Hurricane center watching spot in the Caribbean for formation

Hurricane center watching spot in the Caribbean for formation

11 p.m. UPDATE: The broad area of low pressure over the southwestern Caribbean now has a 30 percent chance of formation through five days.

It’s producing numerous showers and thunderstorms extending from Central America eastward through Hispaniola, according to the latest Tropical Weather Outlook from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Check the latest Tropical Outlook

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Leslie is approaching hurricane status in the middle of the Atlantic, no threat to land. At 11 p.m., Leslie was about 510 miles east-southeast of Bermuda with top sustained winds around 70 mph.

Leslie is forecast to become a hurricane tonight or early Wednesday.

Continue reading “Hurricane center watching spot in the Caribbean for formation”

JUST IN: Some county beaches to remain closed because of red tide

UPDATE 5:40 p.m.: Palm Beach County beaches from R.G. Kreusler Park north to the Martin County line will remain closed after lifeguards and staff report continued irritation from red tide.

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The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has released a map detailing the locations where testing occurred over the weekend for red tide.

The map also includes the concentrations of Karenia brevis in the samples.

A second map and forecast from NOAA shows moderate red tide conditions are expected in Palm Beach County through Friday.

Water samples were taken after beachgoers complained of scratchy throats, coughing and skin irritations this past weekend. The 11 samples, taken up to 7 miles offshore, tested positive for very low-to-medium concentrations of red tide and the single-cell algae Karenia brevis that causes it.

RELATED: Red tide Q&A and how it differs from blue-green algae

There have been 57 occurrences of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico since 1953. Eight of those events have made their way to Palm Beach County (with cell counts 100,000 cells/liter or more). All eight of those events originated in the Gulf of Mexico and were carried by currents to the east coast.

Gov. Rick Scott commented for the first time about the red tide on the Atlantic coast this morning, saying the state is ready to “deploy any needed resources.”

“With red tide now observed on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, we aren’t wasting any time combatting this natural phenomenon,” Scott said in a statement. “Over the past 61 years, scientists at FWC have documented red tide in Florida’s Atlantic waters nine times, and now, just as we’ve done on the Gulf Coast, we are absolutely committed to quickly deploying every available resource our Atlantic Coast communities may need to combat and mitigate red tide.”

Palm Beach County’s public beaches will open Wednesday, while individual cities can make their own decisions on whether to fully open, or keep swimming restricted.

PHOTOS: Beaches close across Palm Beach County after people complain of respiratory distress

“Reopening county beaches on Wednesday, Oct. 3rd, provides for a day’s preparation of proper messaging on the beaches,” a Monday press release from the county states. “All Palm Beach County beachgoers are advised to swim near guarded beaches and heed any warnings posted at county or city beaches.”

Boynton Beach and Boca Raton did not restrict access or swimming, while Delray Beach was closed to swimming Monday.

RELATED: Cleaning up Florida’s red tide corpses 

Ben Kerr, the public information officer for Lake Worth, said water samples were taken at Lake Worth Beach on Saturday and Monday, with results pending.

Similar to Palm Beach County, Lake Worth will reopen its beach Wednesday. The Casino and Benny’s on the Beach will remain open, although the top parking lot is closed today.

Red tide samples taken Sept. 30. Courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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BREAKING: Preliminary results show red tide present in Palm Beach County

 

The Karenia brevis algae, which causes red tide, is present in Palm Beach County’s coastal waters, according to preliminary results from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The tests of water samples taken after several people complained of respiratory issues on Saturday showed low to medium concentrations of red tide. The water samples were taken Sunday.

“We will enhance our monitoring and testing,” said Susan Neel, director of FWC’s community relations office. “Red tides on the east coast are rarer and typically of shorter duration than those on the Gulf coast.”

Beaches from Jupiter to Delray Beach have been closed to swimming since Saturday, with some cities closing the sand portion of the beach also.

