Sunday wind chills in 40s for South Florida; new hurricane forecasting tool shot down

ANOTHER WINTRY WEEKEND — by Florida standards, that is. The coldest temps will be Sunday morning, when a light freeze is predicted for North Florida and wind chills in the 40s all the way down into South Florida. (Image credits: NWS-Miami, top; NWS-Jacksonville, below)

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HURRICANE FORECASTING SETBACK: Funding for a new type of radar called airborne phased-array radar, or APAR, which could have helped spot hurricanes about to rapidly intensify, was scrapped by the National Science Foundation, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The $70 million project failed to win approval because of “flaws” in the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) proposal, the Post said. NOAA had been expected to partner with NCAR for the building of the of radar, built into hurricane hunter aircraft that investigate storms.

But NOAA officials said the proposal failed to justify the $70 million cost over five years.

The newspaper said NCAR director Everette Joseph — who is a “leading candidate” to head NOAA under the upcoming Biden Administration — plans to resubmit the proposal.

“Although NOAA can still make use of the radar development work carried out to date, NCAR’s failure to receive this program funding will, at the very least, delay the progress of what is considered a game-changing technology for storm research, monitoring and forecasting,” writes Jason Samenow of the Post’s Capital Weather Gang.

Data collected by the new radar was expected to be fed into existing computer forecast models, providing a big boost to intensity, as well as track forecasts.

Rapidly intensifying storms have become more common during the hurricane season as oceans warm. Several hurricanes during the blockbuster 2020 hurricane season underwent rapid intensification as they neared land, making them even more dangerous for coastal residents.

Miami smashes record high with 97; CSU ups hurricane season forecast

ECFL forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

The heat is on, as Glenn Frey once said. Miami obliterated a record high Saturday with 97, easily beating the old record of 94 set in 2010.

In the panhandle, Apalachicola did Miami one better, coming in at 98, which tied a record high. And on the Treasure Coast, Vero Beach also tied a record high with 96.

Record warm lows were set in Naples and Key West on Saturday. Naples’ low of 81 busted a record set for the date‌ in 1986, while Key West tied a record with 85.

More advisory-level heat was in the forecast for Sunday and Monday, with heat index values approaching 110 in parts of the Florida interior.

Anyone a fan of novelist Charles Willeford? In one of his great novels, The Woman Chaser, the main character, a used car dealer, forces his salesmen to wear full Santa Claus suits while working on the lot in brutal heat, with temps well into the 90s.

I was reminded about that by the note posted on Facebook Sunday by forecasters at the National Weather Service in Melbourne:

“On the 12th day of July, the weather forecast gave to me…Thunderstorms & hot temperatures. Take refuge indoors when storms threaten & it’s too hot to stand… watch a holiday movie to pass the time! Merry July, Florida!”

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TROPICS WATCH: We have six named storms in the book already — a record start to the hurricane season. But we could be headed for another record — the number of named storms before the first hurricane forms. That record belongs to 2011, when we didn’t have the first Atlantic hurricane until eight tropical storms had formed, according to Colorado State University’s Philip Klotzbach.

That year, the ninth storm was Hurricane Irene, which formed on August 21. Irene topped out as a major, with winds of 120 mph. That was the first of seven hurricanes that season.

Not only have we not had any hurricanes so far this season, but no storm even came close, with two of them maxing out at 60 mph.

And now that the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay have moved into Canada, the National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Weather Outlook map is clear for at least the next five days.

Global forecast models have nothing on the horizon, with the GFS showing the all-clear through at least July 25.

Speaking of Colorado State, Klotzbach and his team of researchers upped their 2020 forecast last week to 20 named storms, nine hurricanes and four majors. They are calling for accumulate cyclone energy — a measure of the strength and duration of all storms — of 160. A normal year has an ACE of 106.

Part of the reason for the increase is that NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued a La Niña Watch on Thursday, with forecasters predicting La Niña conditions by fall. In addition, the CSU team said: “Sea surface temperatures averaged across most of the tropical Atlantic and subtropical Atlantic are somewhat above normal.”

