Supercells, tornadoes possible starting early Wednesday

National Weather Service forecasters are getting a bit more confident in the storm predictions for tomorrow and Thursday, saying while tornadoes are still a low risk factor, the atmosphere is primed for their development.

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According to the Miami weather service office, low level winds early Wednesday and into Wednesday night could help tornadoes to develop as a significant disturbance higher up in the atmosphere moves toward Florida preceding a cold front.

The so-called “shortwave trough” coming in from the Gulf of Mexico promotes upward movement of air, which in turn can produce thunderstorms as the air cools high in the atmosphere.

The Storm Prediction Center has South Florida under a marginal risk for storms with a 5 percent chance of severe storms occurring. Forecasters at the Norman, Okla.-based prediction center also said the thunderstorms may include a “couple of supercells.”

Supercells are thunderstorms with vigorous and persistent rotating updrafts.

Some strong winds may also be possible with wind gusts up to 60 mph Wednesday.

The raucous weather, however, needs two key ingredients to mix before it can form up. And one will trigger the other.

“There’s a good set up for something to happen,” said Brian Edwards, a meteorologist with AccuWeather. “But you need some juice or there won’t be as much instability.”

A stout low pressure system that was over the desert southwest on Monday is cruising on the subtropical jet stream east with an ETA in Florida on Wednesday. At the same time, warm, moist air from the Caribbean is creeping its way into the Peninsula through the Keys.

The forecast as of Monday put the two systems on a collision course. The large low pressure system pushing a cold front acts as the match to light up the smaller weather pattern, lifting air into the atmosphere where it cools and can become a thunderstorm.

“The warm moist air doesn’t necessarily mean anything will happen. We have to have something to get it going,” said Arlena Moses, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami.

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The cold front will bring temperatures to a low of 48 overnight Thursday and keep the high Friday to the mid 60s.

As much as 2 inches of rain could fall Wednesday and Thursday, raising the risk of urban flooding and adding to already above normal rain totals for the year.

According to the South Florida Water Management District, Palm Beach County has received 3.07 inches of rain in January, more than an inch above the historic norm. Broward and Miami-Dade counties are also above normal with an added 2.27 inches and 1.73 inches, respectively.

The extra wet weather _ December had about 4 more inches of rain than normal in Palm Beach County _ hasn’t helped farmers, who said crops have grown too quickly or are more susceptible to disease and rot.

Meteorologists warned last year that the strong El Nino would lead to a wet winter with cooler temperatures on average because of increased cloud cover.

“Widespread rain event unfolding for Wednesday and Thursday with a few strong storms possible,” is how National Weather Service meteorologists in Melbourne described what may be coming.

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The Melbourne office handled the EF-1 tornado that hit Hobe Sound early Jan. 17, but forecasters don’t expect that kind of turbulence Wednesday.

“It doesn’t appear to be as significant a threat,” said Scott Kelly, an NWS meteorologist in Melbourne. “However, there is a threat for some strong, possibly isolated severe storms.”

If rain moves in late Tuesday, temperatures may cool down enough that Wednesday just gets heavy rain and no thunderstorms. That’s what happened Friday when forecasters initially predicted 60 mph wind gusts along an advancing cold front. Friday’s highest gust at Palm Beach International Airport was 28 mph, although Saturday recorded a 47 mph gust as cold air rushed in behind the front.

“Some of our forecast models are trying to bring in rain as early as late Tuesday night and that’s a concern if you’re trying to get severe storms firing up,” Edwards said. “That may kill instability.”

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Florida ties January tornado average in single, deadly day

The 24-year average for the  number of January tornadoes in Florida is 3.

That was surpassed this month in a single day.

A car is damaged along Southeast Coconut Street in Hobe Sound after a powerful storm passed through. (Courtesy Martin County Sheriff's Office)
A car is damaged along Southeast Coconut Street in Hobe Sound after a powerful storm passed through. (Courtesy Martin County Sheriff’s Office)

On Sunday, three tornadoes thrashed through Florida, killing two people, destroying buildings and damaging homes and vehicles.

