Tropical Storm Kirk marching across Atlantic toward possible collision with islands by end of next week

Tropical Storm Kirk

11 p.m. UPDATE: Kirk is about 425 miles south-southwest of the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands and moving west-northwest about around 16 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center advisory. Top sustained winds were still 40 mph.

STORM 2018: CHECK THE INTERACTIVE TRACKING MAP

A faster westward motion across the deep tropical Atlantic Ocean is expected Sunday through Tuesday. Some strengthening is forecast through Sunday night, with little change in intensity expected on Monday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile, poorly organized Tropical Depression 11 is creeping northwestward about 440 miles east of the Windward Islands with sustained winds of 30 mph.

The depression is forecast to dissipate on Sunday or early Monday.

5pm UPDATE: (Eliot Kleinberg)

Tropical Storm Kirk, which formed overnight, continued Saturday to cross the Atlantic Ocean, steering toward a possible collision with the islands of the eastern Caribbean by the end of next week, according to a 5 p.m. National Hurricane Center advisory.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, Kirk was about 430 miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands and was moving west-northwest at 15 mph, up slightly from its earlier 14 mph pace. Top sustained winds were 40 mph.

” A faster westward motion across the deep tropical Atlantic Ocean is expected Sunday through Tuesday,” the advisory said.

ORIGINAL POST: (Eliot Kleinberg)

Tropical Storm Kirk has formed out in the eastern Atlantic, and is expected to move quickly across the ocean and possibly threaten islands as early as Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday in an 11 a.m. advisory.

At 11 a.m., Kirk was far south of the Cabo Verde Islands. Top winds were 40 mph, just 1 mph over the minimum to be a tropical storm. It was moving west near 14 mph and was expected to speed up from Sunday through Tuesday.

“Some strengthening is forecast through Sunday, with little change in intensity forecast on Monday and Tuesday,” the advisory said.

The next advisory was set for 5 p.m. Saturday.

UPDATE: More than 5 million under hurricane watches, warnings as Florence eyes Carolina coast

Hurricane Florence

More than 5 million people were under hurricane warnings or watches on the U.S. East Coast on Tuesday as Hurricane Florence barreled toward the Carolinas with Category 4 winds and an expected landfall Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

RELATED: Hurricane Florence has ingredients that make experts worry

Motorists streamed inland on highways converted into one-way evacuation routes as about 1.7 million people in three states were warned to get out of the way of Florence, the Associated Press reported.

RELATED: In simulation, Category 4 hurricane devastated East Coast

“This storm is a monster,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. “It’s big and it’s vicious. It is an extremely dangerous, life-threatening, historic hurricane.”

RELATED: Hurricane could flood many waste sites, creating toxic brew

At 11 p.m., Florence was about 355 miles southwest of Bermuda and 670 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, N.C., according to the National Hurricane Center. Top sustained winds remained at 140 mph.

RELATED: To prep for Hurricane Florence, investors sell off insurers

Tropical Storm Isaac

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Isaac continued to weaken slightly as it moved toward the Caribbean. Top winds dropped to 65 mph at 11 p.m.

A tropical storm warning was issued for Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica. Tropical storm conditions are expected on those islands by Wednesday night or early Thursday.

Hurricane Helene

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Hurricane Helene is still packing 100-mph winds but it should soon fade away as it moves into the open ocean.

According to the hurricane center, gradual weakening is likely over the next couple of days, and Helene is expected to become a tropical storm by Thursday. Helene is forecast to accelerate and turn toward the northeast by the end of the week.

Hurricane Florence

UPDATE 8 p.m.: Hurricane Florence remains at 140 mph as it threatens the U.S. East Coast with deadly storm surge and heavy rainfall. At 8 p.m., the storm was about 725 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, N.C., according to the National Hurricane Center.

RELATED: What makes Hurricane Florence so dangerous to South Florida?

Storm surge and hurricane watches and warnings are in effect for the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts.

RELATED: Plane, train woes loom as Hurricane Florence approaches

On the current forecast track, the hurricane center predicts, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic between Bermuda and the Bahamas through Wednesday, then approach the coast of North Carolina or South Carolina in the hurricane warning area on Thursday and Friday.

RELATED: FPL sending crews to the Carolinas to help after Florence

Strengthening is forecast tonight and Wednesday. While some weakening is expected on Thursday, Florence is forecast to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane through landfall.

STORM 2018: CHECK THE INTERACTIVE TRACKING MAP

Tropical Storm Isaac

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Isaac began to lose some of its organization as it moved quickly westward about 610 miles east of the Lesser Antilles.

Isaac is forecast to move near or over the central Lesser Antilles on Thursday, into the eastern Caribbean on Thursday night, then into the central Caribbean by the weekend.

At 8 p.m., Isaac’s maximum sustained winds were 70 mph, just below hurricane strength. The storm is expected to be near hurricane strength when it moves through the central Lesser Antilles, with some weakening forecast later on Friday and Saturday.

New systems developing? Check the latest Tropical Outlook

UPDATE 5 p.m.:  Hurricane Florence’s wind speeds increased to 140 mph this afternoon as hurricane and storm surge warnings go up along the South Carolina and North Carolina coast.

A hurricane warning means tropical storm-force winds are expected in the area within 36 hours.

As of 5 p.m., Florence was about 785 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, N.C., and moving west-northwest at 17 mph.

While Florence is expected to reach wind speeds of 150 mph, the forecast calls for it to decrease to a 115 mph Category 3 hurricane near landfall.

UPDATE 2 p.m.: Hurricane Florence maintained 130 mph wind speeds this afternoon, but is getting better organized and growing in size.

National Hurricane Center forecasters during the intermediate 2 p.m. advisory said hurricane-force winds have expanded outward up to 60 miles with tropical storm-force winds reaching out 170 miles from the storm’s center.

There were no changes to the storm surge watches and warnings for the Carolina’s. Forecasters are predicting between a 2-to 12-foot surge depending on where the storm comes ashore and if the peak surge occurs during high tide.

An area of disturbed weather over the extreme northwestern Caribbean could become a tropical depression Thursday as it moves across the western Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters gave it a 50 percent chance of formation over the next 48 hours and a 70 percent chance of formation over five days.

If it becomes a tropical storm, it would be named Joyce.

UPDATE 11 a.m.:  Hurricane Florence lost some wind speed this morning, but is expected to restrengthen today as it crosses warm water as it stays on a track toward the coast.