“It’s unusual, but it’s not unheard of for it to end up on the east coast,” said Richard Stumpf, a NOAA oceanographer who studies harmful algae blooms and their movement. “The reason it’s rare is you have to have the bloom and an east wind. It’s a combination of things that have to happen.”

Red tides are naturally occurring and have been observed in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1800s.

The bloom can reach the east coast if it gets caught in the Gulf of Mexico’s loop current and travels with the Florida current through the Florida Straits into the Gulf Stream – a north-moving river of warm water that skims the Palm Beach County coastline. Once in the Gulf Stream, waves can force the toxin produced by the Karenia brevis into an aerosol form, that can then be carried by east winds to Palm Beach County beaches.

A test for red tide taken Wednesday at the Juno Beach Pier was negative.

Since 1972 when the transport of red tide from the west coast to the east was first identified, seven other instances have been documented, according to FWC. Those include 1990, 1997, 1999 and 2006.

Stumpf said he’s monitoring satellite images of the state and doesn’t see any clear evidence of red tide on the east coast. High concentrations of red tide can appear brown in the water.

“There’s nothing I can pin down and say, ‘Oh, there it is,’” Stumpf said. “Our best guess is it’s piled along the edge of the Gulf Stream and it’s really hard to see that.”

Some people experience respiratory irritation (coughing, sneezing, tearing and an itchy throat) when the Florida red tide organism is present and winds blow onshore. The Florida Department of Health advises people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, to avoid red tide areas.

According to FWC’s website, a water sample from the Juno Beach Fishing Pier taken Wednesday by the Loggerhead Marine Life Center tested negative for the presence of Karenia brevis. That result was released in a Friday report.

The lack of the algae in the water column last week is consistent with red tide forecasts from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration which said no “respiratory irritation associated with Karenia brevis is expected” on the east coast of Florida.

Red tides on the East coast of Florida are extremely rare. They can even subside and then reoccur. The duration of a bloom in nearshore Florida waters depends on physical and biological conditions that influence its growth and persistence, including sunlight, nutrients and salinity, as well as the speed and direction of wind and water currents.

There have been 57 occurrences of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico since 1953.  Eight of those events have made their way to the east coast in the area of Palm Beach County (with cell counts 100,000 cells/liter or more).  All eight of those events originated in the Gulf of Mexico and were carried by currents to the east coast.

 

Hot September: 5th warmest in West Palm Beach

Visitors soak up sun and cool off at Centennial Square and Fountain Park in West Palm Beach Sunday August 5, 2018. (Meghan McCarthy / Daily News)

South Florida suffered through a simmering September that ranked 5th warmest in records dating back 125 years.

The average temperatures at Palm Beach International Airport was 83.1 degrees, which is more like August than early fall. The average high temperature at the airport was 89.5 degrees.

But it wasn’t just West Palm Beach sweating in September.

More than a dozen cities statewide felt their warmest September on record last month, including Melbourne, Daytona Beach, Tampa and Key West, which averaged a balmy 85.8 degrees.

Part of why South Florida was so hot last month was it remained for weeks in the grip of a high pressure system, which is still influencing the weather with strong easterly winds and mostly clear skies.

Today’s high in West Palm Beach is forecast to reach 90 degrees. If that holds true, it will be the eighth day in a row where the mercury reached 90 degrees or higher.

The normal high for this time of year is 87 degrees, with an overnight low of 74.

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Summer of algae: Despite decades of efforts, near record levels of fertilizer fouled Lake O last year

Hurricane Irma’s torrential rains flooded Lake Okeechobee with more than 450 metric tons of phosphorus in a single month, contributing to a fertilizer dump that nourished this summer’s harmful algae bloom and surpassed the state’s phosphorus goal 10 times over.

Between May 2017 and this past April, 1,046 metric tons of phosphorus soured Lake Okeechobee, carried largely in runoff from farms, dairies, cattle ranches and communities north of Florida’s freshwater center.

