Gulf low could trigger another weekend soaking, forecasters say

7 day rainfall

The seven-day rainfall outlook by NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center shows a precipitation bulls-eye near Florida’s northwest coast. (Image credit: NOAA/ WPC)

The tropical Atlantic remains amazingly quiet for mid-August — see the post by Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters (All Quiet in the Atlantic: Dry, Stable Air Rules) for a detailed explanation — but Northwest Florida could be in for a soaking this weekend from a low expected to form in the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters aren’t talking about tropical development, and the low could form close to the Florida coast or farther west, depending on which forecast model you look at, the GFS or the ECMWF. How the event unfolds will impact precipitation amounts over the entire Florida peninsula.

For now, NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center is forecasting as much as 10 inches of rain in Florida’s Big Bend area through the weekend and into early next week.

RAINFALL REPORT: Official rainfall totals from Monday’s National Weather Service reports were mostly ho-hum, although Sarasota picked up 1.25 inches.

Totals reported by the observer network CoCoRaHS were more robust: An observer in southern Seminole County, northeast of the University of Central Florida campus, reported that 4.28 inches of rain fell Monday. And an observer in Hudson, in Pasco County north of New Port Richey, reported 3.85 inches.

Port Salerno, Martin County, reported 3.33 inches; and Fort Pierce, 2.84.

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SEPTEMBER SNEAK PEEK: In Florida, it’s counter-intuitive to expect weather conditions to dry out in September, which is normally the wettest month of the year in most locations, along with June.  The first half of August has been wet. But the long-range outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is for unusually dry conditions throughout the state. (Image credit: NOAA/ CPC)

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A day for the record books in Jacksonville; remembering Charley

SFL heat index

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.

Naples heat index tops out at 115; more heavy rain soaks Palm Beach

ECFL heat

AND THE HEAT GOES ON: Another round of triple-digit heat index readings was forecast for Sunday. (Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Saturday was a day of blistering heat across the Florida peninsula. The heat index hit 115 degrees at 1 p.m. in Naples, but fortunately afternoon rain showers came to the rescue and the air temperature dropped to 84 degrees an hour later — but with a dew point of 82 the heat index was still 100.

South Florida’s East Coast was a bit cooler thanks to a sea breeze: West Palm Beach and Miami were 102; Fort Lauderdale, 100.

Here’s how the heat index values topped out around rest of the the peninsula Saturday:

East-Central: Melbourne, 111; Daytona Beach and Titusville, 109; Vero Beach, 108; Stuart, 104; and Orlando, 102.

North Florida: Cross City, 110; Ocala, 109; Brooksville, 109; and Gainesville, 107.

West Coast: Tampa, 103.

RAINFALL REPORT: West Palm Beach was socked again Saturday with 1.49 inches of rain, bringing the monthly total to 8.72 inches. Friday was the only day so far this month without precipitation in West Palm. Parts of Palm Beach County picked up as much as 1.72 inches of rain Saturday, according to CoCoRaHS.

A CoCoRaHS observer near Lakeland reported 1.38 inches. To the west near Plant City, 1.41 inches was reported. And an observer near Bradenton measured 1.98 inches. And in northeast Florida, Duval County near the St. Johns River, up to 1.76 inches was reported.

An observer outside Tallahassee said 1.40 inches fell in the backyard bucket.

RECORD WATCH: A record warm low was set in Tampa Saturday. The temperature bottomed out at 83, beating the old record warm minimum of 81 set in 2017. Fort Myers tied a record warm low on Friday with 79; and Sanford tied a record warm low Saturday with 79.

Heat Advisories posted for most of Florida

Out of the soup pot and into the frying pan. That’s the story around the Florida peninsula this weekend as forecasters post Heat Advisories for both east and west coasts.

A Heat Advisory is posted when heat index readings — a function of both temperature and humidity — reach at least 108 degrees for at least two hours.

An advisory is in effect for western Florida counties in the Tampa Bay area, where indices are expected to reach 108; and for parts of East-Central Florida where readings could hit as high as 110. The advisories are in effect until 5 p.m.

National Weather Service forecasters in Miami were holding off early Saturday on issuing an advisory, but said conditions could come close to advisory status in Southwest Florida and parts of inland Palm Beach County.

Coastal areas and residents of the South Florida metro areas will basking in “feels like” temps of up to 103.

North Florida and the panhandle are under Heat Advisories, too, for apparent temperatures of up to 110.

Well, it’s August 10; no one was expecting apple picking weather.

