“As the front moves out late Wednesday into Thursday, drier air will push back over the region,” NWS forecasters wrote in a morning discussion. “Not only will temperatures remain closer to seasonal averages (i.e. cooler than February, not summer-like) but clearing skies will also make for some postcard South Florida dry season days.”
Winds will switch out of the west behind the front, but remain calm at up to 11 mph Wednesday, reducing to 10 mph Thursday.
That doesn’t mean marine and beach threats will abate.
Waves at the beach are forecast to be in the 10-foot range today, and remain up to 8 feet on Wednesday and Thursday. A high risk of rip currents is in effect through Friday.
On Monday, lifeguards from Lake Worth to Jupiter were warning people not to go in the water, and to be careful even on the beach. In Lake Worth, lifeguards strung yellow caution tape blocking entrances during high tide for fear people would get washed away by the big surf.
“We just want to make sure no one does anything foolish,” said Mathew Botts, chief of Lake Worth Ocean Rescue. “We don’t want people getting swept out to sea because they were taking a selfie and a wave gets them.”
The cuts, outlined in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget, are part of an effort to streamline the 148-year-old agency and end the costly, yet venerated, practice of operating all weather forecasting offices 24-hours-a-day, year-round.
Of 355 weather service positions that would be lost nationwide through attrition, 248 are meteorologists making local forecasts, issuing severe weather alerts and launching twice-daily weather balloons to gather critical data from a layered atmosphere.
Florida has six of the nation’s 122 weather forecasting offices in Key West, Miami, Melbourne, Jacksonville, Tampa and Tallahassee.
Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, expects one or more of Florida’s offices to be open fewer hours and with less employees — a move he said puts lives at risk in a state with multiple weather torments.
“We are very close to our breaking point right now and if you cut hundreds more positions, we can’t do it,” said Sobien, a former meteorologist in Tampa’s NWS office. “The mission of the National Weather Service is to save lives. This budget would jeopardize that.”
A weather prediction marvel when launched six years ago, it will soon relinquish its guardianship duties to a whippersnapper with similar, but supercharged, instruments meant to sharpen seven-day forecasts and save lives when Mother Nature hurls her worst.
The enhanced Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, is the first in a new series of polar orbiting planetary monitors.
Scheduled for liftoff Nov. 14, the $1.6 billion spacecraft can peer through clouds, see colors in thousands of different spectral bands, and get data to scientists twice per orbit — double the capability of the old Suomi.
Also, unlike the revolutionary GOES-16 weather satellite launched last year to stand motionless sentry 22,000 miles above Earth and with a focus on North America, the JPSS-1 will cut lawn mower-like swaths around the globe just 500 miles from its surface.
“Weather doesn’t know borders,” said Joseph Pica, director of the National Weather Service’s Office of Observations. “The humidity and rainfall on the coast of China today could be over the Pacific Northwest in several days.”
Polar orbiters have circled the Earth for decades. The Suomi launch in 2011 marked a huge advancement in technologies, but it was only a test, helping scientists better understand how to use the equipment onboard and how the new data affected weather models.
A hefty amount — 85 percent — of the data that goes into global weather models comes from polar orbiters. And whereas GOES-16 looks deeply at what is happening now in the atmosphere or just upstream, the polar orbiter is key to medium-range forecasts with instruments that measure slices of the atmosphere similar to the information gathered by the daily weather balloon launches made at the nation’s 120 weather forecasting offices.
The JPSS-1, which will circle the globe 14 times per day, will also monitor sea-surface temperatures, ocean color, sea ice cover, volcanic ash spread and wildfires.
“Having the ability to look through the atmosphere vertically is important,” said Dan Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist at the Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather. “It gives us a lot of information about how Earth is working.”
Pica said the Suomi satellite’s ability to look at longer-term weather patterns was key in forecasting the track and intensity of Hurricane Irma, which made landfall near Cudjoe Key on Sept. 10 as a Category 4 storm.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency a full five days ahead of Irma’s landfall, with President Donald Trump approving emergency declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands a day later.
Six million Floridians evacuated ahead of the storm, a massive undertaking Pica said was possible because of the early forecasts.
