UPDATE: 61-mph wind gust recorded on Marco Island

Update 9:05 p.m.: Most of the active weather has been concentrated over coastal Collier County, Lake Okeechobee and northern Palm Beach County.

NWS meteorologists said the storminess should gradually diminish before midnight.

Update 8:27 p.m.: A wind gust of 61 mph was recorded on Marco Island. The National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm warning with a possible tornado for an area south of Naples.

The warning in in effect until 8:45 p.m.

Update 8:10 p.m.: Some storms are moving into northern Palm Beach County that forecasters have identified as possibly severe.

A thunderstorm warning will expire at 8:15 p.m. for a region in north central Palm Beach County.

At 7:30 p.m., a thunderstorm wind gust of 49 mph was recorded over Lake Okeechobee, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

See current live radar here.

Radar image 8:09 p.m.

Previous story: A storm system that sent tornadoes charging through Alabama overnight is hitting Florida today, bringing the potential for severe thunderstorms to Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast near sunset to late evening.

Already, Central Florida is getting pelted with hail and fielding multiple thunderstorm and tornado warnings.

Hail in Oviedo Tuesday afternoon from cold front. March 20, 2018. Photo by Karen Quesenbury

The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., has nearly all of Palm Beach and Martin counties under a marginal threat of severe weather today. St. Lucie County is under the more elevated “slight risk” of severe weather. Areas from Melbourne through Jacksonville are at an “enhanced” risk of severe weather – the third level on the center’s 5-tier threat scale.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

The biggest weather threats for Palm Beach County will be strong wind gusts, however large hail and tornadoes can’t be ruled out especially if the front arrives slightly earlier than expected, harnessing the heat of the day for more energy.

“There is a strong upper-level jet stream hitting Florida so any intense storms will bring some of those wind gusts to the surface,” said Matt Volkmer, a meteorologist with the NWS in Melbourne. “We’re thinking there is a bigger concern for straight line winds, but there is a low chance of a tornado or two.”

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Ahead of the storminess will be near-record heat, including in West Palm Beach where the temperature is forecast to reach 91 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

That’s 12 degrees above normal. The record high in West Palm Beach for March 20 is 92 degrees set in 1965.

The last time it reached 90 degrees in West Palm Beach was Sept. 26.

The high temperatures are partly a function of the counter clockwise turn of the low pressure system expected to push into the Atlantic near the North Carolina coast today. The cyclonic spin of the system drags tropical southwest winds through the state. In Palm Beach County, they travel over a larger fetch of solar-heated land throughout the day, amping up the heat.

Today is the first day of astronomical spring, but it won’t seem like it in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, where snow and possible coastal flooding as an area of low pressure moves off the coast near the Outer Banks of North Carolina and begins a trek north. Gale-force wind watches and warnings paint the coast from North Carolina through Maine, with a storm warning and coastal flood watch in New Jersey.

National Weather Service meteorologists said today’s storm will be the first of two “back-to-back nor’easters” that will hit this week. If that forecast holds true, it will mark five winter storms to menace the Northeast this month.

Location of the low pressure system and cold front as of 2 p.m.

South Florida has experienced see-sawing temperatures with those winter storms as trailing cold fronts raked through the area. The low this month in West Palm Beach was 45 degrees on Thursday – 17 degrees below normal. Monday’s high was 86 degrees, which was 8 degrees above normal.

“March is not an atypical month at all to have plenty of cold fronts move through South Florida,” said Andrew Hagen, a NWS meteorologist in Miami. “There were barely any in February so we’re just not used to it.”

High temperatures behind today’s front will dive into the mid to high 70s Wednesday, but struggle to reach 70 Thursday and Friday. Overnight lows dip to the low 50s Wednesday and Thursday.

In addition to 10 reports of tornadoes in Alabama on Monday were 75 reports of high wind across  northern Alabama into Georgia.

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Author: Kimberly Miller

Kimberly grew up outside Washington D.C. She graduated from the University of Arizona in 1995. Her beats have included K-12 education, universities and colleges, real estate, and general assignment.

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