It is still a little early to tell how strong the convection will be,” forecasters at the National Weather Service in Miami said Saturday.


RECORD WATCH: Marathon tied a record high Friday with 88, matching a mark set in 1993. The city also tied a record warm low with 79, matching the record set in 2017. Marathon has set or tied record highs every day so far this month.

TROPICS WATCH: Tropical Storm Risk, the UK organization made up of meteorologists, insurance experts and researchers, issued its first 2019 hurricane forecast Thursday.

It echoed the one issued by Colorado State University earlier in the day, calling for 12 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes Category 3 or stronger. But, like CSU, forecasters predicted that Accumulated Cyclone Energy for the season — a measure of the strength and duration of all storms — would be below normal. They forecast a total ACE of 81; an average season has 106.

CSU forecast 13, five and two with an ACE of 80.

Record rainfall slams Miami; toasty weekend on tap for all of Florida

The front that drifted up from the Florida Straits Thursday dumped heavy rain in parts of South Florida, with Miami reporting a rainfall record.

The National Weather Service said 1.59 inches fell at Miami International Airport, breaking the daily record for April 4. The old record was 0.96 of an inch set in 1991.

A bit to the north in Pembroke Pines, a CoCoRaHS observer reported 3.56 inches while another observer near Weston reported 2.45 inches.

The National Weather Service in Miami said 3.25 inches fell in Davie; Miramar picked up 2.33 inches; and 1.34 inches fell in Hollywood.

Amounts elsewhere around the peninsula were light, although one observer near Delray Beach in Palm Beach County measured just short of a quarter of an inch, and others in West-Central Florida reported around a third of an inch.

After the rain moves out over the Atlantic — a line of showers was soaking Central Florida Friday morning — a taste of summer weather settles in for the weekend, according to forecasters, with highs in the upper 80s in interior areas east of Tampa and in South Florida.

Forecast highs near 90 are also on tap for Orlando.

Get those AC units tuned up.

Record high Marathon

(Image credit: NWS-Key West)

RECORD WATCH: Thursday’s high in Marathon was 89, which broke the previous record high of 88 set in 2009. Marathon has set a record high every day this month so far.


WAITING ON JUNE: As the pre-season hurricane forecasters began dribbling in this week, Jeff Masters at Weather Underground noted in a blog post that, “On average, April forecasts of hurricane season activity have had no skill, since they must deal with the so-called ‘spring predictability barrier.’

“April is the time of year when the El Niño/La Niña phenomenon commonly undergoes a rapid change from one state to another, making it difficult to predict whether we will have El Niño, La Niña, or neutral conditions in place for the coming hurricane season.”

Colorado State University’s forecast, posted Thursday, called for 13 named storms, five hurricanes and two majors. But they predicted that Accumulated Cyclone Energy — a measure of the strength and duration of all storms — would be slightly below normal.

“The next CSU forecast, due on June 4, is worth paying more attention to,” Masters said. “Their late May/early June forecasts have shown considerable skill over the years.”

The hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November 30.

Colorado State calls for ‘slightly below average’ hurricane season


Will the 2019 hurricane season map look anything like 1969? Hopefully not, since 1969, shown above, was a blockbuster year. But AccuWeather picked it as an analog. (Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

April hurricane forecasts are dicey, since it’s a little early to see how weather patters in the tropics are gong to set up by late summer and early fall. But the bets are being placed on the table this week, highlighted by the most watched of all the forecasts, the one issued by Philip Klotzbach, Michael Bell and Jhordanne Jones at Colorado State University.

CSU posted its forecast this morning, calling for a slightly below normal season, although the team is predicting 13 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes, Category 3 or stronger. An average year has 12 named storms.

But they are betting that a percentage of the storms will be weak or of short duration. They forecast accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) — an assessment of the total strength and duration of all storms — to be 80. An average season has an ACE of 106.

“The current weak El Niño event appears likely to persist and perhaps even strengthen this summer/fall,” CSU forecasters said. “Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are slightly below normal, and the far North Atlantic is anomalously cool.”

They also forecast below average chances of a major hurricane striking the U.S. coast or the Caribbean.

Forecasts that come out around the start of hurricane season on June 1 tend to be more accurate, but CSU did pretty well last April with its forecast. It called for 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three majors — the final total was 15, eight and two.

Accuweather released its first forecast on Wednesday, calling for 12-14 named storms, five-to-seven hurricanes and two-to-four majors. That’s slightly above the average number of named storms, which is 12.

AccuWeather pegged 1969 as an analog year, which means experts believe weather conditions in the tropical Atlantic will be similar to that year during the 2019 hurricane season.

However, 1969 was a blowout year, with 18 named storms, 12 hurricanes and five majors, including the historic Category 5 Hurricane Camille, which leveled parts of the northern Gulf Coast.

The UK’s Tropical Storm Risk, which issued a similar 2019 hurricane forecast in December calling for 12 named storms, five hurricanes and three majors, publishes its updated outlook on Friday.

For the 2018 year, TSR nailed the forecast the previous December when it called for 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes. The actual numbers were 15 eight and two.

