JUST IN: Significant hazardous marine conditions this weekend following front

GOES-16 satellite imagery of winter storm hitting the Northeast and expected to bring high seas and cool weather to South Florida.

A wrecking ball of a winter storm is about to bust up the recent hot weather with a fury that meteorologists predict could bring up to 15-foot seas to Palm Beach County’s coastline and send life-threatening flooding into the Northeast.

A low pressure system, whose strength was still in debate just days ago, is now expected to undergo an explosive strengthening as it harasses states from Virginia to Maine with peak wind gusts of hurricane force possible along the coast. The forecast drop in atmospheric pressure of at least 24 millibars in 24 hours or less is called bombogenesis.

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In South Florida, the National Weather Service is warning of coastal flooding, powerful rip currents, high seas and beach erosion building into Sunday through mid-week.

The highest seas along Palm Beach County’s coast are expected Sunday night at between 12-15 feet.

“With the marine and coastal concerns this weekend, and next week, we will be providing a daily briefing through at least the weekend, and possibly into the beginning of the week,” said Steven Ippoliti, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “The main concerns are hazardous seas and beach erosion. Also, relative humidity may impact some of those with fire weather concerns, as the RH may drop into the 20s.”

In Massachusetts, voluntary evacuations of some coastal communities during high tides have been recommended with forecasters in the Boston office of the National Weather Service calling the advancing storm a “life and death” situation.

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“Exacerbating the event will be the highest tides of the month — more than a foot above average, associated with the full moon,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters in his Cat 6 blog. “The Northeast U.S. will receive a punishing assault from a large storm surge and high waves that will last through three high tide cycles.”

For South Florida, the storm will punch through a cold front Friday, dropping temperatures from a Thursday high of 85 to a forecast high Saturday of 75. Sunday morning temperatures are expected to be in the mid- to high-50s along the coast, with inland areas dipping into the 40s.

The cold weather will be an abrupt change to February, which ended with an average temperature in West Palm Beach of 75.3 degrees, breaking a 59-year old record of 74.4 set in 1959.

“I’m still peeling from two crazy sunburns that I got last month. It was hot,” said Grace Kalinsky, who recently moved to West Palm Beach and was enjoying the sun Thursday at City Place. “But I’m from Connecticut so everything feels hot and humid here.”

Read more about February’s record heat in the full story at MyPalmBeachPost.com. 

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Double-digit temperature drop in 24 hours with cold front

From air conditioning to open windows, South Florida saw a whipsaw of temperatures the past 24 hours, including a record-breaking high Monday in Miami.

The preliminary low temperature this morning as measured at Palm Beach International Airport was 56 degrees, that’s about normal for this time of year, but a whopping 17 degrees below Monday’s morning low of 73 degrees.

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The high temperature in Palm Beach County today should linger below 70 degrees with another cool night of in the mid-50s toward the coast and possibly dipping into the 40s further inland.

Normal temperatures this time of year are 75 degrees for a high and 57 degrees for a low.

“Another period of breezy, dry, and somewhat cool weather will be in place across South Florida through mid week,” National Weather Service forecasters wrote in a morning forecast. “The  northerly flow component currently in place has ushered in enough cooler air to keep high temperatures today and tomorrow below normal in the upper 60s and 70s.”

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That’s a big change from Monday when the high temperature in West Palm Beach reached 81 degrees – six degrees above normal.

Miami’s high temperature on Monday was 84 degrees, which tied a record for the same high temperature for that day set in 2009.

But it wasn’t the warmest in the nation. According to the Weather Prediction Center, the high temperature Monday nationwide was 93 degrees in Lake Forest, Calif. 

The coldest area of the country was Embarrass, Minn. at -28 degrees.

For South Florida, the temperature forecast for the next few days will remain slightly below normal with north wind gusts today as high as 25 mph.

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Winds turn east Wednesday with gusts as high as 21 mph.

That means rip currents will be a concern at Atlantic beaches. Forecasters have issued a high rip current risk through Wednesday evening. A small craft advisory is also in effect through Wednesday morning.

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Blustery day before cool front this weekend

A blustery day with wind gusts topping 30 mph will turn into a mixed bag for the weekend, including some sun and a Sunday cool front with a near guarantee of rain.

Sustained east winds this morning at Palm Beach International Airport are measuring upwards of 20 mph with gusts to 31 mph.