The National Hurricane Center estimates Florence is a low-end Cat 4 storm with 130 mph winds, but will regain 140 mph power, and possibly grow to have wind speeds of 150 mph.

There has been no significant change in Florence’s track, which has it making landfall late Thursday or early Friday somewhere along the coastline of the Carolina’s.

Tropical Storm Isaac has triggered new watches for Caribbean islands.

Hurricane watches have also been issued for Guadeloupe, Dominica and Martinique, and a tropical storm watch has been issued for Antigua and Montserrat.

Previous story: 

The National Hurricane Center this morning issued hurricane and storm surge watches for much of the North Carolina and South Carolina coastline, with Florence expected to be a Category 4 hurricane at landfall late Thursday or early Friday.

As of the 5 a.m. advisory, Florence was a 140-mph storm about 975 miles east-southeast of Cape Fear, N.C. It was moving west-northwest at 15 mph.

A special update issued at 7:45 a.m. said Hurricane Hunters found Florence had weakened to 130 mph, but is expected to restrengthen later today.

“These fluctuations are normal. There is nothing to stop this in the atmosphere from it staying a major hurricane,” said Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center.

STORM 2018: CHECK THE INTERACTIVE TRACKING MAP

Forecasters said Florence’s wind speeds could fluctuate as it nears the coast, but that it is expected to remain a dangerous Category 4 hurricane.

A hurricane watch means tropical storm force winds are expected within the next 48 hours.

While storm surge and wind damage are major concerns, the threat of inland flooding from torrential rains is increasing as the storm is forecast to meander over the eastern portions of the coast.

RELATED: Why most of human tragedy from hurricanes comes after the storm

The Weather Prediction Center is forecasting as much as 20 inches of rain over part of North Carolina through Tuesday.

“That’s the really scary scenario with Florence,” said Michael Bell, an associate professor for science at Colorado State University. “Certainly, we’re not expecting a Hurricane Harvey, which was almost eight days of rain. But even a few days of tropical rainfall can cause flooding.”

According to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, the last time there was a storm as strong as Florence as far north as it is was 2010’s Hurricane Earl.

While mid-August through mid-October is the busiest period for Atlantic hurricanes, Sept. 10 is the pinnacle — a time when warm water and low wind shear conspire in earnest to turn tropical waves into menacing storms.

RELATED: Three hurricanes crowd the Atlantic, Florida out of the fray for now

“It sure is living up to that distinction this year,” Klotzbach said Monday in a social media post. “Currently we have three hurricanes and two other areas given a medium chance of development in the next five days.”

Isaac fell to a tropical storm late Monday, but is expected to restrengthen briefly before weakening again.

Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Helene.

The disturbance south of Cuba was given a 60 percent chance of development this morning with a tropical depression expected to form Thursday or Friday.

Regardless of development, forecasters warned that heavy rainfall is possible in Texas and Louisiana from the system.

RELATED: Will a hurricane be named after you this season 

In the northeastern Atlantic, a non-tropical area of low pressure is forecast to form along a trough of low pressure located over the northeastern Atlantic. It has a 50 percent chance of development over five days.

The next names on the 2018 storm list are Joyce and Kirk.

UPDATE: Alberto winds increasing, producing heavy rainfall

For our latest coverage on Alberto, click here.

Update 8:30 a.m.: Subtropical Storm Alberto is slightly stronger and moving a little faster northward over the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Gusty showers will be affecting portions of the Atlantic waters with possible funnel clouds.

The maximum sustained winds have increased to 45 mph with higher gusts.

Alberto will cross the eastern and northern Gulf of Mexico today and approach the northern Gulf Coast tonight or Monday. The subtropical storm will continue to increase until it reaches the northern Gulf Coast.

It is expected to develop into a tropical depression by Monday or Tuesday night. Subtropical Storm Alberto will continue to bring periods of rain to South Florida today.

UPDATE 10:00 p.m.: Subtropical Storm Alberto has picked up a little speed, now moving at 5 mph toward the east, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

The storm’s maximum winds extend outward up to 140 miles, mostly to the east of its center, according to the National Hurricane Center.

UPDATE 8:30 p.m.: Subtropical Storm Alberto is expected to make a “slow and erratic motion toward the north” tonight, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Alberto is moving east at 2 mph with 40 mph maximum sustained winds. It is expected to move faster from Saturday afternoon into Sunday, turning toward the northwest on Monday.

Forecasters say gradual strengthening is expected within the next 48 hours, and will produce heavy rainfall for South Florida through the weekend.

UPDATE 5:05 p.m.:  The first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season arrived prematurely this morning, energized by a roller coaster-like plunge in the upper atmosphere and promising heavy rain for South Florida.

Alberto, a subtropical storm that formed a week ahead of the official seasonal start date of June 1, was nearly stationary tonight in the western Caribbean Sea, but is expected to begin a crawl north into the Gulf of Mexico today.

The National Hurricane Center has Alberto making landfall with 65 mph winds late Monday between the western reach of Florida’s Panhandle and Lafayette, La.

Tropical storm and storm surge watches have been issued for areas near Horseshoe Beach in Florida’s Big Bend to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Although Alberto is expected to stay west of the Peninsula, South Florida sits on its more robust eastern flank, meaning thunderstorms, drenching rains, gusting winds and isolated tornadoes are possible through at least Monday morning.

Palm Beach County’s highest risk for torrential rain and flooding is Saturday and Sunday, the National Weather Service said.

RELATED: Know the difference between a watch and a warning this hurricane season.

“Pretty much all of South Florida is in the bullseye for 5-plus inches of rain with some areas that could get 8 inches or more,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters. “You will have this system in place for multiple days.”

UPDATE 2:05 p.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch for South Florida beginning Saturday as heavy rains are expected during the weekend.

Widespread rainfall amounts of up to 8 inches are expected because of Subtropical Storm Alberto, which formed today in the far western Caribbean.

The storm will send plumes of deep tropical moisture into Florida and the southeast. The watch is in effect through Sunday. A flood watch means there is a threat of flooding, but it is not imminent.

UPDATE 11 a.m.: Subtropical Storm Alberto, the first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season, has formed about 55 miles southwest of Cozumel, Mexico with wind speeds of 40 mph.

The storm, which is crawling north-northeast at 6 mph, has triggered tropical storm watches in Mexico and Cuba. Winds of 40 mph extend 115 miles out from Alberto’s center.