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NOTHING STIRRING: Saturday morning’s satellite shot of the Atlantic. (Image credit: NOAA)

TROPICS WATCH: No tropical development is expected by the National Hurricane Center in the Atlantic through at least Thursday. And the Saturday morning Atlantic wide angle image showed conditions that look more like winter than where we are on the calendar: exactly one month away from the statistical peak of the hurricane season.

There was nary a cloud in the Caribbean on Saturday morning.

There has been a lot of buzz about NOAA’s updated hurricane forecast, issued Thursday, increasing chances for an active hurricane season with as many as 17 named storms.

It’s worth pointing out that other agencies that issue seasonal forecasts aren’t on board with that. Colorado State University, which released its final seasonal outlook this week, stuck with a call for 14 named storms — 12 more this year since Andrea and Barry are already in the book.

“Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic remain near average,” researcher Philip Klotzbach wrote along with Michael Bell and Jhordanne Jones. “While the odds of a weak El Niño persisting through August-October have decreased [EDITING NOTE: El Niño officially ended on Thursday], vertical wind shear in the Caribbean remains relatively high. The probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean remains near its long-term average.”

Of course 12 named storms in September and October would be nothing to sniff at.

In the UK, Tropical Storm Risk called this week for a near-normal season with 13 named storms — 11 more.

“The forecast is slightly raised compared to TSR’s early July outlook due to the August-September trade wind speed over the Caribbean Sea and tropical North Atlantic now expected to be slightly more favourable for hurricane development,” TSR said.

One historical note: The 1961 hurricane season kicked off with Hurricane Anna in late July, then shut down for the entire month of August. The next named storm was Hurricane Betsy on September 2.

The year managed to squeeze out 11 storms despite the dead-quiet August, but 1961 set a record at the time for the most major hurricanes (Category 3 and stronger). There were eight hurricanes that year, seven of them majors.

The record still stands, but it was tied during the infamous 2005 Atlantic season.

Record rain in Miami; celebrity bear marks 75th

Miami was slammed with 3.10 inches of rain Thursday, a record for the date. The old record of 2.08 inches was set back in 1950.

Impressive rain totals were posted up and down Florida’s East Coast. A CoCoRaHS observer west of West Palm Beach reported 2.41 inches of rain, although Palm Beach International Airport had a more modest 0.45 of an inch. The city has officially picked up 7.23 inches this month so far, 5.41 inches above normal.

An observer west of Sebastian in Indian River County reported 2.36 inches. Several spots in Brevard County received an inch and a half, and to the north in Live Oak, Suwanee County, an observer measured 1.60 inches in the backyard bucket.

RECORD WATCH: Jacksonville reported a record wind gust Thursday of 41 mph. That busted the old record wind gust for August 8 of 34 mph set in 1967.

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(Image credit: NOAA/ NCEI)

Florida had its seventh-warmest July on record, the National Centers for Environmental Information said this week. Temperature anomalies were even greater in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. New York State and Connecticut had their third-warmest July. Boston and Portland, Maine, had their warmest July on record.

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(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A NOD TO THE FOREST’S FURRY FRIEND: Today is the 75th birthday of Smokey Bear, who first appeared in public service ads by the U.S. Forest Service on August 9, 1944.

Here’s his story from the Forest Service:

“Artist Albert Staehle was asked to paint the first poster of Smokey Bear. It depicted a bear pouring a bucket of water on a campfire and saying ‘Care will prevent 9 out of 10 fires.’

“Smokey Bear soon became very popular as his image appeared on a variety of forest fire prevention materials. In 1947, his slogan became the familiar ‘Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!’

“Then in the spring of 1950, in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico, a young bear cub found himself caught in a burning forest. He took refuge in a tree, and while managing to stay alive was left badly burned. The firefighters who retrieved him were so moved by his bravery, they named him Smokey.

“News about this real bear named Smokey spread across the Nation, and he was soon given a new home at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. The living symbol of Smokey Bear, he played an important role in spreading messages of wildfire prevention and forest conservation.

“Smokey died in 1976 and was returned to Capitan, New Mexico, where he is buried in the State Historical Park.”

End of El Niño means busier hurricane season ahead, NOAA says

Atlantic update pie chart 2019

(Image credits, above and below: NOAA)

Atlantic conditions NOAA

El Niño conditions in the tropical Pacific are officially over, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said Thursday. At the same time, the agency issued an updated hurricane season forecast warning that the likelihood of an above-average 2019 hurricane season had substantially increased.