And here’s the kicker: “We anticipate an above-normal probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

La Niña chances on the increase for peak hurricane season, new report says

NEFL rainfall forecast

Up to 3-4 inches of rain is possible through Sunday west of Jacksonville, the National Weather Service says. (Image credit: NWS-Jacksonville)

FRIDAY UPDATE: A drier weekend is in store for most of the central and southern peninsula, while Northeast Florida remains wet. The National Weather Service is calling for 3-4 inches of rain in some areas west of Jacksonville.

Thursday’s heaviest rain was in Central Florida, with more than 3 inches falling in parts of Sarasota County, according to the community observation network, CoCoRaHS. Observers in northern Hillsborough County reported 1-2 inches. Across the state in Brevard County, coastal residents reported between a quarter of an inch and 1.5 inches.

An observer east of Ocala reported 2.22 inches.

Rain returns to South Florida on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, and rain chances remain high through mid-week.

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Two areas of interest in the Atlantic — one in the Central Atlantic and one near the Lesser Antilles, ran out of steam this week. Nothing is on the horizon in the Atlantic for at least the next two to five days, according to the National Hurricane Center.  (Image credit: NHC)

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ORIGINAL POST : There’s roughly a 50-50 chance that La Niña conditions will be present in the tropical Pacific Ocean for the peak of the hurricane season from August through October, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in the latest ENSO report released this morning.

Forecast models “lean toward La Niña, along with ocean conditions that are somewhat favorable for the development of La Niña,” the CPC said. “However, enough uncertainty remains that the chance of La Niña remains lower than 50%, and it is unclear whether oceanic and atmospheric anomalies will lock in and persist.”

Forecasters said there’s a 60 percent chance of neutral conditions this summer, followed by a 40-50 percent chance of La Nina during autumn and winter. La Niña is characterized by cooler-than-normal water in the tropical Pacific, and indeed water temps have been decreasing, forecasters said.

The cooler water results in lower wind shear in the tropical Atlantic, which accommodates the development of tropical storms. The trend is a key reason why hurricane experts have predicted a busy 2020 hurricane season.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology said Tuesday: “Tropical Pacific cooling expected to continue during winter.” (Their winter is our summer).

“The Bureau’s ENSO Outlook is currently INACTIVE,” forecasters said. “However, if further cooling is observed in coming weeks, and any additional models suggest La Niña development, the ENSO Outlook will be raised to La Niña WATCH,” forecasters said. That could happen as early as June 23, the date of Australia’s next ENSO Outlook.

NEW AREA OF INTEREST: A robust tropical wave east of the Lesser Antilles was given a 10 percent chance of development by the National Hurricane Center today as it moves west toward the islands.

Forecasters said wind shear would probably keep it from becoming the next named storm. The area of interest in the Central Atlantic was no longer a threat, the NHC said.

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Drought conditions in Florida have been completely wiped out afer last week’s pounding rains from Tropical Storm Cristobal, the U.S. Drought Monitor said this morning. All that’s left is some Moderate Drought and Abnormally Dry designations in two far western panhandle counties.

“Moderate long-term drought is designated for the greater Mobile Bay area east to Pensacola due to continued precipitation deficits dating back to 90 and 180 days,” the Monitor said.

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‘END OF AN ERA’: Weather Underground’s Category 6 blog is shutting down June 19, the company says. The blog was launched during the record hurricane season of 2005 and has been a focal point for weather enthusiasts, with hundreds of comments for each post, for 15 years. The founder of the blog, hurricane researcher Jeff Masters, left Weather Underground last year.

The Weather Company, the parent of Weather.com, bought Weather Underground, which was started by Masters and others in the mid-1990s.

Last fall, Masters handed the blog over to a team of other meteorologists including Bob Henson, who announced the closing late Tuesday night, calling it “The end of an era.”

The Category 6 blog has been a vital resource during hurricanes, attracting professionals as well as weather enthusiasts. But this expertise apparently won’t be completely lost, since both Masters and Henson will be writing a new blog for Yale Climate Connections.