Heavy rainfall, thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes are the biggest concern for South Florida, with as much as 4 to 8 inches of rain expected and up to 12 inches possible in isolated areas, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Gradual strengthening is forecast for the next 48 hours or so, but as it nears the Gulf Coast on Monday, wind speeds could be up to 65 mph.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map here.

Previous story: The National Hurricane Center will begin issuing advisories today on Subtropical Storm Alberto, which has formed in the northwestern Caribbean Sea.

Advisories will begin at 11 a.m. for the first-named storm of the 2018 hurricane season, which comes six days before the official June 1 start date.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Most forecast models show the system moving ashore in an area from Florida’s Panhandle to eastern Louisiana.

RELATED: Knowing these terms before hurricane season could save your life.

“The main impacts for South Florida will be showers and thunderstorms that could mean some local flooding,” said Accuweather senior meteorologist Ken Clark. “When you have a disorganized system like this, even if it becomes a tropical storm, its influence will be pretty wide.”

RELATED: NOAA hurricane forecast calls for up to 16 named storms this season. 

Because Palm Beach County will be on the more turbulent east side of the disturbance, it can expect heavier rainfall of up to 3.3 inches through Sunday morning and the possibility of thunderstorms with isolated tornadoes Saturday and Sunday. The South Florida Water Management District is forecasting higher rain amounts with as much as 3 inches per day falling in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

“It won’t be the best Memorial Day weekend,” Clark said.

Since 2007, six named storms have formed in the Atlantic in May, including Andrea in 2007, Arthur in 2008, Alberto and Beryl in 2012, Ana in 2015, and Bonnie in 2016, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

RELATED: What’s an invest and why do they keep saying tropical cyclone?

Invest 90L as seen by GOES-East satellite.

The National Weather Service in Miami said the biggest concern for South Florida is heavy rain leading to flooding, especially if storms linger over one area for any period of time.

Communities countywide are bracing for rain.

Royal Palm Beach is ready for whatever the weather throws at it this weekend, the village’s engineer said Thursday.

Royal Palm Beach sustained little impact from last weekend’s soggy weather, with no reported flooding and few issues with canal heights. “Our systems have all recovered from last weekend,” village engineer Chris Marsh said.

Nearby communities did not fare as well.

Mary Montanaro, of Barky Pines Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, carries Rocco the dog through flood waters in far western Palm Beach County. (contributed)

In Wellington, canals and swales were filled to the brim. On the south end of Wellington, an aging culvert collapsed, causing a dirt road to wash into a canal. In The Acreage, residents dealt with large amounts of standing water on properties. And in Loxahatchee Groves, already-troubled dirt roads became nearly impassable, with one road closed after part of it collapsed into a canal.

Wellington has had more than 14 inches of rain this month, with 12 of those inches falling last week. After torrential downpours Saturday and Sunday, some localized flooding was reported around the village. Water did not breach any homes or businesses and all drainage systems are working as designed, officials said.

May rainfall

As much as seven inches of rain is possible between today and Wednesday morning, with the Weather Prediction Center putting all of Florida at a slight risk for excessive rain on Sunday into Monday. That means there is a 10 to 20 percent chance that rainfall will be enough to cause flooding.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map here.

Rainfall forecast Friday morning through Wednesday morning. Heaviest rains expected Saturday and Sunday.

West Palm Beach is preparing for 3 to 5 inches of rain during the weekend.

“We are not expecting any widespread flooding, but given the potential for flash floods, we want to make sure people follow guidelines with regards to standing or moving water,” said West Palm Beach Emergency Operations Director Brent Bloomfield.

Communities are asking residents to help reduce flooding by making sure nearby storm drains are free of leaves and yard waste is not in the street.

The South Florida Water Management District is sending water through its canals to the Intracoastal, hoping to make room for the influx of expected new rains over saturated lands.

District meteorologists are expecting more rain than what the National Weather Service if forecasting, saying as much as four inches per day is possible Friday through Wednesday in Lee and Collier counties. Coastal areas of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties could see as much as 3 inches per day.

“Much of South Florida, including the regions that will see the heaviest rainfall over the Memorial Day weekend, have already experienced an above average amount of rainfall for the past few weeks,” said district Chief Engineer John Mitnik. “Our staff and our flood control system have been hard at work moving flood waters away from communities. The District will continue this work as the storm approaches and passes over South Florida.”

The district is asking people to make sure they know who to call if flooding occurs in their community. It’s not always the water management district.

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Landmark weather satellite joins sibling after successful Cape launch

Choking fields of wildfires, violent lightning storms and ghosting meadows of dense fog will be seen as never before after a landmark satellite joined its sibling in the silence of space.

The GOES-S satellite, a tech marvel with a 16-channel camera built by the Melbourne-based Harris Corp., launched at 5:02 p.m. from Cape Canaveral.

The launch followed the heralded November 2016 trip made by sibling satellite GOES-R, now GOES-16, when it rocketed into a position where it can more closely monitor the tropics.

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GOES-S will be positioned where it can observe most of the Western Hemisphere, from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand. This includes Alaska, Hawaii and the northeastern Pacific, where many weather systems that affect the continental U.S. form.

Full disk scan from the GOES-16, which launched in November 2016.

“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 and NOAA-20 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross earlier this week. “The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States.”

GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, and the GOES-S is the latest in a series of GOES satellites that were first launched in 1975. Geostationary means that GOES-S will orbit with the Earth, keeping pace with the planet’s spin.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

The GOES satellites are identified by letters until they are launched and given numbers. GOES-S will become GOES-R17.

GOES-S will scan the Earth five times faster and with four times the resolution of current satellites. Its 16 camera channels are triple the number of the satellite it is replacing.

“GOES-S will provide high-resolution imagery of the western U.S. and eastern Pacific completing our satellite coverage to further improve weather forecasts across the entire country,” said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Southeast region scan from GOES-16.

Lockhead Martin designed and built the 6,280-pound spacecraft that will orbit 22,500 miles above the Earth. The behemoth will be carried into space by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which has a main engine and four beefy solid rocket boosters.

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This illustration depicts NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S). NASA oversees the acquisition of the spacecraft, instruments and launch vehicles for the GOES-R Series program.
Credits: Lockheed Martin

Why no storm surge deaths in 2017? What the NHC says

The 2017 storm season tormented the U.S. with four hurricane landfalls and scores of deaths, but a preliminary review shows no one succumbed to the most lethal force in a tropical cyclone’s arsenal — storm surge.

