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.
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.
“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.”
[Storm Reports – 8a] Already numerous reports of wind damage across E / SE Mass w/ snow off to the W into the Hudson River Valley; follow along … https://t.co/Ns8xex30o9 and feel free to send us any reports so along as you're reporting from a safe location pic.twitter.com/tvwvVfkQH3
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
That low will increase winds out of the south, bringing more warm, tropical air into South Florida.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
Brisk northerly winds will bring chilly weather to South Florida today. Expect high temperatures from the upper 50s in the interior to lower 60s along the east coast metro region. #FLwxpic.twitter.com/sUveNzNErY
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