Masters “expects to continue blogging frequently – often daily – as Atlantic hurricanes threaten the U.S.,” the YCC website said Tuesday. “As have his earlier blog activities, his posts for Yale Climate Connections will provide for healthy reader exchanges and comments. In the past, his Weather Underground and related blog activities frequently have attracted thousands of visitors and comments daily.”

Chances increasing for third storm in the Atlantic

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UPDATE: Organization of Invest 92L in the Central Atlantic didn’t change much on Friday. But in their 9 p.m. Special Tropical Weather Outlook, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center were still giving it a 50 percent chance of subtropical development. (Image credit: NHC)

ORIGINAL TROPICS WATCH: The National Hurricane Center was watching a system in the Central Atlantic on Friday, giving it a 50 percent chance of developing into a subtropical depression today or Saturday. That’s up from 30 percent Thursday night.

The system, designated Invest 92L by the NHC, would be named Cristobal if winds crank up to at least 39 mph.

Should it be named before Monday, we’d end up with three preseason storms, which is something that hasn’t happened before in the Atlantic. Only five other years, going back to 1851, have had two preseason storms.

“A subtropical depression could form tonight or on Saturday as it moves generally northward,” the NHC said this morning. “Development is not expected after that time due to unfavorable environmental conditions.”

Forecast models are still suggesting that yet another storm could form late next week in the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean. The “D” storm this year is Dolly.

AccuWeather is forecasting a low to develop in the western Caribbean next week.

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Heavy rain over the weekend and earlier this week helped drive Severe Drought conditions out of the Everglades, the U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday. Southwest Florida was downgraded one notch from Severe Drought to Moderate Drought, and from Moderate Drought to Abnormally Dry.

In the new assessment, which covers through Tuesday, most of Palm Beach, Broward and northeastern Miami-Dade counties are free from any drought problems, although southwest Miami-Dade remains Abnormally Dry.

Moderate Drought areas shrank in North-Central Florida but remained the same in the panhandle. Escambia County in the western-most panhandle is now the only county in Florida dealing with Severe Drought.

WFL rainfall

(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

After the East Coast was drenched earlier this week, it was the West-Central’s time in the precipitation tumbler on Thursday, with almost 4 inches of rain falling in Frostproof, the NWS reported.

Forecasters are expecting a mostly dry weekend, but a cold front that tumbles down the peninsula on Monday and Tuesday is forecast to stall out over Lake Okeechobee. It will be another focal point for rain in Central and South Florida, the NWS said.

RECORD WATCH: Key West posted a record warm low of 83 degrees, easily busting the previous record of 81 set in 2017. The low was 82 in Marathon, which beat the previous record of 81, also set in 2017.

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NOAA radio
SOUNDS OF SILENCE: Naples weather radio is off the air due to phone lines that burned during the wildfires in Collier County earlier this month, the National Weather Service in Miami said.

It’s expected to be back on the air by the first or second week of June.

Atlantic in overdrive: Up to 10 hurricanes forecast by NOAA

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(Image credit: NOAA)

NOAA joined several commercial agencies and universities Thursday in calling for an above-average hurricane season — and possibly much above average.

Forecasters called for 13-19 named storms this year, with six to 10 hurricanes and 3-6 majors, Category 3 or stronger. That includes Tropical Storm Arthur, which formed off the U.S. Southeast Coast on Saturday before dissipating on Tuesday.

Forecasters said there is a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season and just a 10 percent chance of a below normal year. An average season has 12 named storms.

“The combination of several climate factors is driving the strong likelihood for above-normal activity in the Atlantic this year,” NOAA forecasters said in a news release issued this morning.

  • El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are expected to either remain neutral or to trend toward La Niña. There will be no El Niño to suppress hurricane activity.
  • Warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, along with with reduced vertical wind shear, and weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, favor more and stronger systems.
  • An enhanced west African monsoon is expected. This is the energy that kick-starts storms in the eastern Atlantic after they roll off the coast of Africa.
  • Similar conditions have been producing active years since the current high-activity era began in 1995, experts said.