In a National Hurricane Center report released last week on Hurricane Harvey,which hit Texas in August as a Category 4 storm, officials lament the 65 lives lost to freshwater flooding but tout the lack of storm surge deaths even as up to 10 feet of hurricane-driven saltwater charged ashore.

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But it wasn’t just Harvey. Hurricane center officials said no storm surge deaths are believed to have occurred in hurricanes Irma or Maria — both Category 4s — or Category 1 Hurricane Nate, which landed near Biloxi, Miss. on Oct. 8.

The lack of storm surge deaths is being attributed by the NHC to its new storm surge watch and warning system, which debuted operationally with Harvey. While the system is not yet used in Puerto Rico, emergency managers had hurricane center-provided maps in order to make evacuation decisions based on storm surge.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

“We can argue that what caused it was luck, chance, geography, but you would be hard pressed to convince me it happened by itself,” said NHC storm surge specialist Jamie Rhome about the absence of storm surge deaths. “Somewhere along the way, this 10-year effort moved the needle.”

Find out why not everyone agrees with Rhome in the full story on MyPalmBeachPost.com.  

Not much was left of the homes in the Seabreeze Mobile Home Park in Islamorada Tuesday afternoon, September 12, 2017. The storm surge from Hurricane Irma passed over the area and and devastated almost all of the homes. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

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UPDATE: 2 potential systems brewing in Caribbean, Atlantic

Tropical Weather Outlook

8 P.M. UPDATE: The showers and thunderstorms associated with a strong tropical wave over the central Caribbean is showing signs of organization, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Additional development is possible while it moves west-northwest at 10-15 mph, and a tropical depression or tropical storm could form over the northwestern Caribbean before it reaches the Yucatan peninsula late Monday or Tuesday, according to the Hurricane Center’s outlook issued at 8 p.m. There’s now a 70 percent chance of formation in the next five days.

It’s also possible for a tropical depression or tropical storm to form over the Bay of Campeche during the middle of next week after the system passes over the Yucatan peninsula. An Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft is scheduled to investigate the system tomorrow afternoon, if necessary.

Meanwhile, shower activity associated with an elongated area of low pressure about 1,000 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands is becoming slightly more organized. Some additional slow development is possible during the next two to three days before the system encounters less favorable environmental conditions during the middle part of next week.

Forecasters put the chance of development over the next five days at 50 percent as the system moves generally west-northwestward across the tropical Atlantic Ocean at about 15 mph.

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Just in: Will a hurricane be named after you this season? 2017 storm names are here

The National Hurricane Center sent around a reminder this month with 2017’s hurricane names and pronunciation guide.


And while storm season doesn’t start until June 1, if you’re on the list you may want to start preparing for the possibility that a hurricane with your name on it may form up this year.

Hurricane Harvey has a ring to it, but it may be hard to hunker down for a Hurricane Irma or Gert.

Hurricanes get monikers based on their basin, and names that are familiar in the region. 

Hurricane names are selected by the World Meteorological Organization and are usually common names associated with the ethnicity of the basin that would be affected by the storms.

“For example, in the Atlantic basin, the majority of storms have English names, but there are also a number of Hispanic-origin names as well as a few French names,” said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen during an interview about 2015’s Hurricane Henri. “For the eastern North Pacific basin, the majority of names are of Hispanic origin, as the impacted countries are Mexico, Guatemala, and other nations of Central America.”

There are six lists in rotation, which are maintained and updated by the World Meteorological Organization.

A name can be removed from the list if a storm hits and is particularly deadly or costly.

For example, there will not be another Hurricane Andrew, after the devastating 1992 Category 5 storm. And the 2004 and 2005 seasons saw a whole slew of names retired from the list including, Charley, Frances, Ivan, Jeanne, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma.

Hurricane Joaquin is also off the list. No names have been removed from the 2016 season yet. 

Hurricane season runs through the end of November.

Storm surge maps for Hurricane Matthew updated as highest winds will come near high tide

Powerful Hurricane Matthew will send its strongest winds into Palm Beach County near high tide, which could enhance the potential for deadly storm surge.

More than 4,000 people are riding  out Hurricane Matthew in one of the counties shelters after emergency managers ordered evacuations of mobile homes and barrier islands.

Check the Palm Beach Post storm tracking map. 

They are using new maps from the National Hurricane Center in making those decisions. Those maps debuted during Hurricane Hermine, which hit Florida’s panhandle as a Category 1 storm in August.

capture

“Historically speaking, storm surge is the biggest reason for deaths in a hurricane or tropical cyclone,” said Jamie Rhome, storm surge specialist for the National Hurricane Center. “Our wind-based warnings are really good, so now we are just trying to advance our surge-based products.”

In a worse-case scenario, Palm Beach County could see between 3 and 6 feet of storm surge above dry ground. Areas in the Space Coast, including Kennedy Space Center, could see more than 9 feet of storm surge above dry ground.

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Rhome said there’s no rigid benchmark for when the maps will be issued with each individual storm, but that typically they accompany either wind-based watches or warnings.

capture

“Anything that can be done to communicate better is an improvement,” said Hugh Willoughby, a retired 27-year veteran of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hurricane division and a professor at Florida International University. “They want people to know that you don’t want to be somewhere that will be underwater.”

Between 1963 and 2012, 49 percent of tropical cyclone deaths were storm surge related. Another 27 percent were attributed to rain accumulation. Just 8 percent of deaths were from wind.

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Hurricane Matthew expected to reach Haiti, Jamaica on Monday

UPDATE, 11 p.m.: Hurricane Matthew continued to move slowly northward toward Caribbean islands on Sunday night, according to the National Hurricane Center. matthew11pm

Check The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map.

The Category 4 storm sustained wind speeds of 145 mph and is moving north at 5 mph. Forecasters expect hurricane conditions to reach Haiti, Jamaica and Cuba on Monday night.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for swaths of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, Haiti, Cuban provinces and parts of the Bahamas.

RELATED: Why Florida is most vulnerable to hurricanes in October

RELATED: Be prepared by getting your hurricane supplies this weekend

UPDATE, 8 p.m.: Hurricane Matthew is still a monster. Information from the National Hurricane Center in Miami indicates the Category 4 storm has maintained its maximum sustained winds of 145 MPH while creeping northwest at 5 miles per hour.

8matthewSouth Florida is now just west of the storm’s cone of uncertainty. Haiti and the western edge of Cuba are in the storm’s projected path. Hurricane warnings are now up for Jamaica, Haiti and the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holquin, Granma and Las Tunas.

