Eye on the tropics: Atlantic storms brewing; 1909 hurricane brought martial law to the Keys

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UPDATE: Subtropical Storm Melissa came to life off the Mid-Atlantic Coast on Friday with 65 mph winds, but the storm is expected to be short-lived. Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicted Melissa would become post-tropical by Saturday night as it moves away from the U.S. Coast. (Image credit: NHC)

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1909 Hurricane

HURRICANE HISTORY: Friday is the 110th anniversary of the 1909 Key West Hurricane, which slammed the island city with winds of up to 94 mph and destroyed 500 homes. Conditions were so chaotic after the storm that Mayor Joseph Fogarty declared martial law and had guards patrolling the streets. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

TROPICS WATCH: The long-range GFS forecast model had been suggesting development in the southern Caribbean in mid-October, pushing a system into Central America. Now, the National Hurricane Center is on board with the scenario, forecasting a low to form early next week near the coasts of Honduras, Guatemala and Belize.

Friday’s run of the GFS shows the system emerging back over water in the Bay of Campeche by the middle of next week, then taking a more north-northeasterly turn toward the Central Gulf of Mexico Coast.

This is echoed by the Canadian model (CMC), which puts a much stronger hurricane in the Gulf toward the end of next week.

The European model (ECMWF) seems to be keeping whatever weak low develops over land.

The disturbance off the coast of the northeastern U.S., designated Invest 93L by the NHC, was close to becoming Subtropical Storm Melissa Friday morning, but the window for intensification was closing, according to forecasters. Upper-level winds over the system were expected to disrupt the storm as it begins to move away from the U.S. Coast.

And in another interesting development, the NHC said a tropical wave was expected to slide off the coast of western Africa on Sunday.

“Although the far eastern Atlantic is not climatologically favorable for tropical cyclone formation this late in the hurricane season, some development of this system appears possible early next week while it moves generally northwestward near or over the Cabo Verde Islands,” NHC forecaster Andy Latto said Friday.

The next two names on the Atlantic storm list are Melissa and Nestor.

Based on climatology from 1966-2009, two named storms form in October and one in November.

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ABOVE: For the upcoming week, the map shows points of origin for Atlantic tropical cyclones since records began in 1851. BELOW: Friday morning’s Tropical Weather Outlook map. Invest 93L off the northeast coast had a 60 percent chance of development. The NHC said advisories could begin later on Friday. (Image credit: NHC)

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RAINFALL REPORT: A CoCoRaHS observer near Melbourne reported 1.68 inches of rain on Thursday, but overall coverage across the peninsula was far short of the shellacking that some areas received Tuesday and Wednesday. The National Weather Service officially reported 0.28 of an inch in Melbourne.

An observer near Hialeah in Miami-Dade County reported 1.04 inches. Miami International Airport officially measured just 0.7 of an inch.

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RECORD WATCH: Sarasota posted a record high Thursday with 94, besting the old record of 93 set in 1962. Naples tied a record high with 93, matching the mark set in 2007.

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All-time October heat record for Tallahassee; a zigzagging hurricane that hit the Keys

Hurricane Inez

HURRICANE HISTORY: Here’s a reminder that hurricanes can take some odd-ball tracks with twists and turns. Fifty-three years ago on Friday, Hurricane Inez plowed across the Florida Keys after a destructive romp through the Greater Antilles. Inez came up from the Caribbean and followed the southern coast of Cuba until it made a hard right turn to the north-northeast into the northwestern Bahamas. After that it stalled, then made another turn toward the west-southwest and walloped the Keys with gusts of up to 110 mph. At its peak, Inez was a strong Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

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RELENTLESS: The high in Tallahassee on Thursday reached a scorching 97 degrees — the warmest temperature ever recorded in the city in October.

What was the previous record high for October? That was set the day before on Wednesday, 96 degrees. The long-standing all-time October record of 95 — set in 1941 — was tied on October 1.

To the west just off I-10, Crestview reached 101 degrees.

Down the coast, Naples tied a record high Thursday with 94. That was set in 1990.

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The seven-day rainfall forecast shows heaviest precip in South Florida and the Keys. (Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

WET WEEK? An approaching front resulting in southwest winds next week could bring heavy rain to South Florida, the National Weather Service says.

