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

Watch webcast of super blue blood moon eclipse

Updated: Watch total lunar eclipse on NASA TV here:

https://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/#public

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.

The moon begins to set behind the First Baptist Church during a lunar eclipse, October 8, 2014, in West Palm Beach. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

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.

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“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.”

South Florida won’t get the full eclipse, but read the rest of the story at MyPalmBeachPost.com to find out how to see a partial eclipse. 

A super moon rises over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

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Blustery day before cool front this weekend

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

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

PBIA

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

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

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

Today’s hazards

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

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

Sunday forecast map. Source: Weather Prediction Center.

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

DOWNLOAD: The Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here

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

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

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Successful launch of CYGNSS mission

NASA’s CYGNSS mission of unique weather satellites launched successfully this morning after two delays.

The eight satellites are so small they were all carried on a  Pegasus rocket.

With core technologies the size of a loaf of bread and weighing just 64 pounds each, the innovative Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System will belt the Earth between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn to monitor hurricane hot spots.

Watch live here on NASA TV. 

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Artist’s concept of one of the eight Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System satellites deployed in space above a hurricane. Courtesy NASA

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here.

The convoy of mini-satellites uses GPS to measure wind speeds at the warm surface core of tropical cyclones — where ocean meets air. It’s a region shrouded from even the most advanced radar technologies by rain drops, but believed to be critical in predicting cyclone intensity, girth and potential storm surge.

And unlike the 6,280-pound behemoth GOES-R weather spacecraft that was successfully launched Nov. 19 from the Cape, the minis will spread out around the globe providing full-time coverage of all the tropics all the time.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

“This isn’t the first set of micro-satellites, but this is the vanguard of new satellites, it’s the beginning,” said Christine Bonniksen, NASA’s program executive for the system, dubbed CYGNSS. “These smaller satellites, with all the advances in technology, are becoming much more capable and can provide more frequent readings.”

Read more about the groundbreaking technology of CYGNSS here and what it will mean to weather forecasting in the U.S. 

The satellites are being carried on a Pegasus rocket which is air-launched, released from a carrier aircraft at about 40,000 feet.

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The project is the first space-based system selected for funding by NASA’s Earth Venture Program, which focuses on lower-cost, science-driven missions that can be rapidly developed.

About $155 million was awarded for CYGNSS, which includes $102 million to principal investigator Chris Ruf, a professor in the University of Michigan’s Department of Climate and Space Sciences, and $53 million for the Pegasus rocket. Because the satellites are so light, they can all launch on one rocket.

“This has not been done before on a satellite,” said Chris Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center. “It’s experimental and very intriguing with the promise that it may help us quite a bit.”

While forecasting the path of a hurricane has improved 50 percent over the past 15 years, forecasting storm intensity has lagged.

Hurricane Matthew off the coast of Florida Oct. 6, 2016
Hurricane Matthew off the coast of Florida Oct. 6, 2016

James Franklin, chief of the National Hurricane Center’s hurricane specialist unit, said the error rates for intensity were basically flat between 1990 and 2010. They’ve since fallen, and Franklin said there appears to have been about a 20 percent improvement in intensity errors the past 5 to 7 years.

Still, October’s Hurricane Matthew caught forecasters off guard when it intensified by 80 mph in 24 hours to become a dangerous Category 5 hurricane with 160 mph winds.

Part of the challenge in forecasting intensity is penetrating the hurricane eyewall to gather information about a storm’s inner core and the critical interactions happening in a slice of atmosphere just above the surface of the sea where the strongest winds are found.

Frank Marsik, an associate research scientist with University of Michigan’s Department of Climate and Space Sciences, said wind speeds are currently measured by satellites with radar scatterometers that emit microwave pulses toward the ocean’s surface and measure the subsequent backscattered signals.

The idea is a calm ocean will reflect very little microwave emissions back to the satellite, while wind-whipped waves will reflect more, helping forecasters determine wind strength.

But the signals break apart in the intense rainfall typically found at the eye of a hurricane.

CYGNSS will use already available GPS signals from existing satellites that are transmitted all day all over the globe and at a lower frequency than the scatterometers.