About 6 percent of the water and 7 percent of the phosphorus that went into the lake during the same time period came from areas south of Lake O, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

RELATED: Palm Beach County beaches closed after people fall ill from red tide-like irritant 

Scientists predicted an algae bloom was possible after Irma’s September soaking drove lake levels up 3 feet in a month, but the extent of the phosphorus loading wasn’t clear until results were released during a September meeting of the district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition, or WRAC.

“Last year was a fluke because of the way the rain came with Irma, but it’s a high point in a chronic problem,” said Audubon Florida scientist Paul Gray, who specializes in Lake Okeechobee research. “Clearly we haven’t done near enough to fix it.”

RELATED: White House approves massive reservoir to hold Lake O overflow

The five-year average flow of phosphorus into the lake, including last year, was 598 metric tons. In each of the four years previous, the range of phosphorus was between 415 metric tons and 574 metric tons.

The state goal set in 2001 is 105.

Read the rest of the story and find out more about the decades of failures in trying to fix the nutrient flow in MyPalmBeachPost.com.

 

South Florida heat ties records, but early cool front possible next week

A nearly two-week streak of abnormally warm temperatures is challenging South Florida records and pushing heat indexes to “concerning” levels into the weekend.

Official weather service gauges in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale cooled Wednesday morning to only 81 and 82 degrees, respectively, tying overnight heat records set in both cities in 1998.

The unofficial low Thursday morning in West Palm Beach was 82 degrees, which would break a 1991 record of 81 degrees if it holds true.

CHECK The Palm Beach Post live radar

Blame a stubborn Bermuda High, which has had a hold on the state through much of the month, for the unusual warmth. Fifteen days have seen the mercury rise to 90-degrees or warmer at Palm Beach International Airport, including hitting a whopping 93 degrees on Sept. 19 and 20.

The normal daytime high for late September is 87 or 88 with the normal overnight low typically dropping to 75.

Derrick Weitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, said the extra daytime heat has been aided by an easterly sea breeze pushing further inland and causing showers and thunderstorms to bypass the coast.

“The storms increase cloud cover and rainfall to really cool things off, but we’ve been drier than normal for most of the month and had higher temperatures,” Weitlich said.

RELATED: South Florida weekly fishing report

An average of 4.6 inches of rain has fallen over coastal Palm Beach County this month, which is more than 2 inches below normal, according to South Florida Water Management District records.

Miami meteorologists warned Thursday of “feels like”, or heat index, temperatures in the triple digits into the weekend. West Palm Beach hit a high of 91 degrees Thursday with a heat index of 105. Although warm, it’s not enough to trigger a heat advisory which is issued when the index is forecast to reach 108 degrees for at least two hours.

“Heat indices are a concern the next few days as temperatures could feel 100 to 107 in some locations in Hendry, Glades, Collier, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties,” meteorologists at the Miami NWS wrote in their forecast.

Through Monday, daytime highs in West Palm Beach are expected to reach near 90 degrees with overnights dipping into the upper 70s.

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

This weekend, the Bermuda High will move further west with its center over the Peninsula. Its clockwise flow is forecast to whip winds up to 15 mph with higher gusts. By Monday, east winds could increase to 16 mph with higher gusts.

That means higher chances of rough seas and rip currents through the weekend.

On Tuesday, a stronger high pressure system moves across the northern part of the U.S., which could push a “backdoor” cold front “possibly through South Florida” Miami meteorologists said.

Although uncertainty in the forecast remains high, meteorologists said models have been hinting at the front with enough consistency they felt confident putting it in the forecast.

Weitlich said a backdoor front is one that comes from the northeast. He’s skeptical one would make it to South Florida this early in the season.

“In terms of temperatures, we certainly won’t see much of a change,” he said.

