Hurricane Michael strengthens, forecast to become ‘dangerous’ major hurricane

UPDATE 5 p.m.: Hurricane Michael strengthened to 80 mph this afternoon as it moves north at 9 mph toward Florida’s Panhandle.

It is forecast to be a Category 3 hurricane with 115 mph winds near landfall on Wednesday.

A hurricane warning is now in place for the Gulf Coast of Florida from the Alabama / Florida border east to the Suwanee River. A hurricane watch has been issued from the Alabama / Florida border west to the Mississippi / Alabama border.

Since 1851, Florida has had 36 hurricanes make October landfalls, including 10 major hurricanes. That’s five times higher than runner-up Louisiana, which has experienced seven October hurricane hits, including three major hurricanes, according to National Hurricane Center records.

The most recent major October hurricane to hit Florida was 2005’s Wilma.

“This has been different from a lot of the storms we’ve seen since I’ve been governor,” said Gov. Rick Scott. “It’s fast, this is coming very fast. It could speed up. It could slow down. We don’t know. And we don’t know exactly where it’s going to hit yet.”

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The National Hurricane Center has upgraded Michael to a hurricane.

As of the 11 a.m. advisory, Michael had 75 mph winds and is now expected to reach Category 3 strength within 48 hours.

“Michael is forecast to be a dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the  northeastern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, and life-threatening storm surge is possible along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast regardless of the storm’s exact track or intensity,” the NHC wrote in its key messages.

Florida State University is closing beginning Tuesday and will resume normal business operations on Monday.

“This one is big,” said Tessa Whitaker, who was working this morning at Harry’s Bar and Package in the small coastal town of Carabelle. “I live 4 to 5 blocks from the water, so I’m scared.”

Michael is unusual because it formed from a disturbance from the Central American monsoon, rather than a tropical wave, said Jeff Masters, Weather Underground cofounder and a meteorologist at The Weather Company, an IBM Business.

“We saw a couple of these form last year and they were just big ugly messes that had trouble getting organized,” Masters ssaid. “But Michael managed to break away and took advantage of very warm ocean temperatures.”

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The National Weather Service is warning that minor flooding is possible in southeast Florida today as seasonal king tides coincide with Michael’s growing presence in the Gulf of Mexico.

South winds pulled through South Florida by the burgeoning tropical cyclone will also bring in moist tropical air, causing increasing rain and squally weather. There is up to a 10 percent chance that Palm Beach County could feel tropical storm-force winds tomorrow as Michael moves deeper into the Gulf.

High tides today are around 8:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. Tuesday’s high tides are about 9:30 a.m. and 9:45 p.m.

HURRICANE CENTRAL: Storm 2018 hurricane tracking, supply lists

Tropical Storm Michael is nearing hurricane strength this morning with winds at 70 mph as of the 8 a.m. advisory. It is about 120 miles east-northeast of Cozumel and moving north at 7 mph.

Hurricane watches have been issued for areas of the Florida Panhandle from the Alabama border to the Suwanee River.

A storm surge watch has been issued from Navarre to Anna Maria Island.

The system, is forecast to reach 110 mph in the two-day forecast window, which is just 1 mph shy of a Category 3, major hurricane.

This is considerably higher than what was forecast at this time yesterday, a detail noted in this morning’s discussion from the National Hurricane Center.

“An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft made several passes through the system during the past few hours, and somewhat surprisingly, found that the central pressure has fallen to about 983 mb and the maximum winds have increased to near 60 knots (69 mph),” wrote NHC hurricane specialist Robbie Berg. “This increase in intensity indicates that despite the shear, which has been affecting Michael, the system has, by definition, rapidly intensified during the past 24 hours.”

Rapid intensification is defined as an increase in wind speeds of 34 mph or more over a 24-hour period.

On Sunday, Michael’s cloud tops were as cold as -112 degrees.

“Cloud tops this cold can only occur if the updrafts pushing them are very vigorous,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters in his Cat 6 blog.

Michael is forecast to make landfall in the Panhandle on Wednesday as a strong Category 2 hurricane.

The most recent October landfalling hurricane in the Florida Panhandle was Hurricane Opal – a Category 3 storm in 1995.

In 2005, Hurricane Ivan made landfall near Gulf Shores, Ala., on Sept. 16, doing severe damage to Pensacola. In 2005, Hurricane Dennis made landfall near Pensacola as a Category 3 hurricane.

University of Georgia’s Atmospheric Sciences Program Director J. Marshall Shepherd said he’s concerned the Panhandle isn’t prepared for a major hurricane.

“If Hurricane Michael becomes a major hurricane, there is the real threat of ‘major hurricane amnesia,'” Shepherd wrote in Forbes this morning. “If you have not experienced something in nearly 13 years, do you remember what it is like or how to prepare? And with the rapid growth of the coastal communities around Destin and Panama City, there are certainly new residents that have not experienced a major hurricane at all.”