“As a result, the GPS signals can penetrate through the intense tropical rainfall associated with a hurricane eyewall, allowing the CYGNSS team to probe the inner core of hurricanes for the first time,” Marsik said. “This is critical, as improved forecasts of hurricane intensity (wind speed) will also lead to improvements in the forecast of the storm surge associated with land-falling hurricanes.”

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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.

Follow John Kennedy on Twitter at Twitter.com/JKennedyReport

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.

Herminegraphic

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.

hermine-0700

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.

rb-animated (1)

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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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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Tropical Storm Hermine’s track shifts west, “distinct possibility of hurricane”

Update 8 p.m.: Tropical Storm Hermine has strengthened slightly, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, and has moved slightly to the northeast of its position at 5 p.m., with an estimated speed of 8 mph.

Hurricane and tropical-storm watches and warnings remain posted for parts of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Update 5 p.m.:  Tropical Storm Hermine’s forecast track has shifted slightly west with a tropical storm warning and hurricane watch extended to Destin.

The storm, which has winds of about 45 mph, is 325 miles south-southwest from Apalachicola and 350 miles west-southwest of Tampa.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said Hermine is better organized on satellite images and that there is a “distinct possibility that Hermine could become a hurricane before landfall.”

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Update 2 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center says the depression in the Gulf of Mexico has gained tropical storm strength and is now Tropical Storm Hermine (her-MEEN).

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As of the 2 p.m. advisory, the storm has maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and is moving north at 2 mph. Tropical storm force conditions could be felt in the Big Bend region of Florida as early as Thursday afternoon.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s interactive storm tracking map. 

The decision to upgrade the storm was made after NOAA Hurricane Hunters investigated this afternoon.

The minimum central pressure is 1000 mb and tropical storm force winds extend out up to 105 miles.

The center of Tropical Storm Hermine is located about 415 miles west-southwest of Tampa and 395 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola.

While the system is a minimal tropical storm, it is expected to reach the Big Bend area of Florida with winds of about 60 to 65 mph. NHC forecasters said they are not ruling out the possibility of a Hermine gaining hurricane strength by the time landfall occurs.

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Hurricane watches and tropical storm warnings are up for portions of the Gulf coast.

Forecasters have been wrestling with this system since August 18 when if first appeared as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa.

If Hermine gains hurricane strength, it would be the first hurricane to hit Florida in more than a decade. The last Florida hurricane was 2005’s Wilma.

But some experts don’t think it will gain the mantle of hurricane.

Hugh Willoughby, a retired 27-year veteran of NOAA’s hurricane division and a professor at Florida International University, said the hurricane watch was probably issued in an abundance of caution.

“What they are saying to people in North Florida is that maybe this doesn’t look too threatening, but don’t get complacent,” Willoughby said. “They are being honest. The hurricane center is really good at this but recognize that they could be wrong.”

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Update 11 a.m.: Tropical depression nine is spinning nearly stationary about 415 miles west-southwest of Tampa with sustained winds of 35 mph.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said they expect it to strengthen today on a path that continues to head toward Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Previous story: Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in 42 Florida counties in advance of tropical depression nine.

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The counties, which do not include Palm Beach County, are ones that are in the cone of uncertainty published by the National Hurricane Center.

National Hurricane forecasters aren’t taking chances with the meandering tropical depression nine, saying this morning the system could become a weak hurricane before landfall.

The tropical cyclone, which has defied predictions since it was first recognized more than a week ago, is officially forecast to reach 65-mph winds before hitting in Florida’s Big Bend region late Thursday and early Friday morning. It could then briefly ramp up to 70 mph after exiting the state into the Atlantic.

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Check The Palm Beach Post’s interactive storm tracking map. 

A Category 1 hurricane isn’t declared until winds reach 74 mph.

A special 8 a.m. update from the hurricane center said the system is still a depression with 35-mph winds. The system is expected to become a tropical storm later today, according to hurricane center forecasters.

But the hurricane center on Tuesday took the unusual step of issuing  hurricane and tropical storm watches for portions of Florida’s Gulf Coast. The tropical storm watches were increased to warnings this morning.

Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said a hurricane watch is issued even if the official forecast is only for a tropical storm, if there is enough uncertainty in the future of a system that will be in an environment favorable for development.

“The hurricane watch, by definition, means winds of hurricane-force would be possible,” he said.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said a few of the computer models had upgraded tropical depression nine to hurricane strength near the coast so the decision was made to issue a hurricane watch.