The organization — a consortium of meteorologists, researchers and insurance professionals — joined other forecasters in underselling the 2017 season, predicting 11 named storms in April, the same number as CSU. When the anticipated El Niño failed to take shape, however, TSR’s July 4 forecast was on target again at 17, seven and three. (CSU’s July 5, 2017 forecast was for 15, eight and three.)


DROUGHT CONDITIONS EXPAND IN PANHANDLE: Abnormally Dry conditions remained unchanged this week in East-Central Florida and on the southeastern coast. But Moderate Drought has taken hold in the Florida panhandle’s three western-most counties — Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa.

Abnormally Dry conditions spread into the central Panhandle as far east as Jefferson County, to the east of Tallahassee.

The assessment was released Thursday by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

March was warm and dry across the state; forecasters predict wetter April


The Storm Prediction Center has pulled South Florida out of the “Marginal” risk for severe weather on Tuesday, but Central Florida remains under the gun. Thunderstorms and small hail are possible, forecasters said. (Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)


Happy April 1st. March was warm and dry across the Florida peninsula and the Keys — and that’s no foolin’!

Miami’s average high was 81.3 degrees with an average low of 66.2 — an overall 1.1 degrees above the March 30-year average. At the same time, Miami had a March precipitation shortfall of 1.09 inches.

Interesting to note that it was the sixth warmer-than-average month out of the last seven in Miami, and the only reason it wasn’t eight straight is that January had slightly below average temperatures.

Orlando had a bone-dry March with just 0.56 of an inch of rain. That was 3.21 inches below average. Temperatures in the city were 1.3 degrees above normal with an average high of 78.8 and an average low of 57.7.

Tampa racked up 1.87 inches of rain but that was still 1.16 inches short. The average high was 77.9 and the average low was 60.3, which was 1.8 degrees above average.

In North Florida, Jacksonville had 2.04 inches — about half of normal March precip — while temps were 0.7 of a degree warmer than normal, with an average high of 73.9 and an average low of 51.

Following the warm and dry pattern across the state, Gainesville ended the month an impressive 3.8 degrees above the 30-year average, and the city was almost two-and-a-half inches shy of normal rainfall. The average high was 78.7 with an average low of 53.6.

Key West was 2.9 degrees above the March average and was short on rainfall by a quarter of an inch. Marathon finished the month 3.7 degrees on the plus side with a precipitation deficit of 1.49 inches.

Tallahassee was short almost 3 inches in March rainfall and had slightly above normal temperatures.

April precip


April temps

(Image credits: NOAA/ CPC)

APRIL OUTLOOK: April temps climb steadily in Florida, from a normal high of 82 in Miami on April 1 to 85 on April 30. Lows go from 74 to 78. In Orlando, normals rise from 80 to 85 and lows jump from 58 to 63. In Tampa, highs warm from 78 on April 1 to 84 on April 30, while lows rise from 61 to 66. Temperatures of 90 or better are common around the peninsula in April — the month’s record high in Tampa is 96, set two years ago on April 29.

The new April forecast, released Sunday by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, calls for high chances of above normal temperatures across the entire state along with above normal precipitation. Precipitation usually edges up around Central and South Florida as we head toward the end of the dry season on May 15.

TROPICS: Tropical storms can form in April in both the Atlantic and Pacific. The most recent Atlantic tropical storm was Arlene, which initiated a very busy and costly season on April 19, 2017. Tropical Storm Ana formed on April 20, 2003. An unnamed tropical depression formed on April 14, 1912; and a subtropical storm formed on April 21, 1992. The first tropical depression of the 1973 season formed on April 18.

Colorado State University releases its first hurricane season forecast on Thursday.

Tuesday cold front won’t pack much of a punch, forecasters say

CFL expected rainfall
Only light rain is forecast with the arrival of next week’s cold front. Click on image for link to larger original. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

A cold front on Tuesday is expected to push temperatures down slightly around the peninsula — and maybe deliver a few sprinkles.

Lows are forecast to dip into the upper 40s in North Florida and the panhandle, the mid- to upper-50s in Central Florida, and the upper 50s to low 60s in South Florida.

“Rain chances for South Florida with this frontal passage are not as high as what we saw last week,” National Weather Service forecasters said their discussion Sunday.

Precipitation probabilities range from 40-50 percent in Central Florida and 20-30 percent in South Florida.


TROPICAL TROUBLE IN ATLANTIC: A rare tropical storm formed Sunday in the South Atlantic, Weather Underground reported.

Tropical Storm Iba was 600 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with winds of 40 mph and it was moving toward the southeast, away from land. Winds could top out at 50 mph, Director of Meteorology Jeff Masters said.

It was “likely to slowly weaken by mid-week, never attaining hurricane status,” he said.

Iba is only the ninth tropical or subtropical system in the South Atlantic to get a name.


MICHAEL UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: The University of Alabama is conducting a study on the impact of Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm ever to hit the Florida panhandle. Participants are being asked to take a 20 minute survey and may also be asked to do brief interviews or participate in focus groups.

Researchers are trying to determine how hurricane warnings were utilized during the storm in order to fine tune future hurricane warning messages.

Michael ripped through the Gulf of Mexico and intensified rapidly, making landfall on the Florida panhandle on October 10 with sustained winds of 155 mph,. That’s just under Category 5 strength. At least 45 deaths were reported in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

The information provided by participants will remain confidential.