One thing new this year: NOAA teams up with the U.S. Navy to deploy a fleet of autonomous hurricane gliders to observe conditions in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea in areas where hurricanes have historically traveled and intensified.

In the northeastern Pacific, NOAA predicted a near-normal or below-normal season with 11-18 named storms.

NOAA will issue an updated forecast in August.

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(Image credit: NOAA)

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DROUGHT UPDATE: Severe Drought conditions shrank in the Everglades last week while Abnormally Dry conditions were wiped out in Broward, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties on the East Coast. South-Central counties from Manatee on the West Coast east to the Treasure Coast were also taken out of the Abnormally Dry category.

On the other hand, most of northwest Florida is Abnormally Dry while Moderate Drought clung to much of East-Central Florida as well as southern counties in the panhandle. Also noteworthy: Extreme Drought (D3) edged into the far western panhandle.

The analyses are released by the U.S. Drought Monitor every Thursday but they only take into account conditions through Tuesday of the same week. So some of the rainfall over Southwest Florida over the last couple of days will be taken into consideration next week.

“Due to the significant rains in south Florida, a full category improvement was made as the short-term dryness has been improved upon greatly over the last several weeks,” said Brian Fuchs, of National Drought Mitigation Center. “The drought area of central Florida was split from that of southern Florida where lingering abnormally dry conditions were eliminated.

“With dryness over the last several weeks, abnormally dry conditions again returned to northern Florida into southern Georgia. In the panhandle region, abnormally dry conditions and moderate drought were expanded northward in response to short-term dryness.”

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RECORD WATCH: Vero Beach had a high of 93 on Wednesday, good enough to tie a record originally set back in 1981.

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Thursday storms

(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

AFTERNOON STORMS: They brew up in the interior during the heat of the day and head toward one coast or another in the late afternoon. The next day, rinse and repeat.

“Going into the weekend, high pressure aloft remains mostly in control,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said in their Thursday morning forecast discussion.

“Still can’t rule out daily sea breeze convection, especially across the interior as a summer-like pattern begins to set up.”

Forecasters warn of North Florida fire danger as holiday weekend approaches

Food bank donation

FORECASTERS TO THE RESCUE: With the coronavirus lockdown putting so many people out of work, food banks are working overtime to keep up with the demand from people just trying to keep food on the table. The National Weather Service office in Key West collected non-perishable items to a local food bank. Here, meteorologist Sandy Delgado picks up one of two boxes that were collected. “We hope to encourage other offices to do the same,” NWS-Key West forecasters said in a Facebook post. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

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RAINFALL REPORT: Tuesday’s rains were no match for the deluge that hit parts of the state on Monday, but there were a few impressive totals. An observer near Fort Pierce Inlet State Park in St. Lucie County reported 1.02 inches to CoCoRaHS, with up to three-quarters of an inch reported in coastal areas of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.

Some inland areas received a quarter of an inch or less.

The end-of-week forecast is for more of a summertime pattern over the peninsula, with warm temperatures and a chance of afternoon showers.

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OVERVIEW: Here’s the big picture for Wednesday — The chance for severe weather is mostly confined to the northern most counties and the Florida panhandle, with more garden variety thunderstorms in the forecast for northern areas south of I-10 and the Florida peninsula south of Lake Okeechobee. (Image credit: NOAA/ SPC)

NWS-Jacksonville: “Increasing wildfire danger for locations south of Interstate 10 today  through the upcoming Memorial Day weekend as hot weather continues with only isolated thunderstorms expected each day.

“These are the same locations that have been abnormally dry during the past month, as depicted by the percent of normal rainfall map. Clear area near your home of leaves, dead vegetation & other combustible debris to reduce sources of fuel. Keep vehicles off of dry grass.”

ECFL forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

TROPICS WATCH: Now that Tropical Storm Arthur has dissipated, Tropical Weather Outlook maps are clear in both the Atlantic and northeastern Pacific. Forecast models are not hinting at additional development as we approach the June 1 official launch of the 2020 hurricane season.