Five hurricanes of Cat 2 strength or stronger have affected areas within 200 nautical miles of Tallahassee since 1877. Opal is highlighted in white.

But October storms are not unusual.

Since 1851, Florida has had 36 hurricanes make October landfalls, including 10 major hurricanes, which is considered a Category 3 or higher. That’s five times higher than runner-up Louisiana, which has experienced seven October hurricane hits, including three majorhurricanes.

Florida’s October hurricane numbers are nearly as high as the peak month of September, when Florida has experienced 39 October hurricane landfalls, 19 of which were Cat 3 or higher, according to Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach.

Gov. Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency for 26 counties ahead of Michael.

Up to 11 feet of storm surge is possible from Indian Pass to Crystal River. Up to 7 feet is possible from the Okaloosa / Walton county line to Indian Pass.

Michael’s formation continues to keep the 2018 hurricane season above normal for named storms with 13, compared to the average for this time of year, which is 10. There have also been 6 hurricanes, when there are normally 5, and the accumulated cyclone energy is at 96.9 when it’s normally at 87.7, according to Colorado State University.

The reason for Florida’s vulnerability deep into October is largely a function of seasonal shifts in wind patterns and sea-surface temperatures.

In early summer, most storms form in the Caribbean Sea as the atmosphere starts its summer wind up and the mid-level African Easterly Jet is just beginning to spin up waves that will begin rolling off the continent in August and September.

Those tropical waves, which become the big Cape Verde hurricanes, travel the Atlantic east to west and have more options for routing, heading into the Gulf of Mexico, smacking the East Coast or wandering harmlessly off into the northern Atlantic.

But by October, mid-latitude wintertime air starts to seep into the tropical Atlantic, increasing the westerly wind shear to muzzle African tropical waves that also find cooler sea surface temperatures.

Instead, storms find room to grow in the deeply warm waters of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Once in the Gulf, early wintertime troughs of low pressure digging down through the U.S. can pick storms up and fling them at Florida.

For Palm Beach County, Michael will ensure that the rainy season goes out with a bang.

The dry season begins Oct. 15, but it will be wet and stormy through this week with rain chances as high as 60 percent through Friday.

Rain totals through Saturday could be as high as 2 inches, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

 

UPDATE: Tropical Storm Michael aims for Gulf; Florida prepares for Category 2 hurricane on Panhandle

UPDATE: Tropical Storm Michael aims for Gulf; Florida prepares for Category 2 hurricane on Panhandle

11 p.m. UPDATE: Florida Gov. Rick Scott today warned that Tropical Storm Michael, which appears to be headed for the Florida Panhandle, could become a Category 2 hurricane with winds up to 100 miles per hour by the time it makes landfall at midweek.

Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties in the Panhandle and Big Bend area. The declaration will free up resources for storm preparation.

“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” Scott said after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center.

The governor warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm’s direct path.

STORM 2018: CHECK THE INTERACTIVE TRACKING MAP

“If this storm hit Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge,” said Scott, referring to two Florida cities about 375 miles apart by highway. “Every family must be prepared.”

Continue reading “UPDATE: Tropical Storm Michael aims for Gulf; Florida prepares for Category 2 hurricane on Panhandle”

Tropical Storm Kirk marching across Atlantic toward possible collision with islands by end of next week

Tropical Storm Kirk

11 p.m. UPDATE: Kirk is about 425 miles south-southwest of the southernmost Cabo Verde Islands and moving west-northwest about around 16 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center advisory. Top sustained winds were still 40 mph.

STORM 2018: CHECK THE INTERACTIVE TRACKING MAP

A faster westward motion across the deep tropical Atlantic Ocean is expected Sunday through Tuesday. Some strengthening is forecast through Sunday night, with little change in intensity expected on Monday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile, poorly organized Tropical Depression 11 is creeping northwestward about 440 miles east of the Windward Islands with sustained winds of 30 mph.

The depression is forecast to dissipate on Sunday or early Monday.

5pm UPDATE: (Eliot Kleinberg)

Tropical Storm Kirk, which formed overnight, continued Saturday to cross the Atlantic Ocean, steering toward a possible collision with the islands of the eastern Caribbean by the end of next week, according to a 5 p.m. National Hurricane Center advisory.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, Kirk was about 430 miles south of the Cabo Verde Islands and was moving west-northwest at 15 mph, up slightly from its earlier 14 mph pace. Top sustained winds were 40 mph.

” A faster westward motion across the deep tropical Atlantic Ocean is expected Sunday through Tuesday,” the advisory said.

ORIGINAL POST: (Eliot Kleinberg)

Tropical Storm Kirk has formed out in the eastern Atlantic, and is expected to move quickly across the ocean and possibly threaten islands as early as Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said Saturday in an 11 a.m. advisory.