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UPDATE: Kirk aims for Caribbean with more tropical storm warnings expected Thursday

Tropical Storm Kirk

11 p.m. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Kirk weakened slightly to 50 mph as it moved west-northwest around 16 mph toward the Windward and Leeward Islands.

All the previous warnings and watches remain in effect as Kirk moves across the Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles, mainly to the north and east of the center.

Kirk is also expected to bring heavy rains to Martinique and Dominica on Thursday, followed by eastern Puerto Rico on Friday and Saturday.

UPDATE: Kirk aims for Caribbean with tropical storm warnings expected Thursday

8 p.m. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Kirk is moving west-northwest near 18 mph with top sustained winds of 60 mph, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

STORM 2018: CHECK THE INTERACTIVE TRACKING MAP

This motion is expected to continue over the next few days, putting Kirk on track to move over the Lesser Antilles and spur tropical storm warnings Thursday afternoon.

At 8 p.m., the storm was about 230 miles east of Barbados and 355 miles east-southeast of Martinique. Warnings are in effect for Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Little change in strength is forecast until Kirk crosses the Lesser Antilles, followed by weakening over the eastern Caribbean.

UPDATE 5 p.m.:  Tropical Storm Kirk whipped up quickly to 60 mph sustained winds today after reforming into a cyclone this morning.

The storm, which is 260 miles east of Barbados, is moving west-northwest at 18 mph.

Tropical storm watches and warnings are in effect for many of the Windward Islands, including Barbados, St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

Tropical storm-force winds extend 115 miles from Kirk’s center.

Kirk is still expected to weaken over the weekend as it enters the eastern Caribbean and is hit with higher wind shear.

STORM 2018: CHECK THE INTERACTIVE TRACKING MAP

 

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The cyclone once named Kirk is back to tropical storm strength, regaining its name at the 5 a.m. advisory as it heads toward the Windward Islands.

Kirk had been reduced to remnants of its former self on Monday, but National Hurricane Center forecasters said this morning the system has better organized thunderstorms around a defined center. Add maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and Kirk is reborn.

STORM 2018: CHECK THE INTERACTIVE TRACKING MAP

The storm is about 470 miles east of Barbados and moving west at 18 mph.

Tropical storm watches and warnings have been posted for southern Windward Islands including, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Tropical storm-force winds extend out 115 miles from Kirk’s center.

Kirk may strengthen slightly before it gets beat down in the eastern Caribbean Sea by wind shear. It is forecast to a weaken to a depression over the weekend.

Tropical Storm Kirk nears the Windward Islands with 45 mph sustained winds on Sept. 26, 2018.

A weak low pressure system off the Carolinas never did form, and was given just a 30 percent chance of forming over the next 48 hours.

RELATED: It’s fall, but when will South Florida start feeling like it? 

The system is expected to produce scattered rain and rough surf along the Carolinas as it moves northeastward to merge with a front that will push through over the weekend.

Through this morning, this hurricane season is still above normal for this time of year for named storms with 12, compared the climatological norm of 8.7, according to Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. Named storm days (57), number of hurricanes (5) and Accumulated Cyclone Energy (83) are also higher than normal.

CSU’s next two-week forecast is scheduled for release Thursday.

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Anglers barred from popular fishing spot after gators get aggressive

Alligators, like this one spotted in The Acreage in 2011, tend to hunt opportunistically, not aggressively, said David Hitzig of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

A popular fishing spot in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge will be temporarily off limits to anglers after alligators accustomed to getting free meals from humans have become increasingly aggressive.

Veronica Kelly, a spokeswoman for the refuge, said several alligators have been removed and euthanized after approaching people in an area where fisherman have been seen feeding them.

One of the gators was more than 12-feet long.

“We’ve had 11 violation notices for feeding and enticing alligators since March,” Kelly said. “We regularly get calls about people feeding them, but usually by the time the officer arrives the people are gone.”