 

UPDATE, 5 p.m.: hurricanematthew5pmHurricane Matthew, fierce and formidable, maintained its Category 4 intensity late Sunday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm continued its northwestward path at 5 MPH, packing maximum sustained winds of 145 MPH.

 

Coastal Florida now just barely grazes the western edge of the storm’s cone of uncertainty, according to an NHC forecast model. Still, forecasters cautioned residents to remain vigilant as the storm passes the Greater Antilles and heads toward the Bahamas.

UPDATE, 2 p.m.: Hurricane Matthew strengthened a bit in the last few hours as it continued to move slowly on a northwestward path.

hurricanematthew2pm

Palm Beach County and coastal Florida remained on the western fringe of the storm’s cone of uncertainty. The Category 4 hurricane’s maximum sustained winds were clocked at 145 mph as it moved at a 5 mph pace.

The next hurricane update is expected at 5 p.m.

UPDATE, 11 a.m.: As Hurricane Matthew was expected to shift northwestward to northward, southern Haiti braced for Category 4 winds and heavy rains and the region at large mobilized in advance of the storm.

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South Florida remains just barely in the storm path’s cone of uncertainty, and the National Hurricane Center cautioned residents to stay alert for the “next couple days.”

As the storm moved at 3 mph with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, a hurricane warning was in effect for Jamaica, Haiti and five provinces in eastern Cuba. Matthew diminished slightly from the 8 a.m. advisory, which had it at 5 mph, with winds of 150 mph.

An update on the storm’s path will come at 2 p.m.

Hurricane Matthew 8 a.m. updateUPDATE 8 a.m.: A small portion of South Florida remains in the cone of uncertainty as Hurricane Matthew moves northwestward at 5 mph.

A hurricane warning is still in effect for Jamaica, Haiti and eastern Cuba as Matthew remains a strong category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 150 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The chance of Matthew strengthening in the next 48 hours is 20 percent, and the system is expected to move west-northwestward at 15 mph during the next several days.

UPDATE 5 a.m.: Hurricane Matthew continues to move slowly northwestward and is still a strong Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 mph.

The latest shift in the forecast brings part of Florida back inside the cone of uncertainty.

The hurricane is expected to turn to the north later tonight and is on a path that should take it near Jamaica and Haiti on Monday and eastern Cuba on Monday night. Hurricane warnings remain in effect for Jamaica and Haiti — and now include parts of eastern Cuba. Hurricane watches have been extended to the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

What the storm means for Florida is still uncertain looking ahead into the week, according the Hurricane Center, but deteriorating conditions are expected to begin Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center, state officials and forecasters caution Floridians to remain vigilant.

“It’s a very dangerous storm and life-threatening. We haven’t seen a storm of this magnitude approach our state in a very long time,” Gov. Scott said in a statement Saturday.

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matt5am

UPDATE 11 p.m., Saturday: Hurricane Matthew is gradually moving away from the coast of Colombia and is on path that should take near Jamaica and Haiti on Monday.

Matthew is still a strong Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 mph. The storm began to make a north-northwest turn late Saturday. It is forecast to continue moving in that direction Sunday, followed by a turn to the north on Monday.

A shift to the east in the forecast moves South Florida just outside of the cone of uncertainty. However, state officials and forecasters caution Floridians to remain vigilant.

“It’s a very dangerous storm and life-threatening. We haven’t seen a storm of this magnitude approach our state in a very long time,” Gov. Scott said in a statement earlier Saturday.

Matthew is expected to remain a strong hurricane through Monday, although some fluctuations in intensity are possible, the National Hurricane Center.

The center of Matthew is forecast to approach Jamaica and southwestern Haiti by Monday. The 5-day forecast shows the storm moving across Cuba and into the Bahamas by the middle of next week.

 

UPDATE 8 P.M., Saturday: Hurricane Matthew has barely moved during the past few hours, but is expected to begin a slow northwestward motion tonight.

Hurricane warnings remain in effect for Jamaica and Haiti, with hurricane watches extended to Cuba. After intensifying earlier in the day, Matthew remained a strong Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 mph.  The center of Matthew will approach Jamaica and southwestern Haiti on Monday.

The forecast track would carry it across Cuba and into the Bahamas, with an outside chance of a brush with Florida, though that would be several days away. Matthew is expected produce total rainfall accumulations of 15 to 25 inches over southern Haiti, and 10 to 20 inches over eastern Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and eastern Cuba, the National Hurricane Center said.

As Hurricane Matthew, packing 150-mph winds, meandered south of Jamaica on Saturday, Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians to remain vigilant.

“It’s a very dangerous storm and life-threatening. We haven’t seen a storm of this magnitude approach our state in a very long time,” Scott said in a statement.

UPDATE 5 P.M., Saturday: The National Hurricane Center and Jamaican government have issued hurricane warnings in Jamaica and Haiti as they anticipate the storm’s landfall in the coming days.

As Hurricane Matthew makes its slow turn to the northwest, the maximum sustained winds have strengthened back up to 150 mph, and it remains a strong Category 4 storm. Forecasters now anticipate rainfall totals to be anywhere from 15 to 25 inches with isolated areas as high as 40 inches. Though the hurricane is expected to lose some strength when it hits the island nations, “conditions appear conducive for restrengthening once Matthew moves into the Bahamas.”

What the storm means for Florida is still uncertain looking ahead into the week, according the Hurricane Center.

UPDATE 3:30 P.M.: Meteorologist Brian Edwards said the small shifts in direction for Hurricane Matthew are nothing to worry about at the moment, but if the direction moves drastically west, that’s when there should be concern.

Edwards, who works for accuweather.com, said the Category 4 storm was expected to slow down today and that’s why it’s “meandering” south of the Caribbean, slightly changing directions.

As of now, he said the storm is expected to head northwest through Sunday, then as it reaches Cuba on Monday, it will head north to the Bahamas.

“But if it moves at a higher clip moving west, then that would be highly concerning.”

If Matthew remains on track and hits the Bahamas at Category 2 strength, Edwards said Florida’s east coast will feel some of the storm because of its size. He said the stronger bands will be on the east side of the storm, so he doesn’t expect a ton of wind and rain to hit Florida. But, he says the waters will be dangerous.

UPDATE 2 p.m., Saturday: Hurricane Matthew continues its path to a Caribbean landfall in the coming days as it remains a Category 4 storm.

As the winds have dropped to about 140 mph, the direction of the storm has altered slightly as well.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm “has been moving erratically for the past couple of hours,” ranging from a westward direction to now drifting south. Forecasters expect a “faster motion toward the west should resume” by the evening.