NOAA upped chances of an above-average season to 45 percent, up from 30 percent in the outlook issued in May. Forecasters said there’s a 35 percent for a near-normal season and just 20 percent for a below-normal season. Twelve named storms is considered an average year.

There could be as many as 17 named storms this year, NOAA said. That would take us all the way to the “R” storm — Rebekah.

Since the season has only had two named storms so far, and the Atlantic looks quiet for at least the next week or so, an above-average season would mean a major spike in activity in September and October.

Forecasters predicted five to nine hurricanes — there has been one so far.

“El Niño typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity but now that it’s gone, we could see a busier season ahead,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “This evolution, combined with the more conducive conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995, increases the likelihood of above-normal activity this year.”

Lingering effects of El Niño are expected to keep wind shear high in the Caribbean, but shear over Florida and northern areas of the tropical Atlantic will likely drop, forecasters said. Ocean temperatures are above average.

The CPC said neutral conditions in the Pacific are likely to continue through the northern hemisphere winter (50-55 percent).

Chances of a La Niña — cooler Pacific water that usually brings a warm, dry winter to Florida — remain low through next spring, according to the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University.

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ECFL rain forecast

(Image credit: NWS-Melbourne)

Rainfall amounts were a bit more subdued around Florida on Wednesday, and a drier end of the week is in the expected, according to the National Weather Service. But afternoon storms are still possible around the peninsula — minus the torrential downpours of that kicked off the week.

The problem is that many areas, particularly on the East Coast, are so saturated that any isolated heavy rain could cause another round of flooding.

Forecasters are concerned about the West Palm Beach area and parts of eastern Broward County.

“Saturated ground continues to be a concern across South Florida, but particularly along the east coast metro which has seen a
barrage of rainfall over the past several days due to the unsettled pattern,” they said Thursday.

South Florida rain chances remain in the 30-40 percent range through the weekend; ditto for Florida’s West Coast, but up to 60 percent in the Orlando area and only 20 percent in the Keys.

Panhandle heat

Heat indices are forecast to reach 107 degrees Thursday in the panhandle; closer to 100 in parts of Central and South Florida. (Image credit: NWS-Tallahassee)

Record rainfall slams West Palm, Daytona

SFL rainfall totals

South Florida storm totals from Tuesday. (Image credit: NWS-Miami)

Palm Beach County was once again the epicenter of heavy rain around the Florida peninsula on Tuesday afternoon, with 2.86 inches falling in about an hour in West Palm Beach.

Palm Beach International Airport reported a total of 2.88 inches, setting a new rainfall record for August 6. It easily busted the old record of 1.93 inches set in 2012.

A second consecutive day of flooding was reported around Central and South Palm Beach County when the storms rolled through around 4 p.m.

Moderate to heavy rain was widespread again, with an inch or more reported in Central Florida from Hillsborough County over to Brevard County on the East Coast.

Daytona Beach also set a rainfall record with 1.26 inches, beating the old August 6 record of 1.05 inches set in 2004.

With the first week of August almost wrapped up, all of South Florida’s major East Coast reporting stations have racked up more than 4 inches of rain, and West Palm Beach reports a total of 6.43 inches. The average for the whole month is 7.95 inches.

How long will the wet pattern continue? Each day will yield slightly different results, the National Weather Service says, depending on how strong the sea breezes manage to set up on both coasts. By early next week, high pressure may build in from the Atlantic, bringing drier air.

“Some hope for a cut off to the spigot of heavy rainfall for the east coast metro may be in the future if high pressure builds in at the surface to close out the extended forecast period,” NWS forecasters in Miami said Wednesday. “Obviously, healthy amounts of atmospheric moisture continue to be available for convection to utilize.

“The possible shift in synoptic pattern, even though it may be slight with the shifting ridge, could allow some potential relief for the East Coast, but may refocus the heavy rain threat further west over the interior and possibly the West Coast metro.”

Meanwhile, forecasters at NWS offices in Miami and Melbourne are calling for up to 1.5-2 inches on Florida’s East Coast through Saturday.

RECORD WATCH: In addition to the rainfall records at Daytona and West Palm, the Keys tied record low temperatures on Tuesday. The low in Key West and Marathon was 84, which tied record warm lows set in in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

TROPICS WATCH: No tropical development is expected through at least Monday, the National Hurricane Center says in its Wednesday morning Tropical Weather Outlook. Forecast models suggest no tropical development in the Atlantic for at least the next seven to 10 days.

In an average year, four named storms form in August.