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“It is important not to focus on the forecast landfall point of this system,” forecasters wrote in a 5 p.m. discussion. “Among other reasons, dangerous storm surge flooding is likely along the coast well to the east and south of the path of the center.”

A hurricane watch is in effect for Anclote River to Indian Pass. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Anclote River to the county line between Walton and Bay counties.

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The National Hurricane has also issued storm surge flooding maps for the first time this year. Areas along the Gulf Coast could see water levels reach up to five feet above the ground if a peak surge occurs at the time of high tide.

As of the 5 a.m. hurricane center update, tropical depression nine was about 405 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola and about 425 miles southwest of Tampa. Its maximum sustained winds are 35 mph and it is moving at just 2 mph toward the north.

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Hurricane and tropical storm watches issued for Florida’s Gulf coast

Update 5 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch for areas of the Florida Gulf coast from Anclote River to Indian Pass.

A tropical storm watch has been issued for areas west of Indian Pass to the Walton and Bay county line.

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The watches were issued despite the system still not becoming better organized and with limited evidence of banding features.

Official wind measurements remain at 35 mph.

But National Hurricane Center forecasters said a few of the computer models now turn tropical depression nine into a hurricane so the decision was made to issue a hurricane watch.

“It is important not to focus on the forecast landfall point of this system,” forecasters wrote. “Among other reasons, dangerous storm surge flooding is likely along the coast well to the east and south of the path of the center.”

New storm surge inundation maps can be found here. 

The storm is expected to make landfall somewhere in the Big Bend region on Thursday. The official forecast sets the winds at 65 mph.

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Update 2:15 p.m.: A flood watch has been issued for coastal areas of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties by the National Weather Service in Miami.

Forecasters said deep moisture being pulled in from tropical depression 9 will continue to spread through Wednesday morning with the potential for flooding as squall lines trail through the area.

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A flood watch means there is a potential for flooding based on current forecasts. The watch is in effect through Wednesday morning.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Update 2:10 p.m.: The National Weather Service in Miami has issued a flood advisory for areas in northeastern Palm Beach County.

Forecasters said they were tracking heavy rain from thunderstorms that could cause minor flooding. Up to three inches of rain has already fallen in some areas, according to the NWS.

Areas that could experience flooding are West Palm Beach, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach and Greenacres.

Another 1 to 3 inches of rain is expected in Palm Beach County.

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Update 1:05 p.m.: Intermittent showers are dousing South Florida coast to coast with areas southwest Collier County and Marco Island under a flood advisory.

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Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Palm Beach County is dotted with downpours including in Jupiter Farms where dark clouds are looking ominous. Rainfall as much as one inch per hour is possible in areas, NWS forecasters in Miami said.

The Weather Prediction Center has parts of northern Palm Beach County and areas surrounding Lake Okeechobee under a moderate threat for excessive rains today that could lead to flooding.

A significant weather advisory was issued by the National Weather Service for Monroe and Miami-Dade counties as thunderstorms threaten wind gusts up to 55 mph.

Update 11 a.m.: Tropical depression nine is still expected to strengthen some today and the National Hurricane Center said it will likely issue a tropical storm watch later today.

As of the 11 a.m. advisory, winds were still 35 mph, 4 mph short of a tropical storm.

See incredible images of tropical depression nine from Hurricane Hunters. 

While thunderstorm activity has increased, the organization of the system has not changed much since last night, forecasters said.

“Another NOAA Hurricane Hunter Aircraft is scheduled to investigate the cyclone this afternoon to see if the depression has become a tropical storm,” the 11 a.m. discussion says.

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The National Hurricane Center has also issued potential storm surge flooding maps for Florida’s Big Bend region. The maps are a new product being used operationally for the first time with this storm, said NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

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  • Tropical depression 8 remains disorganized as of the 11 a.m. update and has maintained a wind speed of 35 mph, just under tropical storm strength. As the system moves closer to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, it is expected to strengthen some. The track of the system was shifted a little west this morning, putting it slightly closer to the Outer Banks, but it is still expected to make a hard north turn before landfall.
NHC official storm track as of 11 a.m. Aug. 30, 2016.
NHC official storm track for tropical depression eight as of 11 a.m. Aug. 30, 2016.