Sunday is when Matthew is expected to turn north northwest and head to the Bahamas. It’s still unclear what the impact of the storm could have for South Florida in the coming days.

UPDATE 11 a.m., Saturday: A hurricane watch has been put into effect for Haiti and Jamaica as Matthew remains a Category 4 storm Saturday morning.

Sustained winds have slowed a bit to 145 mph, but the National Hurricane Center says the storm has higher gusts. Forecasters have warned about possible flash floods and mud slides in Jamaica and Haiti as rainfall totals could reach between 10 and 15 inches

The storm is expected to turn west-northwest later today, then turn north-northwest Sunday.

As for the storm’s impact on South Florida, the National Weather Service said “there remains significant uncertainty in where and how fast Matthew will move beyond the weekend.”

Based on current forecasts, some storm conditions may be felt in South Florida by late Tuesday. Matthew is expected to remain a hurricane when it hits the Bahamas around Wednesday.

Forecasters say boaters and those out in the Atlantic waters can expect hazardous conditions starting Tuesday and continuing though the rest of the week.

Starting Wednesday, the odds of tropical storm conditions effecting South Florida are 1 in 5.

UPDATE 8 a.m.: Hurricane Matthew remains a Category 4 with maximum sustained winds around 155 mph Saturday morning. While the storm was downgraded from a Category 5 storm overnight, the National Hurricane Center said it is still a very powerful storm and will remain so through at least Monday.

Though most projections have the storm staying east of Florida’s coast, the hurricane is moving slightly west at about 7 mph. Matthew is expected to continue heading northwest through Sunday, according to forecast projections.

The National Hurricane Center said it is still too soon to rule out hurricane impacts on Florida because there “remains considerate uncertainty in the models beyond day 3” when the storm is expected to hit Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti.

UPDATE 5 a.m., Saturday: Hurricane Matthew has weakened slightly and has been downgraded to a Category 4 after reaching Category 5 status Friday night.

Matthew has 155 mph sustained winds. It reached 160 mph winds late Friday, making it the strongest to form in the Atlantic since Hurricane Felix in 2007, according to the National Hurricane Center.

South Florida is in the cone of uncertainty but it’s still too soon to know how or when Matthew will affect us. It’s moving west about 7 mph and the center is about 365 miles from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and 420 miles from Kingston, Jamaica.

It is expected to turn toward the west-northwest later Saturday, followed by a turn toward the north-northwest Sunday. The center will move away from the Guajira Peninsula on Saturday morning, move across the central Caribbean Sea during the day and will approach Jamaica late Sunday, according to the NHC.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Jamaica; a Tropical Storm warning is in effect for Colombia/Venezuela border and a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Haiti, from the southern border with the Dominican Republic to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

LATE FRIDAY REPORT: Hurricane Matthew strengthened into the Atlantic’s strongest hurricane in nearly a decade Friday night, becoming a Category 5 storm.

Matthew had 160 mph sustained winds, making it the strongest to form in the Atlantic since Hurricane Felix in 2007, according to the National Hurricane Center.  A shift in the forecast track also puts South Florida in the cone of uncertainty. Matthew is forecast to begin moving toward Jamaica late Sunday and into Monday before passing over Cuba and approaching the Bahamas by Tuesday.

The center of Matthew will move north of the Guajira Peninsula tonight, move across the central Caribbean Saturday and approach Jamaica by late Sunday.

On Friday, National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb urged Floridians not to “tune out” over the weekend, noting that a little wobble in the path could put South Florida deeper in the cone of concern.

“We cannot rule out a direct hurricane impact in Florida next week,” Knabb told  The Palm Beach Post. “Come Monday, we may have a very different forecast than what you see here.”

As of the hurricane center’s 11 p.m. advisory, Matthew was about 44o miles to the southeast of Kingston, Jamaica. Some fluctuations in intensity are possible this weekend, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through Sunday, the hurricane center said.

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Hurricane Hermine nears landfall along Florida’s Big Bend coast

11:45 p.m. update from The Post’s John Kennedy:

Hurricane Hermine’s path is now taking it east of Apalachicola, but horizontal rain and wind gusts topping 40 mph continued to pound the city through the night.

Wind, rain and late-night stand ups. How the media does Hurricane Hermine in Apalachicola. (Photo by John Kennedy)
Wind, rain and late-night stand ups. How the media does Hurricane Hermine in Apalachicola. (Photo by John Kennedy)

Streets were empty, except for Water Street, a main port area where TV news crews were shooting stand-ups, using a couple of fishing boats as backdrop.

Hurricane-force winds seemed to be steering clear of the city and there was no sign of any structural damage.

But the daylong rain only intensified late into the night. The downpour also wildly shifted direction, becoming blinding, at times – powered by the force of Hermine.

Parking lots and streets in low-lying Apalachicola were awash in standing water. Tree frogs, clearly enjoying the rain, and lots of it, kept up a cacophony that could be heard whenever the wind eased.

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Chaplain Chris Fletcher and his cousin Destiny Peters, 7, ride out Hurricane Hermine at the Hosford County Search and Rescue doubling as a shelter for local residents Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Hosford, Fla. Hurricane Hermine gained strength Thursday evening as it roared toward Florida's Gulf Coast, churning up pounding surf that battered docks and boathouses as people braced for the first direct hit on the state from a hurricane in over a decade. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Chaplain Chris Fletcher and his cousin Destiny Peters, 7, ride out Hurricane Hermine at the Hosford County Search and Rescue doubling as a shelter for local residents Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Hosford, Fla. Hurricane Hermine gained strength Thursday evening as it roared toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, churning up pounding surf that battered docks and boathouses as people braced for the first direct hit on the state from a hurricane in over a decade. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

See the latest photos from Hurricane Hermine’s path

A hand painted sign on a boarded up bar is seen as Hurricane Hermine nears the Florida coast, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Cedar Key, Fla. Hurricane Hermine gained new strength Thursday evening and roared ever closer to Florida's Gulf Coast, where rough surf began smashing against docks and boathouses and people braced for the first direct hit on the state from a hurricane in over a decade. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
A hand painted sign on a boarded up bar is seen as Hurricane Hermine nears the Florida coast, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Cedar Key, Fla. Hurricane Hermine gained new strength Thursday evening and roared ever closer to Florida’s Gulf Coast, where rough surf began smashing against docks and boathouses and people braced for the first direct hit on the state from a hurricane in over a decade. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Update 11 p.m.: Hurricane Hemine was nearing landfall, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday night. The storm was about 40 miles east of Apalachicola with sustained winds of 80 mph.