North Carolina State forecasters see hectic 2020 hurricane season

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HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS WEEK: NOAA is taking each day of the upcoming work week to highlight different aspects of getting ready for the hurricane season. Today the theme is determining risk. Other days will cover developing an evacuation plan; building disaster supplies; checking your insurance coverage; strengthening your home, helping neighbors; and completing a written plan. (Image credit: NOAA)

North Carolina State University researchers are calling for a blockbusters hurricane season this year with up to 22 named storms — which would make it the second-busiest hurricane season behind 2005 with 27 named storms. The current second place holder is 1933, when 21 tropical storms formed.

Like NOAA, NCSU calls for a range of storms, in this case from 18-22. Either end is way above normal, since the average Atlantic hurricane season has 12 named storms.

NSCU Forecasters are also calling for eight to 11 hurricanes, and three to five majors Category 3 or stronger.

As noted previously, the Gulf of Mexico is anomalously warm — in record territory this spring — so there is concern that the Gulf could become a prime breeding area for strong storms.

“The Gulf of Mexico may see a significantly more active hurricane season,” the university warned in an April 17 news release, with “the likelihood of six to 10 named storms forming in the region, with two to five of them becoming hurricanes, and one to two becoming major hurricanes. Historic averages for the Gulf are three named storms and one hurricane.”

NCSU is one of many sources of preseason hurricane forecasts. The most covered, perhaps, is the April forecast from Colorado State University (which also called for an above average season). NCSU has a good reputation, so it gets a fair amount of ink.

Last year the school’s top-end call for 16 named storms was closest of any of the other major forecasting organizations, including NOAA, which predicted a top end of 15 named storms when it was released at the end of May. (NOAA’s top end was adjusted to 15 named storms in its August update.)

The season ended with 18 named storms, six hurricanes and three majors.

In 2018, NCSU predicted 15-18 named storms; there were 15.

In 2017 (the year of Irma and Maria), there were 17 named storms; the NCSU forecast was for 11-15. NOAA’s high end that was was 17, and the agency also came closer to the number of hurricanes (10) and intense hurricanes (six). CSU predicted only 11 named storms that year in their April forecast.

There are several troubling factors coming together for this year’s hurricane season. First, there’s a possibility — it’s not a lock, just one possible scenario — that the tropical Pacific could develop a La Niña toward the end of summer, which would reduce wind shear in the Atlantic when hurricanes are most likely to form. Second, the Atlantic Basin is awash in unusually warm water, especially, as noted above, the Gulf of Mexico.

Some forecasters say we could see a preseason storm coming out of the Gulf this month due to the warm water, and other atmospheric factors.

Second organization predicts active hurricane season

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Another call for a hectic 2020 hurricane season was issued Tuesday.

Forecasters at Tropical Storm Risk  — the United Kingdom consortium of meteorologists and insurance experts — echoed Colorado State University’s forecast of last week calling for a very busy hurricane season with 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and three majors.

CSU’s forecast was for 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four majors.

TSR predicts Accumulated Cyclone Energy — a measure of the strength and duration of all storms combined — will be 25 percent greater than the 70-year climate average and 5-10 percent above the 2010-2019 average. ACE averaged 104 during the last 70 years and 122 during the last decade. TSR forecasts an ACE of 130 for 2020.

The organization raised its last 2020 forecast, issued in December, “due to updated climate signals pointing towards environmental fields in August-September 2020 that are more favorable for Atlantic hurricane activity than thought previously,” forecasters said.

“These anticipated fields are warmer than normal tropical North Atlantic water temperatures and neutral-to-weak La Niña ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) conditions.”

The disclaimer: “It should be noted that NOAA does not issue seasonal hurricane outlooks before late May and that CSU stopped providing quantitative extended-range hurricane outlooks from the prior December after 2011. It is clear there is little skill in forecasting the upcoming ACE and numbers of hurricanes from the previous April for the period 2003-2019. Skill starts to climb as the hurricane season approaches with moderate-to good skill levels being achieved, on average, by early August.