Tornadoes in Duette, a small town east of Bradenton, and Sarasota, were ranked as EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. A Hobe Sound tornado was ranked as an EF-1.

The weekend storms followed two previous tornadoes that punched through Fort Myers on Friday and Cape Coral on Jan. 9. The Cape Coral tornado was ranked as an EF-2 with 132 mph winds.

In total, five tornadoes have hit Florida since Jan. 1.

Storm Prediction Center
Storm Prediction Center

Meteorologists said one reason for the busy tornado month is El Nino.

“Stronger and longer track tornadoes are more frequent during El Nino,” said David Zierden, Florida’s state climatologist. “The frequency of EF-1 tornadoes or greater is more than twice as likely during a strong El Nino.”

An EF-1 tornado has winds of between 86 mph and 110 mph.

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Typically, June is the biggest month for tornadoes in Florida, averaging 10 between 1989 and 2013.

January and February are usually two of the quieter months, with just an average of 3 tornadoes each.

But Florida ranks 3rd nationally for the average number of tornadoes on an annual basis, falling behind top-ranked Texas and runner-up Kansas.

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Wind chill triggers hazardous weather statement for South Florida

The overnight low has so far dipped to 51 degrees in West Palm Beach this morning, the coldest nighttime temperature of the winter season.

But it’s the cold temperature, combined with the wind chill, that triggered a hazardous weather statement from the National Weather Service for this morning and tonight.

Wind chill temperatures early this morning are ranging from the mid to upper 30s west of Lake Okeechobee to around 40 in the Naples area. In West Palm Beach, the wind chill is mid to upper 40s, but south through Miami-Dade County and along the coast.

Tonight, wind chill temps are expected to be nearly the same as this morning, but a tad warmer along the coast.

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Weather advisory of funnel clouds issued for Palm Beach County

A significant weather advisory was issued this morning by the National Weather Service for the possibility of funnel clouds in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Forecasters are tracking widespread showers across the tri-county area with conditions favorable for funnel cloud development this morning.

The showers may produce brief gusty winds of near 45 mph.

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Photo courtesy William Domico of Boca Raton. Taken Tuesday, Nov. 10.
Photo courtesy William Domico of Boca Raton. Taken Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015.

Rare January system in Atlantic more organized, chances of development 50%

The National Hurricane Center upped the chances of a rare Atlantic system becoming a subtropical cyclone or tropical storm to 50 percent over the next 2 to 5 days.

If the system becomes a named-storm, it would be Alex.

In their afternoon update, hurricane forecasters said the cluster of thunderstorms about 1,100 miles southwest of the Azores has become a little more concentrated and organized near the center of a non-tropical low pressure system.

The low is producing winds to near 60 mph.

While this system is not expected to impact land, it’s rare in that it is forming in the dead of winter, six months before hurricane season officially begins.

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Just three storms since 1851 have formed in January. Only one of those, a 1938 storm, became a hurricane.

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GOES EAST satellite image taken at 1:15 p.m., Jan. 12, 2016, of rare January system in Atlantic.

Chances increase for Atlantic cyclone, hurricane-force winds detected

The strange little system in the Atlantic that seems not to know what season it is has a 40 percent chance of becoming something more over the next 5 days.

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National Hurricane Center forecasters noted yesterday that the low pressure system, which is 900 miles east of Bermuda, is producing maximum winds of hurricane force, although no specific speed was recorded.

The low could gradually acquire some subtropical or tropical characteristics over the next few days as it moves southeastward and then into the eastern subtropical Atlantic.

Forecasters warned that regardless of development, the storm is expected to produced hazardous marine conditions over portions of the central eastern Atlantic for the  next few days.

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Merry mosquito Christmas in South Florida, bloodsuckers abound

Palm Beach County is having to spray for mosquitoes in late December – an unprecedented event triggered by the wet and warm weather.

