UPDATE 5 p.m.: Hurricane Florence’s forward speed has slowed to 5 mph as it approaches the Carolinas as a Category 2 hurricane with 105 mph winds.
The National Hurricane Center warns that water levels are rising along portions of the North Carolina coast.
The storm is about 105 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, N.C.
A NOAA observing site at Cape Lookout, N.C. reported a sustained wind of 68 mph and a gust to 85 mph this afternoon. A private weather station in Davis, N.C. reported a sustained wind of 61 mph and gust to 67 mph.
PREVIOUS STORY: Hurricane Florence, now a Category 2 storm with 110 mph winds, is forecast to reach the coastline of the Carolinas early Friday morning with little strengthening expected before landfall.
The track of the storm is finally showing a strong hook to the northeast but not until late Sunday into Monday as steering winds collapse. That means means Florence could sit over areas for 24 hours dumping up to 20 inches of rain in coastal North Carolina.
As of the 8 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Florence was 170 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, N.C.
“Florence dominates the waters with dangerous life-threatening marine conditions this period, as it nearly stalls near Cape Fear, and drifts slowly toward the soutwest along the southeast North Carolina coasts,” wrote National Weather Service meteorologists in Wilmington, N.C. about the forecast Friday and Saturday. “Unless the weakening is rapid, hurricane force-winds can be expected all of Friday.”
Hurricane center forecasters warn that as Florence’s wind speeds weaken, the storm size increases. This morning, hurricane force-winds now extend up to 80 miles from the center of the storm with tropical storm-force winds out 195 miles.
Life threatening storm surge and “catastrophic” flash flooding is possible with this storm, the NHC wrote in a Tweet this morning.
There are now four named storms in the Atlantic basin with subtropical storm Joyce named Wednesday, and two areas of disturbed weather with chances of development.
Klotzbach said since records began, there has never been five named storms in the Atlantic with wind speeds of 39 mph or higher (tropical storm force).
Joyce is no threat to land. It is expected to take a similar track as Hurricane Helene to the northeast.
The hurricane center is also tracking Isaac, which remains a tropical storm about 100 miles east of Dominica. The storm is weakening and could become a depression in a few days, but some models have it restrengthening in the western Caribbean, according to the NHC.
“However, the predictability of such an event is too low to explicitly show in the forecast at this point,” the NHC wrote in its 5 a.m. advisory.
Previous story: As the outer rainbands of Hurricane Florence swipe up against the coast of North Carolina, forecasters are warning of possible life-threatening storm surges and flooding.
If the storm, now a Category 2, arrives during high tide, the water could rise up to 13 feet along parts of the North Carolina coast. That area also could be hit with up to 40 inches of rain, according to the National Hurricane Center.
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.
“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.
“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.”
The greatest risks to life from whatever #90L becomes are preventable. For life-threatening rain-induced flooding, both near the coast and inland, stay off water-covered roads. For life-threatening rip currents, stay out of the Gulf or Atlantic per lifeguards’ instructions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Update, 12:50 p.m.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for southeastern Palm Beach County until 1:30 p.m.
National Weather Service meteorologists are tracking a strong thunderstorm near Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise moving north at 20 mph.
Winds in excess of 45 mph are possible with this storm, which is producing torrential rainfall and may lead to flooding.
Frequent cloud to ground lightning is also occurring with this storm.
The Weather Service is warning that this slow-moving storm could quickly saturate areas this afternoon, causing floods and concern for the evening commute.
Original post: Don’t expect to see the sun anytime soon – especially this afternoon as a threat of severe thunderstorms and lightning is expected, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.
Additional rainfall is expected throughout the afternoon – primarily between 1 and 7 p.m. – along with the rest of the week. A large area of deep tropical moisture will continue to stream northward across South Florida through the weekend. This will result in periods of moderate to heavy rainfall. Flooding could occur.
Heavy rain is expected in southern Palm Beach County around 1 p.m. and it will continue moving up into metropolitan West Palm Beach by 2 p.m.
And the rain isn’t going to let up. There is a 40 percent chance or higher for each of the next seven days in South Florida along with a high risk of lightning today through Monday.
In Palm Beach County, some areas have received up to 3 inches of rain in the past 6 days. In Broward and west Miami Dade counties, some spots have received 6 inches of rain in that span.
This afternoon, most of the showers and thunderstorms will be moving from the southwest to the northeast, a similar path of a strong cell that developed late Thursday. High temperatures will in the low to mid-80s. Breezy winds out of the southeast. Rain chances will continue into the early evening hours.
“Lightning obviously is a big concern,” said National Weather Service lead forecaster Robert Garcia. “We might also have some hail and conditions are ripe for funnel clouds and water spouts. That’s not out of the question. This is very reflective of the summertime pattern.”
Garcia said the afternoon rain is from a massive amount of tropical moisture in the Gulf of Mexico that is slowly moving.