Hermine gained strength Thursday evening as it roared toward Florida’s Gulf Coast, churning up pounding surf that battered docks and boathouses as people braced for the first direct hit on the state from a hurricane in over a decade.

The storm’s landfall was expected late Thursday or early Friday in the Big Bend area — the mostly rural and lightly populated corner where the Florida peninsula meets the Panhandle — then drop back down to a tropical storm and push into Georgia, the Carolinas and up the East Coast with the potential for drenching rain and deadly flooding.

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A news reporter doing a stand up near a sea wall in Cedar Key, Fla., is covered by an unexpected wave as Hurricane Hermine nears the Florida coast, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Hurricane Hermine gained new strength Thursday evening and roared ever closer to Florida's Gulf Coast, where rough surf began smashing against docks and boathouses and people braced for the first direct hit on the state from a hurricane in over a decade. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
A news reporter doing a stand up near a sea wall in Cedar Key, Fla., is covered by an unexpected wave as Hurricane Hermine nears the Florida coast, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Hurricane Hermine gained new strength Thursday evening and roared ever closer to Florida’s Gulf Coast, where rough surf began smashing against docks and boathouses and people braced for the first direct hit on the state from a hurricane in over a decade. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

See the latest photos from Hurricane Hermine’s path

EASTPOINT, FL - SEPTEMBER 01: Sunken and beached boats line the shoreline as Hurricane Hermine approaches on September 1, 2016 in Eastpoint Florida. Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Florida's Gulf Coast as Hermine is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)
EASTPOINT, FL – SEPTEMBER 01: Sunken and beached boats line the shoreline as Hurricane Hermine approaches on September 1, 2016 in Eastpoint Florida. Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast as Hermine is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane (Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images)

Update 9:30 p.m.: With Hurricane Hermine targeting just east of Apalachicola for a late-night or early-morning landfall, streets in this historic oyster city were largely deserted by nightfall.

Winds gusted to over 40 mph and squally, heavy rain pelted Apalachicola through most of the evening. But hurricane-force winds still seemed hours away.

By 9 p.m., a couple of power outages darkened some neighborhoods.

Still, water rose at a bayfront park to bring boats, rocking at anchor, almost to ground level. On the city’s waterfront, the aptly named Water Street was marred by wide swaths of standing water, forcing TV crews — about the only people out on the street– to navigate their way to live shots.

Palm fronds and even a few campaign signs leftover from Tuesday’s primary were scattered in some front yards. But a few restaurants continued to serve a scattering of customers in downtown restaurants, although every other shop in the tourist and fishing town had been shuttered for most of the day.

Update 9 p.m.: Conditions are rapidly deteriorating along the Big Bend coast as  Hurricane Hermine approaches, the National Weather Service’s office in Tallahassee reports.

Winds have started to increase near Tallahassee and there are reports of power outages, the weather service said.  Tornadoes are possible from the bands Hermine , forecasters say. The storm was about 40 miles southeast of Apalachicola with sustained winds of 80 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its 9 p.m. update.

 

Update 8 p.m.: Hurricane Hermine continues to gain strength as the storm moves closer making landfall.

As of 8 p.m., Hermine had sustained winds of 80 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm was 45 miles south-southeast of Apalachicola  moving north-northeast at 14 mph.  Hermine is forecast to make landfall late tonight or early Friday.

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Hurricane-force winds extend outward to 45 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.

The minimum central pressure reported by the Hurricane Hunter aircraft is 983 mb, the hurricane center said.

Update 5 p.m.: Hurricane Hermine is becoming better organized and is forecast to have 80 mph winds at landfall later tonight or early tomorrow morning.

National Hurricane Center forecasters cautioned that Hermine was an asymmetrical storm, with a “large extent of dangerous winds, life-threatening storm surge, and flooding rains, well to the east and southeast of the path of the center.”

As of 5 p.m., Hermine was 85 miles south of Apalachicola moving north-northeast at 14 mph. It’s minimum central pressure was 988 mb.

Across Florida’s Big Bend, many residents and business owners took Hurricane Hermine in stride – but also conceded they were worried, as sheets of rain intensified and the wind picked up toward evening Thursday.

Some reflected on the last time the region was socked by a storm. It was Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which caused widespread destruction when high winds propelled gulf water miles inland, across marshy lowlands and into homes and stores.

“What are you going to do? You’ve just got to ride it out and hope it goes a little further east of here,” said Carson Ulrich, owner of a gas station and store in Lanark, on U.S. 98, the coastal highway that hugs the Gulf of Mexico.

Ron Gempel, 73, formerly of West Palm Beach, puts up plywood on his sandwich shop in Carrabelle.
Ron Gempel, 73, formerly of West Palm Beach, puts up plywood on his sandwich shop in Carrabelle.

“The previous owner of this place got wiped out by that storm in 2005. No insurance. That’s how we wound up buying it,” Ulrich said.

He eyed the rising water at a boat ramp just in back of his store. Ulrich said he was certain he’d be flooded by the time he returns to work Friday.

I’ll put some sand bags at the front door. But around here, we’ve all seen this before,” he added.

In nearby Carrabelle, Ron Gempel, 73, grew up in West Palm Beach, but has owned a sandwich shop in the fishing town for the past dozen years. On Thursday, he and some helpers were covering the shop’s front windows with plywood.

Next door, the town’s only hardware store had already closed and sandbagged its front door.

“You’d  think they could be open and selling stuff today,” Gempel said. “But it’s an old-time family business here. They know when it’s time to get out of the way of a storm.”

Gempel said there was little anyone could do but prepare, and cleanup when Hermine moved on.

“Anyone who chooses to live here knows the score,” Gempel said. “I can go kayaking right down the street some days. Other days, you’ve got a hurricane to deal with.”

With Labor Day weekend approaching, many in the area mourned the loss of business from tourists. Evacuations had already been ordered on St. George Island, a popular vacation spot, and many visitors weren’t sticking around to stop in neighboring towns, where the faltering fishing industry has given way to bike rental shops, latte bars and even customized dog biscuit emporiums.

Don Ward, who recently opened Slice of Apalachicola, stared out the broad windows of his restaurant at the rain pelting down on a street empty of most visitors other than TV news crews.

“We’re not going to close tonight,” Ward said. “What else would I be doing? Everybody still needs pizza.”

