Video: vultures a sign of fall, but also eat car parts and known to puke

Surfing lazily on thermal air currents rising from the steamy earth, the graceful yet gruesome vulture is a sure sign that fall has arrived in the Sunshine State.

They are the original snowbirds – here before seasonal residents flocked to condos dug into South Florida’s shores.

And while the vultures typically arrive closer to Halloween than Christmas, one national wildlife researcher said the flight schedule of this year’s flock was a little delayed.

Read the full Palm Beach Post story on Florida’s vultures here. 

“Some of our birds have just arrived in the last couple of weeks,” said Michael Avery, project leader for the National Wildlife Research Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Gainesville. “We have some that we previously tagged in Key West that are still making their way down.”

Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Thursday morning, December 10, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Thursday morning, December 10, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Avery said it’s not clear yet what may have delayed the seasonal southern sojourn, but it’s possible record warm temperatures nationwide this autumn contributed to the rescheduling.

Temperature readings released this week by the National Centers for Environmental Information revealed that from September through November, temperatures nationwide were above average to record warm. Areas around the Great Lakes, where Avery said many of the birds he tracks spend their summers, experienced their hottest autumn in years.

Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Wednesday morning, December 9, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Turkey vultures roost and soar near the Southern Boulevard drawbridge on Wednesday morning, December 9, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Michigan’s average temperature was 51.6 degrees September through November, nearly 5 degrees above the 20th century average for that time period and the second warmest on records dating back 121 years. Minnesota’s average temperature of 49.5 degrees was 6.3 degrees higher than average.

Florida too is experiencing record warmth, with 2015 expected to go down as the hottest on record.

But maybe it’s not such a bad thing if the vultures’ visits are shortened, because once they get here, they can be quite a nuisance.

While a vital component in clearing carrion, black vultures also are predators, attacking and eating small animals, including newborn cattle, piglets and goats.

They also, for reasons unknown, have an affinity for rubbery materials and are known to pull windshield washer blades off cars, eat the rubber around windows, destroy outdoor furniture and pull the rubber splines from pool enclosures.

“They are a very important component of a healthy ecosystem, but vultures are one of those birds that do create a lot of hassles,” Avery said.

In a 2005 federal report on the management of damage by vultures in Florida, the scavenger bird topped the list of troublemaking fowl with 680 requests for assistance from wildlife services between 1993 and 2003. That’s more than six times higher than the second-ranked nuisance bird — the duck.

The report estimated that vultures caused $1.4 million in damage in the same period — everything from chewing up vehicles to leaving excessive fecal droppings.

Forecasters alert to dense fog in Palm Beach County

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement this morning warning of dense fog for all of Palm Beach County.

Visibility is less than a half mile in coastal and western Palm Beach County.

Drivers should use low beam headlights and slow down while driving through the fog early this morning.

The statement is in effect through 7 a.m. but fog could linger until shortly after sunrise.

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Light fog on State Road 7 extension north of Okeechobee Boulevard Tuesday morning, April 2, 2013. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Weather observations at Palm Beach International Airport reflect the fog started to form just before 5 a.m. as northwest winds stilled to 3 mph and the air temperature and dew point temperature met at 66 degrees.

The relative humidity shot to 100 percent and cloud heights plummeted from 3,000 feet to near ground level. Without strong winds or the sun’s dispersing rays, the low fog will linger.

The National Weather Service sends out a special weather statement, like the one this  morning, when visibility is reduced to one-half mile. If visibility dips to one-fourth mile, a fog advisory is issued.

Dense fog is rare in Florida. Between 2000 and 2011, NOAA’s storm events database recorded just 35 days during which dense fog was present statewide. But those incidences can be lethal.

The database lists five deaths and 17 injuries directly attributable to dense fog, while Palm Beach Post archives list multiple car accidents in which fog was involved.

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Dense fog obscures islands in the Intracoastal this morning. Photo by Eddie Ritz

In March 2007, Boynton Beach resident Anita Zoet died after her car plowed into an 18-wheeler on Florida’s Turnpike in heavy fog. Four others were also killed in the accident that included a 12-vehicle pileup.

A year earlier, two people were killed and 20 injured in western Palm Beach County when smoke combined with fog to reduce visibility on State Road 80 and U.S. 27.

Meteogram at PBIA shows where dew point temperature and air temperature meet, helping to initiate fog.
Meteogram at PBIA shows where dew point temperature and air temperature meet, helping to initiate fog.
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning starts to break up shortly after sunrise, but still obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz

Will South Florida see the sun this week?

South Florida will see the sun again this week after cloudy to partly cloudy skies have blanketed the area since at least Dec. 1.

By Friday, rain chances are expected to be down to 10 percent, and skies are forecast to be mostly sunny, according to the National Weather Service.

Saturday’s forecast is “sunny.”

“It will be a nice change,” said David Ross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “I’m sure it will be welcome.”

According to a weather station at the Palm Beach International Airport, every day this month has been either partly cloudy or cloudy. In technical terms, “partly cloudy” is a day when more than half of the sky is cloudless.

By Saturday the stubborn front that has brought so much rain is pushed south of Cuba.
By Saturday the stubborn front that has brought so much rain is pushed south of Cuba.

“Cloudy” is when 7/8 or more of the sky is covered by clouds.

The stubborn front stalled in the Florida Straits has been responsible for most of the clouds and rain.

Since Dec. 1, 5 inches of rain has fallen at Palm Beach International Airport. That’s 3 to 4 inches above normal for the first week of December.

A high pressure system is expected to push through later this week that will get rid of that soggy front to our south.

“By Saturday and Sunday, we’ll have the best couple of days we’ve had in several weekends,” said Arlena Moses, a NWS meteorologist in Miami. “If you look to Central and North Florida, they don’t have a cloud in the sky.”

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10 safest Florida cities from hurricanes, where West Palm Beach falls

There’s really no where 100 percent safe in Florida from hurricanes.

Even Orlando got hit twice in 2004 by hurricanes Charley and Frances.

>>Hurricane Irma: Get the latest news and information on the storm

And although Florida enjoyed a more than 10-year hurricane drought after 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Big Bend area in September 2016. And the east coast experienced a scary swipe from Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

>>Hurricane Irma: Follow the latest headlines

Still, HomeInsurance.com has ranked Florida’s cities based on their evaluation of NOAA-identified storms from 1965 to October 2014, doling out scores based on the number of storm events, number of storm-related deaths, property damage and storm-related injuries.

This satellite image provided by NOAA and taken at 3:15 p.m. EDT Thursday Oct. 20, 2005 shows Hurricane Wilma as it approaches the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. Wilma, a Category 4 storm with winds of 150 mph, churned toward the Yucatan peninsula and south Florida after its outer bands hit Haiti and Jamaica.
This satellite image provided by NOAA and taken at 3:15 p.m. EDT Thursday Oct. 20, 2005 shows Hurricane Wilma as it approaches the Mexican Yucatan peninsula.

>>Hurricane Irma coverage: Follow The Palm Beach Post’s certified weather reporter, Kim Miller on Twitter

West Palm Beach ranks 15th on the list, falling behind Miami, which took the 14th place. Stuart ranked 11.

The top 10, beginning with the safest, are:

  1. Leesburg
  2. Orlando
  3. Sanford
  4. Kissimmee
  5. Palatka
  6. Lake City
  7. Naples
  8. Ocala
  9. Gainesville
  10. Fernandina Beach

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

The entire ranking is below.

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