Strong storms, small chance of tornadoes for South Florida

National Weather Service meteorologists in Miami are forecasting the possibility of strong thunderstorms tonight and Friday afternoon as South Florida gets whacked by two fronts from the same system.

There is a small chance the storms could produce a brief tornado. While the risk is minimal, it’s not impossible, said Dan Gregoria, lead forecaster in the Miami NWS office.


“We wanted to provide you with a heads-up on this potential, despite the low probabilities of occurrence,” Gregoria said.

The notice comes just days after an EF-2 tornado whipped through Cape Coral with 132 mph winds. That storm damaged 178 structures, destroyed one home and knocked over an estimated 100 power poles.

Despite the seven-minute rampage, just three people suffered minor injuries.

Cape Coral residents assess the damage to homes on Southwest 15th Avenue on Sunday morning. Jack Hardman/The News-Press

Cape Coral residents assess the damage to homes on Southwest 15th Avenue on Sunday morning. Jack Hardman/The News-Press

The unruly weather this week, described as a “roller coaster” by Miami forecasters, includes the formation Wednesday of Subtropical Storm Alex – the first named Atlantic storm of 2016 and only the fourth named storm to form in January since 1851.

Alex, which is no threat to the U.S., was 785 miles southwest of the Azores on Wednesday and traveling northeast at 14 mph. Maximum sustained winds were about 50 mph. Strengthening was not expected.

Still, the Alex is noteworthy as the first January named storm since 1978.

“It’s pretty rare,” said Dave Samuhel, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. “We’re closer to the end of hurricane season than the start of a new one.”

Hurricane season runs from June through November.

As far as tornadoes, National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Caracozza said the chances of something forming in South Florida today or Friday are extremely slim.


“It’s not like it’s going to be a severe weather outbreak,” Caracozza said. “There could be a few thunderstorms, but it’s highly uncertain.”

If storms do develop, they are expected to come from a low-pressure system that will push its warm front up through the Keys on Thursday night, with storms possibly on the leading edge.

On Friday afternoon, the same system will swing its cold front through, bringing another potential for storms. Sustained winds of 23 mph with gusts up to 30 are forecast for Friday.

Samuhel agreed the chances for a tornado were low, but worth watching. He said Saturday’s storm in Cape Coral was aided by high dew-point temperatures – which are a measure of moisture in the air – and strong wind shear. Neither factor is as virile with the system that’s forecast to hit today.

“A really juicy dew point is a big thing tornadoes need,’ Samuhel said. “There’s not as much moisture this go-around.”

For  more on the potential threat from storms, read the full Palm Beach Story here. 

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