“A conditional risk for flooding could eventually materialize in the Monday night to Wednesday time frame across South Florida,” forecasters said in their Friday discussion in Miami.

In Central Florida, rain chances remain at around 20-30 percent through Tuesday before jumping to 50 percent on Wednesday and Thursday.

Tampa’s rain chances range from 50-60 percent all of next week.

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HERE’S A COOL ULTRA-LONG-RANGE FORECAST: It could turn out to be in weather fantasy-land, but the GFS is showing a cold front that means business sliding down the entire Florida peninsula around Friday, October 18, pushing temperatures into the high 40s in the western panhandle and below 60 as far south as Orlando.

Under this scenario, temperatures the next morning, on Saturday October 19 would dip into the low- to mid-60s in parts of South Florida, with highs topping out in the 70s around Lake Okeechobee.

Nothing to hang your hat on at this point, but a reminder that, yes, Virginia, autumn really does come to Florida — you just gotta have some patience. It looks a little different from northern climates but is nonetheless spectacular.

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NWS Melbourne anniversary

METEOROLOGICAL BLAST FROM THE PAST: The National Weather Service office in Melbourne is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its opening this month. Things started out small and quiet but have gotten busy! (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Heavy rain forecast to drench extreme South Florida, Keys

1948 hurricane
HURRICANE HISTORY: This weekend is the 71st anniversary of the September 1948 Florida Hurricane, which slammed the Keys as a major before plowing up the peninsula and exiting into the Atlantic near Jensen Beach. The storm hit Sombrero Key with 120 mph sustained winds. Winds at Boca Chica were measured at 122 mph before an anemometer was blown away. Key West reported 73 mph sustained winds. The hurricane killed three and damaged or destroyed 1,200 homes in Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Key West)

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Extreme South Florida and the Keys were in for a soaking Saturday as wet weather streamed in from the Bahamas and points south. The National Weather Service in Miami was calling for up to 4 inches of rain in southern Miami-Dade County and Mainland Monroe County.

But forecasters said rain totals should drop off quickly as you head north and west up the peninsula, and only about a quarter of an inch was forecast from Naples over to West Palm Beach.

“The main message is to be aware of the potential for localized flooding rainfall,” NWS forecasters in Miami said.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

But showers and storms may get pushed back to the south, away from Florida on Sunday, and the long-range forecast is for abnormally dry weather in the state to finish out the month.

While it seems that the tropics will remain ultra-active over the next week to 10 days, forecast models show storms getting diverted into the open Atlantic and not threatening the U.S. East Coast.

Jerry was downgraded to a tropical storm north of the Lesser Antilles early Saturday, and a few ensemble members of the GFS and European model (ECMWF) continued to show a more western movement. But forecasters at the National Hurricane Center seemed confident that the storm would turn north and northeast, and in fact by 5 a.m. it was already moving northwest.

Jerry was expected to impact Bermuda, possibly as a hurricane again, on Tuesday.

“There remains excellent agreement among the track models on this developing scenario,” the NHC said.

System 99L, which was about to enter the Caribbean, also looks likely to turn out to sea.

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(Image credit: NWS-Miami)

More than 6 inches of rain soaks North Florida; remembering Camille … and Andrew

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(Image credit: NHC)

Citrus County in northwestern Florida was slammed with 6.66 inches of rain Friday and early Saturday morning as an area of low pressure — the tail end of a frontal boundary — revved up in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico.

The system grabbed the attention of the National Hurricane Center Friday night, and forecasters said it had a 20 percent chance of becoming the next tropical depression, or Tropical Storm Chantal, over the next five days when it reaches the Atlantic near Georgia or the Carolinas.

It was the only game in town in an otherwise dead-quiet August. It’s the first color on the NHC Tropical Weather Outlook map since August 4, when a couple of systems fizzled out in the Atlantic.

But tropical weather news this weekend has been dominated by the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille’s landfall on the Mississippi coast with winds of 175 mph.

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Track of Hurricane Camille in 1969. (Image credit: NOAA)

Here’s the National Weather Service’s article on Camille and the very thorough piece by Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters, including the long-standing debate on whether there was, or was not, a hurricane party, can be accessed here.

Twenty-four days away from the peak of the hurricane season, there’s a natural tendency to wonder if the Atlantic coast may get away free and clear this year, despite the updated outlook issued by NOAA last week calling for an above normal season. Saturday’s run of the GFS showed  nothing of major significance through September 2.