Previous story: Tropical depression nine was finishing its trek through the Florida Straits early this morning with winds of 35 mph, and is expected to become a tropical storm today.

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As of the 5 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the system is expected to track west-northwest today and turn more to the north tonight.

A tropical storm or hurricane watch may be issued today for part of Florida’s Gulf coast, the center said.

Watch The Palm Beach Post interactive tracking map for latest updates. 

Hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said a hurricane watch could be issued if there is uncertainty in the intensity forecast when a strong tropical storm is in an environment that might allow for enough strengthening to push it to hurricane strength. It means winds of hurricane force would be possible.

If tropical depression nine gains tropical storm status it would be Hermine or Ian, depending on if it does so before tropical depression eight, which is off the coast of North Carolina.

Regardless of strengthening, TD 9 is expected to bring heavy rain to South Florida. Palm Beach County could expect 2.75 to 5 inches of rain through Thursday, and northern areas of the county were upgraded this morning to a “moderate” risk of excessive rain by the Weather Prediction Center.

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“The stage is set for widespread moderate to heavy rains for Central to South Florida,” Weather Prediction Center forecasters wrote in their morning discussion. “High resolution guidance is very wet, showing either stripes of 7+ totals…..or local maxima of 5-7 inches.”

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The National Weather Service in Miami said this morning precipitable water values are near record high for this date at 2.45 inches – meaning if all the moisture in the air column fell at once, it would equal 2.45 inches.

“Numerous showers and gusty squalls” are expected throughout the day with the potential for trailing rain bands to dump several inches in localized areas.

As tropical depression nine moves further away from Cuba, winds will turn more southerly with a breeze of 10 to 20 mph and higher gusts, NWS forecasters said.

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For Palm Beach County, gusty winds up to 40 to 50 mph are also possible today, according to the National Weather Service in Miami. An alert for a high risk of rip currents is in effect.

Rain chances in West Palm Beach are 90 percent today.

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  • Tropical depression eight, which is 95 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and its center will be near the Outer Banks this afternoon or evening. The system could become a tropical storm later today, but tropical storm warnings have already been issued for areas of North Carolina from Cape Lookout to Oregon Inlet and Pamlico Sound.

An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter is investigating the depression this morning.

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  • Hurricane Gaston, which is no threat to land, has 100 mph winds and is heading northeast at 6 mph. Little change in strength is expected over the next two days as it moves further out to sea.

In Florida,  a stretch of the state from Sarasota to near Panama City is in the cone of tropical depression nine. It’s a similar area targeted by Tropical Storm Colin in June.

“Right now we’re thinking this will mostly be a big rain producer for the northwest and northern part of the peninsula,” said Dan Kottlowski, hurricane expert with the Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather. “It’s still fighting wind shear and there is a large area of dry air to its north, but it will soon be over very warm water with less shear.”

Low clouds hang over the Intracoastal waterway in West Palm Beach courtesy of TD9. Kimberly miller
Low clouds hang over the Intracoastal waterway in West Palm Beach courtesy of TD9 on Aug. 30 2016. Photo by Kimberly miller

The National Weather Service in Tampa, issued a flood warning for the Myakka River this morning.

The system is expected to maintain tropical storm strength as it moves through Florida. The center of its track then takes it out into the Atlantic, but the northern edge of the cone skims the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Tyler Fleming, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa, said the area is bracing for 8 inches of rain or more over the next five days.

“We’re also looking for tides to be 1 to 3 feet above normal and some coastal flooding,” said Fleming, who didn’t want to compare the coming system to Colin. “Every storm is going to be unique.”

The National Hurricane Center has issued its new potential storm surge flooding map for the Big Bend region.

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The actual areas that could become flooded may differ from the areas shown on this map. This map accounts for tides, but not waves and not flooding caused by rainfall.

 

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Tropical Storm Fiona forms, 6th named storm of 2016 season

Update 5 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Fiona has formed, making it the sixth named storm of the 2016 hurricane season.

Forecasters said Fiona’s maximum sustained winds are 40 mph and the storm is headed northwest at 16 mph.

The hurricane center had expected the tropical depression to make the leap to a full tropical storm earlier this morning. The latest satellite images confirmed a tighter inner-core has formed, an indication it has made the transition to a tropical storm.