“We’re really proud of what happened with Irma because of all the time and notice everyone got,” Pica said. “The track and intensity forecasts are largely based on polar orbiters.”
There have been misses also. In September 2015, when Suomi was operational, Tropical Storm Erika triggered a state of emergency as Florida found itself in a five-day forecast track that also called for Erika to strengthen to a hurricane. Instead, Erika fizzled over Hispaniola.
“The JPSS-1 brings new technology that will be able to significantly improve the confidence we can provide in the forecast,” Pica said.
The five key instruments on the JPSS-1 include an ozone mapper, infrared imager, an infrared sounder, which measures temperature and moisture content in the atmosphere, a microwave sounder to measure radiation, and a radiometer to collect information on snow, clouds, fog, fire, smoke and dust.
The Melbourne-based Harris Corp. built the Cross-track Infrared Sounder, which slices up the atmosphere to measure temperature and moisture at different elevations.
Harris Chief Solutions Engineer Ron Glumb said a similar instrument is on the Suomi.
“The one flying now is very good already, the one on JPSS will be even better,” Glumb said.
The JPSS-1 and Suomi will work in tandem until JPSS-1 is operational and takes over as the nation’s primary polar weather satellite.
The JPSS-1 is scheduled for launch Tuesday from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. Live coverage of the launch will begin at 4:15 a.m. NASA-TV will cover the launch live at www.nasa.gov/ntv.
Update, 11 p.m.: Irma remains a Category 3 hurricane with top sustained winds of 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
In its 11 p.m. advisory, forecasters said the storm was moving west at 14 mph and hurricane-force winds extended out about 25 miles from the center. The official forecast path was nudged northward slightly, but the overall reasoning hadn’t changed.
Update 5 p.m.: Irma has restrengthened to a powerful Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm is heading west at 13 mph and is asking people in the Leeward Islands to begin monitoring the system.
Irma is forecast to be a Category 4 hurricane with 130-mph winds as it approaches the Leeward Islands on Tuesday.
Irma’s wind speeds could fluctuate over the next several days as it moves into an area of warmer water, but with higher wind shear that will work against it strengthening.
The official forecast shows no increase in intensity, but forecasters noted this could be “conservative.”
Dan Kottlowski, a hurricane expert with the Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather, said it’s too early to know if the U.S. coastline will be affected by Irma. A clearer picture should emerge Monday or Tuesday.
“It may be a fish storm, but there is no way to tell right now,” Kottlowski said, referring to the nickname given tropical cyclones that head out to sea with no impact to land. “People don’t need to panic and I don’t think it’s worth them worrying about it over Labor Day weekend.”
Still, Palm Beach County emergency managers urged that regardless of Irma’s ultimate destination, the long weekend is a good time to review hurricane plans and take inventory of supplies.
It’s recommended that people have a three-day supply of food and water. After watching rescues continue in Texas on Friday – nearly a week after Hurricane Harvey’s landfall – an additional few days of supplies can’t hurt, said Mary Blakeney, senior manager with the county’s Division of Emergency Management.
“We advertise three to five days for general preparedness, but it’s not a bad thing to have a seven-day supply,” Blakeney said. “We really need people over this holiday weekend to take some time to pay attention to the local media and just be vigilant so there’s no surprise.”
The hurricane center is also tracking a tropical wave over the eastern Atlantic that has a 60 percent chance of development over the next five days.
The wave is moving west at 15 mph and heading into warmer waters with lower winds shear. Forecasters said it could become a tropical depression early next week.
Update 11 a.m.: Hurricane Irma weakened somewhat this morning as it underwent an eyewall replacement cycle, but the compact storm is expected to restrengthen as it moves west-northwest at 13 mph.
The National Hurricane Center set the wind speed at 110 mph at its 11 a.m. advisory, which is a Category 2 storm. Irma is about 1,580 miles east of the Leeward Islands.
Irma is forecast to make a slight turn to the north-northwest on Tuesday, putting it at the doorstep of the Leeward Islands, but it’s path after that is still uncertain.