“We might have some storms right on top of each other which could cause some localized flooding,” Garcia said of this afternoon.
Tonight, isolated rainfall, but not as heavy, is possible. Low temperatures will be in the low 70s.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
How a tsunami warning last week appeared as a real threat to residents from Palm Beach County to Maine rather than a test is still a mystery with the National Weather Service and private-sector company AccuWeather both claiming it wasn’t their fault.
The National Tsunami Warning Center, part of the National Weather Service, issued a monthly tsunami test message at about 8:30 a.m. Feb. 6.
Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather initially said the NWS used flawed coding to issue the alert.
The firm, founded by Trump nominee Barry Myers and his brothers, stuck with that conclusion after further investigating how the alert was disseminated.
“The AccuWeather computer issued the NWS warning because the NWS computer coding indicated it was either real or a test,” AccuWeather said in a statement. “The NWS coding was conflicted.”
According to AccuWeather, one element of the coding indicated it was an actual warning, which would mean a tsunami with the potential to generate widespread inundation is imminent, expected, or occurring.
AccuWeather said another element of the coding showed the warning was just a test.
“With such conflicting coding by the NWS, the AccuWeather system defaulted to the interpretation to save lives rather than place lives at risk,” the company’s statement said. “It seems clear the NWS codes were the problem.”
The Weather Channel also listed a tsunami warning on its apps, but did not send a push alert.
Weather.com spokeswoman Katherine Wong said the company’s computers overlooked a field of code that indicated the alert was a test.
“In looking closer at the technical specifications, we’ve identified a better way to identify this type of message in the future,” Wong said. “We are adjusting code for a deeper search of terms in both header and copy code to protect against this situation happening again.”
An unknown number of people received the alert, causing confusion from the Caribbean to Maine.
A Tsunami Warning was mistakenly sent by an app. There is no Tsunami Warning in effect. It was just a Tsunami test message.
The National Weather Service said the test warning was not sent out on any of its channels used to communicate with the public and, after further investigation, found it was issued correctly.
“We are working with private sector companies to determine why some systems did not recognize the coding,” the NWS said. “Private sector partners perform a valuable service in disseminating warnings to the public.”
After a cool January that ended nearly 3 degrees below normal statewide, February is turning the heat back up.
Temperatures in South Florida have been running warmer than normal for the past seven days, including in West Palm Beach where weekend highs of 82 degrees were 6 degrees higher than what’s typical for this time of year.
But it’s the overnight lows that have been setting the records.
Sunday’s low temperature only dipped to 74 degrees, which breaks the previous overnight heat record for Feb. 11 of 73 degrees set back in 1903. Temperature records in West Palm Beach date back to 1888.
The 74-degree reading is a whopping 15 degrees warmer than the normal overnight temperature for this time of year of 59 degrees.
Today’s morning low temperature at Palm Beach International Airport also dipped to 74 degrees. If that holds true, that would tie the overnight heat record set for this day in 1959.
In Miami, Sunday’s low temperature fell only to 75 degrees, which ties the record warmest minimum temperature for the date previously set in 1994.
Naples was the only official gauge monitored by the National Weather Service in Miami to reach a record daytime high when the mercury hit 87 degrees. That beat the previous record of 85 degrees set in 1999.
“Main story today will be the continuing warm temperatures,” wrote National Weather Service meteorologists in a morning forecast. “It appears that high temperature records at all sites will be in jeopardy today.”
Today’s high temperature in West Palm Beach is forecast to reach 85 degrees – 9 degrees above normal, but just shy of the 87-degree record set in 1975.
A calendrical quirk of the universe is uniting a super moon, blue moon and total lunar eclipse this week — a rare assembly that hasn’t happened over the continental U.S. since 1866.
Adding to the cosmic indulgence in Wednesday’s pre-dawn sky is the moon will be near perigee, when the Earth’s only natural satellite is closest in its orbit and may appear slightly brighter and bigger, thus earning it the moniker “super moon.”
A blue moon is popularly defined as the second full moon in a month, which is an event that happens about every 2.7 years on average.
Even for austere astronomers, who frown on routine celestial events getting underserved hype, this triple lunar treat is an affair of note.
“It’s an astronomical trifecta,” said Kelly Beatty, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine. “Situations like this that cause people to go out and be curious are a good thing, but you don’t want to oversell it so people are thinking they are going to see Star Wars.”
What is being touted across social media is a “super blue blood moon.” A total lunar eclipse is sometimes referred to as a blood moon because it can take on a red hue as the light from the sun passes through Earth’s atmosphere.
“This uses up all the superlatives; super moon, blue moon, lunar eclipse. What else is there?” said Florida Atlantic University astronomy professor Eric Vandernoot. “I don’t like the term blood moon, because it’s never blood red, it’s more peachy, and looks like a big peach in the sky.”
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.
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.
“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.”
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.