PBIA

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The wind, which has triggered a wind advisory for Lake Okeechobee, rip current warnings along the Atlantic beaches and a small craft advisory, is a function of a high pressure system moving into South Florida rubbing up against a stationary boundary stretching from the Bahamas into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Wind speeds will only increase as we go through today,” said National Weather Service meteorologists in their  morning forecast. “Temperatures are quite mild this  morning, being regulated off the stiff breeze off the relatively warm Atlantic waters.”

Today’s hazards

Saturday’s forecast is for mostly cloudy skies, a high temperature of 75 degrees, with breezy conditions continuing as a low pressure system begins to dig into the Mississippi Valley.

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That low will increase winds out of the south, bringing more warm, tropical air into South Florida.

Sunday forecast map. Source: Weather Prediction Center.

By Sunday, an area of low pressure expected to form in the Gulf of Mexico will begin to move through North  Florida, trailing a cool front that will increase the chances for rain Sunday between 30 and 60 percent for the day and up to 80 percent overnight.

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A cloudy day Sunday will decrease the chances for thunderstorms ahead of the front as daytime heating will muted, but there is a low chance of thunderstorms in the forecast.

The cool front will whip winds back out of the  north, pulling in colder air that will make its mark Monday night with lows in the mid-50s and a high Tuesday in the upper 60s.

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Morning temps 16 degrees above normal ahead of cold front

Temperatures today will be much warmer than normal as a cold front approaches with possible showers and thunderstorms.

The low this morning at Palm Beach International Airport was just 73 degrees, that’s 16 degrees above normal for this time of year.

The high temperature today is expected to reach 82 degrees, which is 7 degrees above normal.

Southeast winds ahead of today’s cold front are helping to warm up things up and could contribute to possible storms this afternoon.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

National Weather Service meteorologists in Miami are giving today a 40 percent chance of rain, with the Storm Prediction Center forecasting thunderstorms this afternoon as the front approaches.

The map below shows the front’s location at 1 p.m. today. 

“At this point, it doesn’t look like we are looking at severe weather, but it’s not out of the question that there might be an isolated strong thunderstorm,” said Chris Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami.

The front should be into the Florida Straits by early tomorrow morning, with north winds cooling high temperatures Wednesday to 75 degrees.

By Thursday, the high temperature will reach about 70 degrees as skies clear and low temperatures dip back to normal in the upper-50s.

One year ago the same region identified for thunderstorms today was under an “enhanced” risk for severe weather. The Storm Prediction Center’s “enhanced” category is the third most severe on a five-level scale.

The elevated alert level was for good reason. Two tornadoes embedded in a powerful squall line ahead of a cold front hit areas of The Acreage, Palm Beach Gardens and Juno Beach in the early morning of Jan. 23, 2017. The tornadoes blew out windows, mangled bleachers at The Benjamin School, damaged fences at W.T. Dwyer High School and left about 14,000 people without power.

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About eight mobile homes in Juno Beach sustained heavy damage, but no injuries were reported.

The same squall line spun up a third tornado in Miami-Dade where four two-story apartment buildings sustained roof damage, leaving 13 people homeless.

Five tornadoes were reported Sunday in Missouri, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana ahead of the same cold front reaching Florida today.

Damage at W.T. Dwyer High School from the Jan. 23, 2017 tornado.

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Cold blast deeper than expected across South Florida

Update 2:40 p.m.: Temperatures throughout Palm Beach County plummeted into the 30s Thursday morning, marking the first time since 2014 that the official temperature in West Palm Beach sunk below 40 degrees twice in one month.

The reading at Palm Beach International Airport bottomed out at 39 degrees near dawn Thursday. That followed a 38-degree morning on Jan. 4.

According to NWS records, it was January 2014 the last time temperatures at the airport dipped below 40 degrees twice.

“If it’s going to get cold, January and early February are the times when we expect to see it,” said Dan Kottlowski, an AccuWeather senior meteorologist. “This year the sweaters and jackets have had to come out.”

Mist rises from the water behind a surfer at Lake Worth Beach Thursday morning, January 18, 2018. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Previous story: The powerful cold front that swept through South Florida overnight has dropped temperatures into the 30s extending from metro areas of Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee.

At 7 a.m., the temperature at Palm Beach International Airport was 39 degrees, with gauges in Wellington ranging from the mid to upper-30s.

Jupiter was at just 36 degrees at 7:20 a.m.

The forecast low this morning at the airport was 43 degrees, but a brisk northwest wind helped pull the arctic air that tormented much of the southeast earlier this week further into the Peninsula.

Larry Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said cloudless skies overnight added to the colder temperatures.

Without clouds, the Earth loses its heat more quickly. Clouds act like heaters, emitting downwelling radiation that keeps temperatures at the surface warmer.