But it’s worth remembering that 27 years ago on Friday, not a single named storm had spun up in the Atlantic all season, a genuine climate oddity for the middle of August. But August 16, 1992 was the day that a tropical depression formed in the eastern Atlantic, and it sputtered its way west, becoming Tropical Storm Andrew the next day. It was named Hurricane Andrew on August 22.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Northwest Florida, from around Crystal River and Cedar Key up to Cross City, was under a Flood Warning Saturday, and a Flood Watch extended as far south as New Port Richey and as far north as Perry, southeast of Tallahassee.

Tampa officially measured 1.41 inches of rain through 7 p.m. Friday. Sarasota reported a 3.29-inch deluge, shattering a 49-year-old rainfall record. The previous mark was 2.10 inches set in 1970.

Fort Myers also set a record with 1.84 inches, busting the old record of 1.48 inches set in 2015.

Tropics: Will this Atlantic hurricane season echo 1982?

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The 1982 hurricane season was the last year the Atlantic had no tropical storms or hurricanes from July 15 to August 19. (Image credit: NASA/ NHC Atlantic Hurricane Database)

The dead-quiet hurricane season is getting attention from experts who wonder just how unprecedented it is to have had no named storms during both the second half of July and the first half of August.

The last named storm was Barry, which expired on July 14. The National Hurricane Center is predicting no tropical development through at least August 19. The last time there were no storms in the Atlantic from July 15 to August 19 was 1982, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach.

That year, there were only six named storms; two of them occurred in June, and there were three in September. There were three unnamed tropical depressions that year; this season so far there has been one.

Forecast models have been suggesting the possibility of this quiet period lasting all the way through the end of the month. How unusual is that?

A quiet tropical period from July 15 to August 31 happened only twice since hurricane records began in 1851, Klotzbach said in a Twitter post. That was in 1914 and 1922.

In 1914, only one tropical storm formed all season, and that was on September 15. One and done, with no hurricanes. It was the slowest tropical storm season on record.

The 1922 season had five tropical storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane, along with nine depressions that never made it to tropical storm status.

The lack of tropical storm formation is particularly noteworthy this year, since an El Niño in the Pacific ended and NOAA hiked its seasonal outlook on August 4 to as many as 17 named storms. The NOAA range was 10-17, making the average 13.5 — still an above-average season.

El Niño zaps tropical development by producing high wind shear in the Atlantic. That’s been one of the big issues this season, an indication that atmospheric conditions haven’t yet caught up with changes in tropical Pacific.

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RAINFALL REPORT: Another day, another Flood Watch. Florida’s Southeast Coast is under a Flood Watch Thursday until 8 p.m., as is the West Coast from Cedar Key south to Fort Myers. Things may dry out a bit over the weekend as high pressure moves over the state, but forecasters say there’s enough moisture in the air to keep rain chances up to 50 percent, focused on interior areas.

Tampa set a precipitation record Wednesday with 2.59 inches of rain. It broke the old record for August 14 of 2.11 inches set in 2013. Several CoCoRaHS observers in Hillsborough County reported close to 4 inches. And an observer in Hernando County, west of Brooksville, measured 5.43 inches.

RECORD WATCH: In the Keys, Marathon reported a record warm low on Wednesday of 85 degrees. That beat the previous record of 84 set in 2010 and 2017. Orlando tied a record warm low with 77, matching the mark last set in 2016.

A day for the record books in Jacksonville; remembering Charley

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Forecast heat index values for Monday in South Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Sunday was one for the books in Jacksonville as multiple records were smashed. The high of 98 set a daily high temperature record; while the city’s 3.18 inches of rain set a daily rainfall record. The dew point reached 80 degrees, which tied the record for the highest dew point for the date — set 69 years ago in 1950.

It was 97 at the Orlando Executive Airport.

Top heat index readings around the state Sunday: Naples, 113; Daytona Beach, 113; Brooksville, 112; Jacksonville, 112; Melbourne, 109; Ocala, 108; Tallahassee, 108; West Palm Beach, 105; Vero Beach, 104; and Orlando, 103.

North Florida is under another Heat Advisory Monday, from around Ocala to Daytona Beach and northward, but the National Weather Service in Miami said even South Florida may flirt with Heat Advisory criteria, which is 108 degrees for two hours or more.