The area, which will be off limits to bank fishing through Nov. 2, stretches about 100 yards north and south of the Lee Road Boat Ramp. The ban includes fishing from the fishing platform, boat dock, and boat ramp areas.

RELATED: Gator victim came from Japan but loved Florida 

This alligator was removed from the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge after it became aggressive. Refuge managers believe people were illegally feeding it. Photo courtesy of Barry Willette/USFWS Volunteer

“When gators get  used to being around humans, it totally changes their behavior and they start coming to people for food,” Kelly said.

In one incident, a fisherman reported an alligator tried to jump in his boat. Another person reported being chased by a gator.

The maximum penalty for feeding alligators could be up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine.

Kelly said the refuge hopes the gators that frequent the area will get hungry and leave by Nov. 2. The refuge includes 141,000 acres west of Boynton Beach.

RELATED: Hundreds of gators caught in Palm Beach County, this map shows where 

“On national wildlife refuges, wildlife comes first,” a refuge press release says. “Refuges are set aside for the protection of wildlife and their habitat first and foremost.”

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are an estimated 1.3 million alligators in the state.

A fisherman at the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge’s southern corner, far west of Boca Raton in 2017. (The Palm Beach Post/Eliot Kleinberg)

Alligators are under federal protection as a species. It’s a designation that recognizes a need to keep alligators from being excessively hunted, but also makes allowances to kill a gator considered a nuisance or dangerous.

Related: 7-foot gator wanders outside Florida elementary school

Between 1948 and through 2017, there have been 401 alligator attacks in Florida with 24 fatalities. In June, an alligator killed 47-year-old Plantation resident Shizuka Matsuki while she walked her dogs in Davie’s Silver Lakes Rotary Nature Park, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

To report instances of people feeding alligators or other wildlife violations while at the refuge, call 800-307-5789.

 

TONIGHT: September’s full moon is special, when to see moonrise this week

The full moon sets among the pine trees alongside the Beeline Highway Thursday morning July 2, 2015 . This is the first of two full moons this month; the next one is July 31. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

September’s full harvest moon rises tonight, but there’s something special about the lunar machinations this time of year.

Near the fall equinox, which was Saturday, the moon rises each day closer together, according to Earth and Sky. That means instead of a delay between 40 and 50 minutes each subsequent day, it’s more like 30 to 35 minutes.

The higher the latitude, the shorter the time lag. In Alaska, the lag time is just 10 minutes. In Denver it’s 30 minutes.

RELATED: It’s fall, but when will South Florida start feeling like it? 

“No matter where you live worldwide, the moon will appear plenty full to you on both September 24 and 25, lighting up the night from dusk until dawn,” said Earth and Sky columnist Bruce McClure.

In West Palm Beach, moonrise tonight is 7:20 p.m.

Tuesday’s moonrise will be 7:55 p.m..

Wednesday will see the moon rise at 8:41 p.m.

The Harvest Moon is the only Full Moon name which is determined by the equinox rather than a month, according to TimeandDate.com.

Bottom line, look east tonight at 7:20 p.m. for September’s full harvest moon. Go to the beach, or the Intracoastal waterway for a special celestial treat when the moon emerges large and plump over the flat horizon.

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The glow of sunrise warms the setting full moon behind the steeple of Family Church on Flagler Drive Thursday morning, May 11, 2017. (Lannis Waters @lvw839/The Palm Beach Post)

 

PHOTOS: Multiple reports of waterspout off Palm Beach

The National Weather Service has received multiple reports of a waterspout seen off Palm Beach today around 2:30 p.m.

The waters surrounding Florida provide warmth and moisture for growing clouds that can spawn waterspouts. Often, the clouds that form them are not thunderstorms.

In fact, it doesn’t have to be raining for a waterspout to develop, and they can occur while skies are partly sunny.

A water spout Tuesday morning, July 7, 2015, off the coast of Manalapan. (Photo by Bruce Miller/The Palm Beach Post)