And not just December, spraying will likely occur on Christmas Day.

The little bloodsuckers are proliferating with the abnormally high rain totals and warm temperatures we’ve had this December. Complaints are flooding mosquito headquarters.

“We’ve had such a strange year with wind and weather,” said Gary Goode, environmental program manager with the Palm Beach County Mosquito Control Division. “We sprayed late last week, but we’re still seeing rain and water on the ground.”

South Florida Water Management District shows Palm Beach County receiving 6.2 inches of rain so far this month. That’s 4.15 inches above the normal for December.

Roland Farrington, with the Mosquito Control Division of Palm Beach County Dept. of Environmental Resources Management, checks a mosquito trap in a swampy area near the Intracoastal Waterway in Delray Beach Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The cooler contains dry ice to attract the mosquitos with carbon dioxide. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Roland Farrington, with the Mosquito Control Division of Palm Beach County Dept. of Environmental Resources Management, checks a mosquito trap in a swampy area near the Intracoastal Waterway in Delray Beach Wednesday, July 15, 2015.  (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Miami-Dade County is nearly 10 inches above normal, while Broward County is up 5.43 inches.

At the same time, temperatures are running nearly 10 degrees above normal. That promotes more activity among the mosquitoes. Overnight temperatures have hovered in the mid-70s when they are typically in the 50s this time of year.

“We need a hard frost to kill them all off,” Goode said about the mosquitoes. “But it it’s at least cooler, they’ll hunker down and stay in the bushes.”

2013 file photo by Lannis Waters
2013 file photo by Lannis Waters

Hampering efforts to get rid of the pests are windy conditions that mosquito patrol folks don’t normally deal with when they’re spraying in the summer months.

Last week, Goode had hoped to spray about 225,000 acres out west, but didn’t make it all the way through. On Tuesday, Goode tried to do more spraying, but then it started raining.

“We are at the mercy of the weather,” Goode said.

(Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post) Lantana--2012. Richard Howe pilots his UH-1 Huey helicopter at 100 miles per hour at 300 feet to spray mosquitoes in Palm Beach County.
(Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post) Lantana–2012. Richard Howe pilots his UH-1 Huey helicopter at 100 miles per hour at 300 feet to spray mosquitoes in Palm Beach County.

Windy weekend triggers rip current risk, gusts to 26 mph with cold front

The cold front expected tonight is bringing stronger winds for this weekend, triggering the National Weather Service to warn of a high risk of rip currents through Monday.

Winds should start ramping up after 1 p.m. with gusts up to 22 mph today and up to 26 mph Saturday.

The rip current statement is in effect until Monday morning.

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While the cold front is bringing drier air, it’s still expected to be a high of 76 tomorrow, which is near normal for this time of year.

South Florida temperatures have been running in the mid-80’s for about a week.

Also, the front seems to be slightly delayed. It’s not expected to hit Central Florida until this afternoon, and will then reach us tonight into Saturday morning.

“Temperatures will rebound fairly quickly Sunday into early next week as high pressure continues to shift eastward across the southeast U.S.,” NWS forecasters wrote this morning.

Map shows cold front approaching Central Florida, valid 7 a.m.
Map shows cold front approaching Central Florida, valid 7 a.m.

Epic December rain totals for South Florida

Just nine days into December and Palm Beach County is at least 3.65 inches over the historic norm as far as rainfall totals with 5.08 inches falling at the airport.

Miami-Dade County broke a record yesterday when it hit 9.24 inches of rain for the month, making December the second wettest since 1895.

And Broward County has seen 5.2 inches of rain since Dec. 1, more than 5 inches higher than the historic norm for this month, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

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The National Weather Service says Palm Beach County is just 3.35 inches away from making December one of the top 5 rainiest on records.

Florida State Climatologist David Zierden pointed to moisture from the tropical Pacific as connected to South Florida’s heavy rains.

And if El Nino is to blame, South Florida may be in for a wet and dreary (for the Sunshine State) winter.