On the opposite side of the state, Key West logged its wettest day so far in August with 1.02 inches. Unlike cities on the East Coast of the peninsula, Key West is slightly behind on normal rainfall this month. Ditto for Marathon, which picked up 0.88 of an inch on Sunday.

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Satellite image of Hurricane Charley on August 13, 2004. (Credit: NOAA)

HISTORIC HURRICANE: Tuesday is the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Charley plowing into Florida’s Southwest Coast as a powerful Category 4 storm. Charley crossed Cuba and moved over the Dry Tortugas with winds of 110 mph, then surprised forecasters by rapidly intensifying as it approached the Florida coast.

The hurricane made landfall on Captiva Island with winds of 150 mph and a pressure of 947 mb. It turned more toward the northeast and punched into Punta Gorda with winds of 145 mph.

Charley then charted a course north-northeast up the peninsula while weakening, but it was still packing winds of 85 mph when it slammed Orlando. It emerged into the Atlantic near New Smyrna Beach — still as a Category 1.

It was the start of a brutal year for Florida hurricanes, as Charley was followed up by major hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.

Weighing the chances of tropical development in the Gulf

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EYES ON THE GULF: At 2 p.m., forecasters at the National Hurricane Center officially began watching the area of low pressure over the Mississippi Valley that is expected to move into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico next week. They gave it a 20 percent chance of tropical development by Thursday. Note that this is the first Atlantic area of tropical interest since June 5, when a system in the southern Gulf of Mexico was being tracked. It failed to develop. The next name on the tropical storm list is Barry. (Image credit: NHC)

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WFL rainfall forecast

(Image credit: NWS-TampaBay)

ORIGINAL POST: It’s always interesting when a long-standing weather record is set or tied. That’s what happened Friday in West Palm Beach, where a record warm low was tied that has been on the books for 131 years. The low was 82, tying the record set in 1888.

To put it into perspective: That was the year Benjamin Harrison was elected president — winning the electoral college but losing the popular vote to Grover Cleveland. (Sound familiar?)

In London, Jack the Ripper was killing and mutilating prostitutes; Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh cut off part of his ear; and the Washington Monument officially opened to the public.

Back to the future: Elsewhere on Friday: Miami’s low was 83, breaking a record low of 82 set in 2015.

Marathon tied both a record high and a record warm low on Friday. The 94-degree high matched a mark set in 2004; and the low of 84 tied the record set in 2014. Orlando tied a record warm low with 78, matching the mark last set in 2016. And Melbourne busted a record warm low with 79, beating the old record of 78 set in 2013.

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Trouble in the tropics

(Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

Saturday morning’s run of the European (ECMWF) continued to suggest tropical development next week in the northern Gulf of Mexico, while other forecast models, including NOAA’s new-and-improved GFS, were either lukewarm or not onboard.

The model runs and tropical comment websites have been buzzing about what may or may not happen, but the National Weather Service in Tallahassee published this note on Saturday:

“We’ve heard rumblings from the community lately about trouble brewing in the tropics.”

“If you hear about trouble brewing in the tropics this hurricane season, please keep these helpful hints in mind! We live here too and we’re constantly looking out for any tropical trouble that could effect you. To stay up to date with the tropics please check out our tropical page at: https://www.weather.gov/srh/tropical?office=tae.”

The National Weather Service in Melbourne said this: “Model consensus really begins to diverge come the latter part of next week. The GFS shows the broad area of low pressure elongating and eventually becoming more of a quasi-frontal zone stretching from the northern Gulf into the western Atlantic. The ECMWF has the low holding together and drifting into the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“Beyond that we’re getting into ‘Fantasy Land’ and it is not good to speculate on individual model runs. The synoptic pattern combined with a focus for lift – either along the GFS`S frontal zone, or ECMWF`S low – and strong moisture transport in the mid-levels will support a risk for flooding due to heavy rainfall. The greatest threat will be west and north of east central Florida, however will closely be monitoring to see how this system evolves.”

Regardless, NWS forecasters in Tampa said, it’s “looking like a rather wet pattern will be setting up across West Central and Southwest Florida during the next week as southwest flow becomes established bringing deep moisture into the area leading to rounds of showers and thunderstorms.”