“Although there are mostly only small differences in skill between the three forecast centers, the TSR model has been either the near-equal best or the best performing statistical seasonal forecast model at all lead times for the period 2003-2019.”

Last year, TSR predicted 12 named storms, five hurricanes and two majors in its April forecast. The final numbers were 18, six and three.

Photo: Hurricane Dorian, the strongest storm of 2020, makes landfall on Grand Bahama Island on September 3. (Image credit: NOAA/ Wikimedia Commons)

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RECORD WATCH: The high in Fort Myers on Tuesday topped out at 93 degrees, beating a record high of 91 set just a year ago. Record warm minimum temperatures were set or tied in West Palm Beach (76) and Miami (76).

With high pressure sitting to the south of the Florida peninsula, producing south to southwest winds, temperatures were expected to climb into the 90s in many areas from today through Friday, when a cold front knocks temperatures back into the normal range for the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.

Air pollution hikes death rate among COVID-19 patients, study says

Deaths from the coronavirus are higher in areas with more air pollution, a new Harvard University study  found. In a study published this week, researchers concluded that only a slight increase in air pollution is associated with a 15 percent increase in the COVID-19 mortality rate.

“The study results underscore the importance of continuing to enforce existing air pollution regulations to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis,” the university said in a news release.

The Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed data from 3,080 counties.

“The paper found that if Manhattan had lowered its average particulate matter level by just a single unit, or one microgram per cubic meter, over the past 20 years, the borough would most likely have seen 248 fewer Covid-19 deaths by this point in the outbreak,” The New York Times reported today.

Residents who for decades have lived in an area with high levels of particulate matter in the air have a 15 percent greater chance of death from the virus than those living in areas with only one unit less of particulate matter.

The results could have implications on distribution of scarce ventilators, the paper notes.

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Hurricanes at home

(Image credit: NOAA/ NHC)

CANES IN THE CLASSROOM: Your kids can become hurricane savvy thanks to an outreach program by NOAA. The agency is offering at-home webinars for kids in grades 4, 5 and 6 in 21 states, including Florida. The Florida webinars will be offered Tuesday April 21 and Thursday April 23 at 11 a.m. EDT on the National Hurricane Center’s Facebook and Twitter websites.

Registration links will be provided about a week before each seminar begins. Florida registration links will be available April 13, Five hundred students can be accommodated for each webinar.

The webinars will focus on the job of a meteorologist, weather hazards during hurricanes, and how meteorologists get you the weather information before a storm hits

The webinars were set up specifically to accommodate students who are working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sunday storms bring 2-plus inches to Central Florida; (weather) school in session

NWS school

WEATHER ED: Parents everywhere face the same problem: how to keep kids learning while they are at home for the coronavirus pandemic. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee has stepped up with some educational programming every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon on Facebook, Youtube and other social media. (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

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The first significant rain in more than a month fell on Central and South Florida on Sunday as a disturbance called a “mesoscale convective system” moved through from the Gulf of Mexico.

The most optimistic forecasts had called for an inch or more along the state’s southeastern coast, but hefties totals were in Central Florida.

At some sites, not only was it the first measurable rain of April, but totals from Sunday night/ early Monday morning were higher than totals for the entire month of March.

Heaviest totals were in the Orlando area, where an observer for the citizens observation network CoCoRaHS reported 2.15 inches. Totals of an inch or more were measured in coastal areas of Brevard, Indian River and St. Lucie counties.

West Palm Beach ended up posting just under a quarter of an inch officially on Sunday — that’s still more rain than was recorded in West Palm during the entire month of March — and Miami only picked up a trace. Naples also reported a trace while Fort Lauderdale picked up 0.05 of an inch.

More rain fell in the early hours of Monday, leaving West Palm Beach with 0.37 of an inch, and Fort Lauderdale, 0.76. Miami was skunked overnight and so was Naples. The Keys were dry.

The Tampa area reported amounts from a quarter of an inch to a half-inch.

A cold front that is forecast to stall over Central Florida toward the end of the week brings the next chance for rain to the peninsula, according to the National Weather Service.