Related: Why clouds don’t act like “blankets.”

“Mostly clear skies, dry conditions, and a cold airmass will help to lower minimum temperatures near Lake Okeechobee to the lower 30s,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami reported this morning. “Maximum temperatures may struggle to reach the upper 50s by Lake Okeechobee and lower 60s elsewhere.”

A wind chill advisory remains in effect for areas of Palm Beach County west of Interstate 95 through 10 a.m.

Hundley Farms Vice President John S. Hundley, who grows sugar cane and vegetables east of Belle Glade, said temperatures hit 32 degrees in some areas, but he hasn’t determined if much damage occurred.

“Could be colder tonight because no wind. Conflicting weather reports right now,” Hundley said. “If we have cloud cover, even a little bit, it could save us.”

The 39-degree reading at PBIA this morning is 18 degrees below what’s normal for this time of year.

“We’ve gotten spoiled into thinking winters aren’t as harsh as they should be, but this winter so far has proved us wrong,” said Dan Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather. “You go through two to three years of warm winters and people get meteorological amnesia.”

This is the fourth significant cold front to hit South Florida since mid-December.

At Roth Farms, east of Belle Glade, cosmetic damage was a concern this morning, but the bigger challenge is the more time it’s taking for crops to mature.

“Radishes are taking an extra week to be ready to harvest with the recent cold,” said Ryan Roth, Roth Farms vice president.

Here are temperatures from throughout the county. To read this report “1 S Jupiter” is 1 mile south of Jupiter.

...Palm Beach County...
1 S Jupiter                   36 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.90N/80.10W        
Jupiter                       36 F     0734 AM 01/18   26.94N/80.11W        
2 ESE Belle Glade             36 F     0715 AM 01/18   26.67N/80.63W        
4 NNW Boca Raton Equestrian   36 F     0732 AM 01/18   26.50N/80.22W        
3 SE Belle Glade              37 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.66N/80.63W        
3 WSW Wellington              37 F     0714 AM 01/18   26.65N/80.29W        
3 NW Haverhill                37 F     0731 AM 01/18   26.72N/80.16W        
2 S Juno Beach                37 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.84N/80.05W        
Juno Beach                    38 F     0727 AM 01/18   26.89N/80.06W        
3 WNW Sandalfoot Cove         38 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.36N/80.24W        
Delray Beach                  38 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.46N/80.08W        
1 E Boynton Beach             38 F     0718 AM 01/18   26.53N/80.07W        
2 SSE Lake Worth              39 F     0728 AM 01/18   26.58N/80.06W        
2 ESE Boca Raton Equestrian   39 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.43N/80.16W        
1 ENE Aberdeen Golf Course    39 F     0737 AM 01/18   26.57N/80.14W        
1 N Greenacres City           39 F     0708 AM 01/18   26.66N/80.14W        
1 SSE Riviera Beach           39 F     0709 AM 01/18   26.76N/80.07W        
3 SSE Aberdeen Golf Course    39 F     0729 AM 01/18   26.52N/80.15W        
1 W Ocean Ridge               39 F     0722 AM 01/18   26.53N/80.07W        
2 NW West Palm Beach          39 F     0729 AM 01/18   26.73N/80.08W        
Ilnternational Airport        39 F     0653 AM 01/18   26.68N/80.10W        
2 SSW Ocean Ridge             40 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.50N/80.07W        
1 ENE Haverhill               40 F     0727 AM 01/18   26.70N/80.10W        
3 NNE Boynton Beach           40 F     0731 AM 01/18   26.57N/80.08W        
2 NNE Lake Worth              40 F     0733 AM 01/18   26.66N/80.05W        
2 WNW Delray Beach            40 F     0731 AM 01/18   26.48N/80.12W        
2 E Royal Palm Beach          40 F     0733 AM 01/18   26.71N/80.19W        
2 NE Palm Springs             40 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.65N/80.07W        
4 NNW Boca Raton Equestrian   40 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.50N/80.22W        
Boynton Beach                 41 F     0734 AM 01/18   26.53N/80.08W        
2 ENE Lake Worth              41 F     0732 AM 01/18   26.64N/80.04W        
2 NNW Boca Raton              41 F     0729 AM 01/18   26.39N/80.11W        
1 WNW Boca West               41 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.39N/80.19W        
1 S Juno Beach                41 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.86N/80.06W        
1 NE Boca Raton               41 F     0713 AM 01/18   26.37N/80.09W        
Canal Point                   43 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.86N/80.63W        
2 WNW Sandalfoot Cove         45 F     0728 AM 01/18   26.36N/80.24W
cold