Update 3 p.m.: The national hurricane center says Hermine has gained hurricane strength with near 75 mph winds.

In a special statement issued at 2:55 p.m., forecasters said data from an Air Force Hurricane Hunter indicate that the storm has strengthened and will likely make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane late tonight or early Friday morning.

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Hermine is the fourth hurricane of the year, and the first to make landfall in Florida in more than a decade.

The storm is about 115 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola and moving toward the coast at 14 mph.

While the center of the storm is not expected to break the shoreline until midnight or later, it’s winds are already being felt in Apalachicola and other coastal areas.

Tropical storm force winds extend out 185 miles.

Update 1:30 p.m.: Tropical Storm Hermine has increased its wind speeds to 70 mph as it travels toward the Florida Gulf Coast at 14 mph.

A special statement issued by the National Hurricane Center says tropical storm warnings have been extended southward along the west coast of Florida to Engelwood, including the Tampa and St. Petersburg area.

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Update 12:15 p.m.: Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked residents in the Big Bend area of the state to finish storm preparations ahead of Tropical Storm Hermine and foretold a grim night of storm surge up to 8 feet, winds of 70-75 mph, downed power lines and street flooding.

“This is life threatening,” Scott said. “It will impact us from Tampa Bay to Pensacola.”

Tropical storm force winds extend out to 185 miles.

Scott said mandatory evacuations of coastal areas have been ordered in five counties – Franklin, Wakulla, Taylor, Dixie and Levy county.

Information on evacuation zones statewide can be found on the State Emergency Operations website. 

Scott said fringes of the storm will begin hitting the coast this afternoon with the landfall occurring after midnight.

But areas are already feeling the impacts. In Pensacola Beach, which out of the cone of uncertainty, the Fort Pickens campground was evacuated when a new moon high tide and Hermine swell flooded roads.

Update 11 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center is warning of life-threatening storm surge and flooding rains with Tropical Storm Hermine as the system heads toward Florida’s Gulf Coast at 14 mph.

As of the 11 a.m. advisory, Hermine has 65 mph winds  and is 170 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola.

Tropical storm force winds extend out 140 miles and storm surge could inundate the coastline up to seven feet above normally dry ground.

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Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach said the last hurricane to hit close to Tallahassee was 1998’s Hurricane Earl.

Earl made landfall near Panama City on September 3 as a Category 1 hurricane.

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Storm surge from Earl was estimated to be near 8 feet in Franklin, Wakulla and Jefferson counties, according to an National Hurricane Center report.

Update 8 a.m.: The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Hermine has strengthened to 65 mph winds as it heads toward Florida at 12 mph.

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The storm is about 235 miles west-southwest of Tampa and 195 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola. The estimated minimum central pressure is 992 mb.

It is expected to increase in speed slightly and the center of Hermine will be near the coast in the warning area tonight or early Friday.

Follow Hermine on The Palm Beach Post’s interactive tracking map. 

If it makes landfall as a hurricane, it will make history, becoming the first hurricane to hit Florida in more than 10 years.

Since Thursday, Hermine’s track has shifted to the west, leaving Panama City out of the cone of uncertainty, but putting Tallahassee near dead center.

Florida State University is closing campus at noon today. For updated information go to www.fsu.edu.  Florida state offices are also closing at noon.

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New storm surge maps from the National Hurricane Center show how water may impact the shore when Hermine makes landfall.

Read: New storm surge maps may save lives in Hermine

James Elsner, chair of FSU’s geography department and an expert on hurricanes, said Tallahassee can expect some flooding and power failure if winds are strong enough to topple trees onto power lines.

Also, while many students are Florida natives and may have experienced a storm before, he said some of his colleagues have been asking how they should prepare and what to expect.

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“A lot of people have no experience with tropical systems,” Elsner said. “The National Weather Service in Tallahassee said to prepare for two days without power. I would imagine that’s worse case scenario.”

Elsner said Hermine is positioned to bring the highest amount of storm surge to the Apalachicola area, but much of the region where Hermine is aimed is not densely populated.

“Fortunately, a lot of the area is remote or sparsely populated,” said Jamie Rhome, storm surge specialist with the National Hurricane Center. “Hopefully no one experiences the worse case scenario.”

Areas of northwest Florida and southern Georgia could see total rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches through tomorrow.

Forecasters are concerned about high tides and storm surge for this storm as the Gulf Coast of Florida has a shallow run up to the coast.

In Wakulla County, an evacuation of low lying coastal homes was issued this morning. A state of emergency has been declared in 51 Florida counties as the storm approaches, but this morning’s high tide is already flooding some Gulf Coast roads, even ones not in Hermine’s direct path.

Fort Pickens Road, which runs the extent of Pensacola Beach is already seeing some overrun as the tide comes in. Pensacola is not in the storm’s path or the cone of uncertainty, but a new moon is increasing tides all along the Panhandle.

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For the first time, the NHC has issued storm surge maps that show how deep the water could get how far inland.

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Previous story: 

The National Hurricane Center’s 5 a.m. advisory says Hermine is expected to ramp up to 75 mph winds just as it makes landfall late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map for updates on Hermine. 

The last hurricane to hit Florida was 2005’s Hurricane Wilma. 

As of the 5 a.m. forecast from the National Hurricane Center, Hermine had 65 mph winds and was about 250 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola moving north-northeast at 12 mph. The minimum central pressure was 996 mb.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Suwannee River to Mexico Beach. A hurricane watch is in effect for Anclote River to Suwannee River and west of Mexico Beach to Destin.

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Hermine’s tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 140 miles to the east of center and should start hitting the coast this afternoon.

Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast within the warning area beginning tonight.

Preparations should be finished now before the wind and rain makes it to difficult to drive or secure your home.

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Storm surge is a concern for areas extending from Pensacola to Tampa Bay. The following storm surge can be expected at the time of high tide:

Destin to Indian Pass: 1-3 feet

Indian Pass to Chassahowitzka: 4-7 feet

Chassahowitzka to Aripeka: 2-4 feet

Aipeka to Bonita Beach, including Tampa Bay: 1-3 feet

Florida-Georgia line to Cape Fear: 1-3 feet

The nearly 11 years since Florida last saw a hurricane make landfall is an unprecedented tropical cyclone drought in historic record.

It has been more than 3,873 days since hurricane Wilma bullied ashore near Cape Romano in October 2005.

Read: The catastrophic storms that broke Florida’s previous hurricane droughts. 

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