While the Bermuda High is still a major component in steering Irma, an upper-level low is forecast to drop south on the east side of that high and should be a key feature in how far south Irma goes before making a right turn, forecasters said.
The NHC now has Irma maxing out at the end of five days as a Category 3 storm with 125 mph winds, but it’s still possible it could intensify over the very warm waters of the Tropical Atlantic. The reduction in winds speeds was made because of an uptick in damaging wind shear in front of Irma.
“There is the potential for Irma to ramp up to an even more powerful hurricane this weekend,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.
Eyewallreplacement cycles happen when outer rain bands strengthen, move inward and draw moisture from the inner eyewall. The cycle can temporarily weaken the cyclones.
Forecasters noted that this could happen several times with Irma and that the process is nearly impossible to predict.
Irma will take about a week to make its trek westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Meteorologists will likely be tracking this storm through the middle of September, according to AccuWeather.
“All interests in the eastern Caribbean will need to monitor the progress of this evolving and dangerous hurricane,” Kottlowski said.
Previous story: Major Hurricane Irma, which maintained Category 3 strength this morning with 115 mph winds, continued its trek west-southwest, but its long-term destination remains unclear.
The National Hurricane Center, which is also watching a new disturbance off the coast of Africa, said Irma is traveling south of the Bermuda High which should cause it to turn on a more west-northwest track on Tuesday, putting it closer to the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico.
But, forecasters stressed the models differ on where Irma will go and that it’s too early to say what, if any, impact it will have on the U.S. coast.
As of the 8 a.m. advisory, the hurricane center was giving a tropical wave over the far eastern Atlantic Ocean a 50 percent chance of tropical development. Forecasters said the system could become a tropical depression next week as it moves west at 15 mph over warm waters with low wind shear.
Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters notes that Irma’s arrival is about three weeks ahead of schedule for the normal fourth-named hurricane of the season.
“Irma appears destined to become a dangerous long-track major hurricane that could potentially impact the islands of the Caribbean as well as the mainland U.S. next week and the following week,” Masters wrote in his Category 6 blog.
With sea-surface temperatures at more than 1 degree above normal in the tropical Atlantic and light wind shear, the hurricane center has Irma reaching Cat 4 strength with 140 mph winds. Some forecasters even put it at a Cat 5.
“Irma is more than a week away from any possible U.S. impacts,” Masters said. “Bear in mind that, on average, long-range hurricane forecasts beyond 7 days have very little skill when it comes to specific locations and intensities, and much could change in the coming days.”
Update 8 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center’s latest tropical outlook says the low-pressure area just west of the Cabo Verde Islands continues to become better organized. Any significant increase in the associated thunderstorm activity could result in the formation of a tropical depression within the next day or two, it said.
There’s a 90 percent chance of development in the next 48 hours as the low moves generally west-northwestward at 15 to 20 mph over the tropical Atlantic. The next tropical outlook will be issued at 2 a.m.
A second system west of the Cabo Verde Islands is forecast to become a tropical depression or tropical storm over the next two days. The hurricane center is giving it an 80 percent chance of development during the next 48 hours.
The disturbance, designated 93L, has a 90 percent chance of development over the next five days. If it gains tropical storm status, it would be named Irma.
Update 2 p.m.: A tropical wave in the eastern Atlantic has become better defined today and was given an 80 percent chance of development over the next 48 hours. A 90 percent chance of development was given over a five-day period.
The National Hurricane Center said in its 2 p.m. update the disturbance is just west of the Cabo Verde Islands and that any significant development would bump it to a tropical depression.
If it gains tropical storm status, it would be named Irma.
The system, dubbed Invest 93L, is moving west-northwest at 15 to 20 mph.
The red area in the above map indicates where the hurricane center expects a tropical depression or storm to form. It’s too early to say where the system will go if it forms, but it is moving into hospitable waters for strengthening.
Meanwhile, we need to keep tabs on #93L. Has potential to be a long-track hurricane moving across the Atlantic, possible U.S. impact. pic.twitter.com/kj10cMnePT
In the Carolinas, tropical storm-force winds are expected to hit coastal areas even though chances for a system to form into a tropical cyclone are waning.