Fiona is about 920 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands and is no threat to land at this time. It’s expected to top out as a strong tropical storm with 60 mph winds and weaken after about three days.

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Previous story: Tropical depression six, which formed late Tuesday night, is expected to become Tropical Storm Fiona today.

The 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center continued to keep the system as a depression, but noted that its sustained maximum winds of 35 mph will slowly strengthen over the next 48 hours.

A depression becomes a named storm when its winds hit 39 mph.

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The National Hurricane Center has also identified a second area to watch with a tropical wave that is expected to move off the coast of Africa on Saturday.

The center is giving this wave a 20 percent chance of development.

The potential Fiona has a central deep mass of thunderstorms and a newly formed band over the northern half of circulation, indicating better organization. The minimum central pressure is 1006 mb.

Hurricane center forecasters said satellite estimates already have the system reaching 40 mph, but the official forecast is keeping it a depression because of a decrease in storminess near the center of the system.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

The depression could weaken after the three-day mark as it hits drier air and sea surface temperatures marginally warm enough to sustain it.

See list of 2016 storm names here. 

This system is the first African easterly wave to form into a tropical depression this hurricane season. It’s right on time too as mid-August is when tropical waves start moving off the coast of Africa every few days with the possibility of becoming embryonic tropical cyclones.

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Find everything you need to know about 2016 hurricane season here. 

Forecasters said this morning that models are differing on the strength and movement of the storm. While the European model has it weakening and moving more on a westerly course, the GFS model shows a deeper system moving more on a northerly path.

The official forecast has it heading northwest at 15 mph from its location about 775 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. There are no watches or warnings in effect.

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Easterly waves are staying just below the thick Saharan dust layer.
Easterly waves are staying just below the thick Saharan dust layer.

Chance of tropical cyclone formation up to 50 percent

Update 2 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center has increased the chances of a tropical system forming in the eastern Atlantic to 50 percent over the next five days.

Forecasters said a disorganized grouping of cloudiness and thunderstorms a few hundred miles south-southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands is entering an area more favorable for development.

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But with its west-northwest movement, it’s unlikely to remain in ideal conditions for long.

In their Weather Underground blog, Jeff Masters and Bob Henson said they’re not particularly concerned about this system because its steering currents are taking it more to the north, out of reach of land.

Another tropical wave is scheduled to rip off the coast of Africa on Thursday, and that one may be a different story.

“The next wave to come off the coast of Africa – due to emerge Thursday – is likely to experience steering currents that will keep it farther to the south, on a course that could potentially bring it into the Caribbean by the middle of next week,” Masters and Henson wrote.

The system, dubbed 98 L, was given a 40 percent chance of becoming something tropical over the next two days.

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Easterly African waves move off the coast every three to five days this time of year.

The easterly African waves that serve as embryos for Atlantic tropical cyclones move off the coast every three to five days this time of year.

They form when rainfall patterns shift in Africa, sending thunderstorm systems toward a ribbon of swift winds at about 15,000 feet called the African Easterly Jet. On the south side of that stream of air, the storms begin to rotate, spinning toward the coast like pinwheels.

“They really tend to pick up pace in terms of robustness,” said Michael Lowry, a hurricane specialist with the Weather Channel, about the nature of tropical waves in late July. “The dynamics of the atmosphere change.”

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It’s just a jumble of showers and thunderstorms for now, but the National Hurricane Center said a disturbance this morning off the coast of Africa could be the next tropical system of the season.

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As of 8 a.m., forecasters are giving the cluster of unsettled weather – dubbed 98 L – a 30 percent chance of development over the next five days, and while this is low, it follows a report last week that said an increase in named-storms is expected this year.

If the storm earns a name, it would be Fiona.

2016 tropical cyclone names
2016 tropical cyclone names

Meteorologists at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center believe 2016 will be the busiest season since 2012.

But that’s not to say the embryonic disturbance a few hundred miles south-southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands is going to kick off that streak.

Read: Why it’s Cabo Verde now, not Cape Verde. 

 

 

While some gradual development is expected over the next few days, conditions are then expected to become less favorable by the end of the week as it moves west-northwest at about 15 mph.

A thick layer of Saharan dust sits just above the system being tracked by the National Hurricane Center
A thick layer of Saharan dust sits just above the system being tracked by the National Hurricane Center

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