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.

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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.

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

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

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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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Dangerous beach conditions for Palm Beach County

The National Weather Service has issued a coastal hazard message for high rip currents along Palm Beach County’s coast through Wednesday morning.

Northeast winds of up to 23 mph are expected with higher gusts as an area of high pressure sits across the eastern U.S. and a developing low pressure system continues to track up the eastern seaboard.

A small craft advisory is also in effect for the Atlantic waters for waves of between five and nine feet with the highest seas in the Gulf Stream. The low pressure system is creating a northerly swell of two to four feet.

Water vapor image of low off Outer Banks helping to create rip currents for Palm Beach County.
Water vapor image of low off Outer Banks helping to create rip currents for Palm Beach County.

 

Huge temperature leap as South Florida weather shifts rapidly

A low pressure system in the Florida Straits resulted in a quick shift in weather patterns this morning, jumping temperatures by 15 degrees in just two hours.

At 3:53 a.m., Palm Beach International Airport recorded 55 degrees, beating yesterday’s low of 57 degrees.

But in just two hours that was up to 70 degrees as warm air blowing in off the Atlantic replaced northerly winds that followed Sunday’s cool front.

PBIA meteogram shows jump in temperatures in 2-hour period.
PBIA meteogram shows jump in temperatures in 2-hour period.

Forecasters were expecting temperatures today to climb to just 71 degrees, but now the official forecast has West Palm Beach at 74 degrees today with a 30 percent chance of rain.

The National weather service is warning of hazardous beach and marine conditions for South Florida as winds gust to nearly 30 mph.

Seas are expected to build to 7 feet today, with Gulf Stream waters reaching 12 feet.

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A high risk of rip currents is expected through at least Wednesday evening. A small craft advisory is also in effect through 10 a.m. Wednesday.

A small craft advisory means that wind gusts of up to 35 mph are expected to produce hazardous wave conditions to small craft. Inexperienced mariners, especially those operating smaller vessels should avoid navigating in these conditions.