The National Hurricane Center said as of the 8 a.m. forecast that the system is 15 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C. with 40 mph winds. It’s moving northeast at 15 mph.
Previous story: North Carolina will experience tropical storm-force winds today, although the system skimming the coast is not technically a tropical cyclone.
Although “potential tropical cyclone 10” has developed a center and is up to 40 mph wind speeds, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said in a 5 a.m. advisory that there is no identifiable banding.
“Given the poor organization of the disturbance and the strong wind shear envioronment that it is embedded within, the chances of this disturbance becoming a tropical cyclone have decreased to about a coin flip,” said forecasters, who gave it about a 50 percent chance of becoming Tropical Storm Irma.
Palm Beach County got a tiny taste of a tropical cyclone-driven deluge in August 2012 when Tropical Storm Isaac sputtered by with little wind damage, but dumped more than a foot of rain when a training band of moisture stalled over the county.
Some residents in western Palm Beach County were stranded for five days in flood waters that lapped at their front doors. Firefighters drove trucks through 4-feet of water to help get people to doctor’s appointments or to buy supplies. Some schools were closed for a week.
With a heat index of 105 degrees, most people would probably welcome the shade, but not today. All morning, discussion of the forecast was heard everywhere, and who was predicting what; Weather Channel versus the National Weather Service versus the astronomical forecast.
They have traveled from across the seas and down the street to the Salulki stadium. Carbondale is where the eclipse will have the longest totality in the nation, and people do not want to be disappointed.
With 10 minutes before totality, a fat sad cumulous cloud parked overhead, in front of the sun and refused to move.
People screamed, “Go away! Dear God, go away!”
And then a cheer erupted from outside the stadium where the cloud had parted enough to catch the last few seconds before totality. People stalked toward the clear piece of sky, and were rewarded with the last sliver of sun before another cloud interrupted.
The announcer called that totality had begun, but the sun was gone. It got dark out, so dark a star, I think it was Venus, appeared on the horizon.
And then, just when people seemed resigned that they would not see totality, the cloud moved ever so slightly and a brilliant white halo appeared around a black hole in the sky. It glowed like magic and people stared with their naked eyes for at least 30 seconds before the speaker announced totality was over and everyone put their glasses back on.
“We really wanted to be where people were getting into it,” said Ellen Gertzog, 66, who traveled from Rochester, N.Y. “The next one comes over Rochester, but at our age we are always aware that there may not be a next time so we wanted to take advantage of this.”
The 15,000-student Saluki stadium sold out for the event, and although people trickled in early, it was full by 12:40 p.m.
Those waiting in line were greeted by a paraded of Saluki cheerleaders, a troupe of Star Wars reenactors in full regalia, and the promise of a Michael Jackson medley.
Totality begins at 1:20 p.m. CDT.
“Knowing that there is a universe out there much bigger than us seems like enough of a show,” said Kathy Mills, of Batavia, Ill.
Internet service is spotty and emails are not going through for everyone. I’m headed outside to experience this. It’s halfway to totality, about.
» RELATED: How Palm Beach County watched the eclipse
The National Weather Service has issued a significant weather advisory for northeastern Palm Beach County as forecasters track a strong thunderstorm over Wellington.
The storm is moving northwest at 20 mph. Locations impacted could include West Palm Beach, Wellington, Palm Beach Gardens, Greenacres, Royal Palm Beach, Palm Springs, The Acreage and Loxahatchee Groves.
Concerns with this storm include wind gusts of up to 55 mph. The advisory is in effect until 3 p.m.
It’s important to make sure the glasses are ISO-compliant, meaning they meet specific safety standards for safe viewing.
Richard Tresch Fienberg, press officer for the American Astronomical Society, said the glasses are inexpensive if bought in bulk, but even on a smaller basis, they shouldn’t cost more than $1-$3 each.
Amazon has offers of 10 to 20 pairs for $8 to $19.
“Note that families and groups of friends can share glasses since all that you typically do with them is take an occasional glance at the sun as the partial eclipse slowly progresses,” he said. “It’s like watching grass grow!”