Update 4:55 p.m.: Tropical Storm Colin is looking less like a tropical storm with the worst of its thunderstorms far removed from the center of the cyclone.
While a U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunter measured top surface winds of 46 mph, the center is keeping the official intensity at 50 mph because the plane did not sample the entire band of thunderstorms. The storm is now moving north northeast at 23 mph with a minimum central pressure of 1002 mb.
The forecast cone for Colin was moved some to the north, but forecasters stressed that the worst of the storms are no where near the center of the storm.
Tropical storm warnings are now in effect through most of North Carolina.
Update 2 p.m.: There have been no changes in Tropical Storm Colin’s wind speed or direction, per the 2 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center. Tropical Storm Colin‘s wind speed or direction, per the 2 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.
The storm is expected to make landfall later today with 50 mph winds in the Big Bend area of Florida.
But impacts on the west coast are already being felt.
Update 1:30 p.m. A tropical storm warning has been extended to Charleston, S.C. as Colin pushes into Florida.
Forecasters expect the storm to move quickly through the state and hug the east coast for a while before moving out into the Atlantic.
NHC Hurricane specialist John Cangialosi said the warnings may be extended further up the coast depending on Colin’s path.
“It’s going to be moving pretty quickly,” he said. “We’re not expecting much strengthening but it could speed up.”
Update 11 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. update calls for Tropical Storm Colin to make a Florida landfall this afternoon in the Big Bend area as it speeds up to 16 mph.
Maximum sustained winds remain at 50 mph and not much strengthening is expected in the next couple of days.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency. The declaration covers 34 counties along the Gulf Coast and Panhandle.
Scott said that while Colin is not a powerful tropical storm, its threat of rain could be a problem. He invoked Palm Beach County’s experience with Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012.
Tropical Storm Isaac packed little punch, yet dumped as much as 18 inches of rain, leaving western communities under several feet of water for days.
“With Isaac, we saw all that rain in Palm Beach,” Scott said. “Everybody has got to watch this and watch to see what these bands do around our state.”
Rain from Colin is already affecting the west coast of the state with up to 8 inches possible in areas of west and north Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tropical storm-force winds extend out up to 230 miles to the southeast of Colin’s center.
But forecasters note that Colin is an unwieldy storm that doesn’t resemble a classical tropical cyclone. The poorly formed center of the storm has several small swirls inside a larger gyre.
Because Colin’s worst thunderstorms are not at its center, forecasters warn not to focus on the track, which has been nudged further north since earlier advisories.
“Heavy rainfall, strong winds, and coastal flooding will begin affecting portions of the Florida peninsula this afternoon well in advance of the center’s nearing the coast,” NHC specialist Daniel Brown wrote in the 11 a.m. update.
The center is not issuing its new storm surge products because those are only used when there is a hurricane watch or warning in effect.
Update 10:15 a.m. The National Weather Service in Miami issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook warning of possible gusty winds and isolated tornadoes as Tropical Storm Colin continues its path north.
Southeast winds are pulling up warm tropical air, which could increase thunderstorm chances and locally heavy rain.
Wind gusts as high as 40 mph are possible with the thunderstorms, but it’s the southwest coast that is likely to see the biggest impact with seas up to 13 feet today, subsiding to seven feet by Tuesday morning.
Previous story: Tropical Storm Colin strengthened overnight to 50 mph winds and is moving more quickly to the north northeast at 14 mph.
The cyclone is poorly organized as of the National Hurricane Center’s 4 a.m. update, but tropical storm warnings remain in effect for areas of Florida between Indian Pass to Englewood and on the east coast from Sebastian Inlet to Altamaha Sound.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for north of Altamaha Sound to South Santee River.
There were no changes as of the 8 a.m. tropical outlook, but forecasters noted that tropical-storm-force winds extend out up to 185 miles.
Colin will have to contend with a strong wind shear as it moves north in the Gulf and center forecasters do not expect significant strengthening before it makes landfall in Florida’s Big Bend region in the next 24 hours.
Still, strong winds, heavy rain and coastal flooding are likely well east of Colin’s center and National Weather Service forecasters in Miami warned this morning that any shift in track toward the east could mean more rains and storms to South Florida.
“The heaviest rain will be southwest Florida,” said Arlena Moses, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “For us here on the east coast, the amounts have come down a little for the next 48 hours and we may be looking at amounts around an inch.”
Colin is about 360 miles west southwest of Tampa and about 345 miles south southwest of Apalachicola with a minimum central pressure of 1004 mb.
The 5-day track has nudged more north since the 10 p.m. advisory.
Palm Beach County is still expected to get heavy rain in connection to Colin, but the Storm Prediction Center has taken South Florida out of its elevated “slight” risk category for severe weather. Palm Beach County remains in its marginal level, meaning there is a chance for isolated severe thunderstorms with small hail, winds up to 60 mph and a low tornado risk.
There is a 10 to 20 percent probability that Palm Beach County could see some tropical storm-force winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.
U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunters measured surface winds from one intense area of Colin at 69 mph, but hurricane center forecasters said it is unclear how representative they are as to the storm as a whole.
As of late Sunday, the National Weather Service was more concerned about prolonged rains throughout this week as opposed to heavy, flooding rains today.
Miami forecasters said the threat of heavy rains and potential flooding for Palm Beach County will exist through late in the week.
The bigger concern for the southeast coast of Florida is Wednesday through Saturday. After Colin moves into the Atlantic, a frontal boundary is expected to stall out across Central and South Florida Wednesday through Friday.
The seven-day rain totals have all of Palm Beach County receiving an average of three to four inches with more falling sporadically in local areas.
A coastal flood advisory is in effect for Collier County through Tuesday morning with concerns about high tides Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning exacerbating the affects from Tropical Storm Colin.