At 11 a.m., Kirk was far south of the Cabo Verde Islands. Top winds were 40 mph, just 1 mph over the minimum to be a tropical storm. It was moving west near 14 mph and was expected to speed up from Sunday through Tuesday.

“Some strengthening is forecast through Sunday, with little change in intensity forecast on Monday and Tuesday,” the advisory said.

The next advisory was set for 5 p.m. Saturday.

JUST IN: Florence drops to 120-mph storm as it charges toward the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence, Sept. 12, 2018 with 125-mph winds.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: Hurricane Florence’s wind speeds took another hit this afternoon, dropping to a 120-mph storm.

FULL COVERAGE: Latest Hurricane Florence stories

But that’s still a Category 3 major hurricane heading toward the Carolinas at 16 mph.

There have been no changes to watches and warnings as of the 5 p.m. advisory.

National Hurricane Center forecasters cautioned against paying too much attention to a drop in wind speeds as the storm has expanded in size “resulting in an increase in the cyclone’s total energy, which will create a significant storm surge event.”

Storm surge greater than 9-feet is possible up the Neuse and Pamlico rivers.

Hurricane force-winds extend 70 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical storm-force winds now reach out 195 miles.

While forecasters said Florence still has a window of about 24 hours for strengthening, they do not expect any significant increases in intensity.

The official forecast now puts Florence as a 115-mph, Category 3 hurricane as it nears the coast Friday and Saturday.

UPDATE 2 p.m.:  Hurricane Florence dipped to a 125-mph, Category 3 storm this afternoon, but the wind field has increased.

NHC forecasters caution that Florence could undergo fluctuations in speed, and is still expected to reach the coast as a powerful hurricane Friday or Saturday.

As of 2 p.m., Florence was 435 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C. moving northwest at 16 mph.

CHECK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map

Experts aren’t ruling out another burst of energy before Florence reaches the coast, but the official forecast now calls for a 100-mph Category 2 hurricane near landfall.

“A jump in strength to a Category 5 hurricane is possible Wednesday night to Thursday, before some weakening may take place prior to landfall to end the week,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

Depending on where Florence stalls, or if it stalls, the rain could reach record amounts. The NHC said 20 to 40 inches could be possible in some coastal areas.

“Conditions will go downhill in a hurry Thursday night as the center of Florence approaches the coast,” National Weather Service meteorologists in Wilmington, N.C. wrote in their Wednesday forecast. “The very dry antecedent conditions we’ve had over the past six weeks won’t buy us much reprieve from flooding given the exceptional rainfall amounts expected along the coast north of Myrtle Beach.”

Here’s a map with record rainfall by state.

Rainfall forecast through Monday.

 

A state of emergency has been declared in four states — South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, as well as Washington, D.C. — to help people prepare for the hurricane.

“There’s never been a storm like Florence. It was located farther north in the Atlantic than any other storm to ever hit the Carolinas, so what we’re forecasting is unprecedented,” AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss said.

Florence isn’t the only area the National Hurricane Center is watching.

A tropical depression could form in the southwest Gulf of Mexico tomorrow, while a strong area of low pressure 600 miles west-southwest of the Azores appears to be rapidly strengthening into a subtropical or tropical storm, according to the NHC.

The next names on the 2018 list are Joyce and Kirk.

If Joyce and Kirk form up while the other three storms are still spinning, it would be the first time on record the Atlantic had five named storms simultaneously, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

UPDATE 11 a.m.: Hurricane Florence has maintained its Category 4 wind speeds of 130 mph as it moves northwest at about 15 mph.

As of the most recent advisory, the storm was 485 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C. with a possible landfall Friday night or Saturday morning.

The storm could strengthen some as it moves over 85-degree waters and the official forecast has it reaching 145 mph over the next day.

But, it is expected to weaken slightly near landfall to a 120 mph – still a major Category 3 hurricane.

Florence is forecast to slow down as it nears the coast, which and recent model tracks have it drifting southward.

Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher with the University of Miami, said that track could deliver a “destructive storm surge to hundreds of miles of coastline, as well as feet of rainfall at the coast and inland.”

Previous story: Hurricane Florence, a dangerous major hurricane, has shifted its track near landfall to the south with a deeper reach into South Carolina and Georgia.

The National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane and storm surge warnings from the South Santee River in South Carolina to Duck, N.C.  But it has discontinued a hurricane watch for the area north of Duck to the Virginia border, changing that to a tropical storm warning.

This change follows the new track guidance which was made as an area of high pressure forms over the east-central U.S., which will block Florence from moving north.

CHECK The Palm Beach Post’s radar for weather conditions

“The message is clear, take this seriously, it is a life threatening situation,” said Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center. “We are all talking about the speed slowing down, this system is not moving very fast and the longer it stays the more it could push the rainfall totals.”

As of 8 a.m., Florence was 530 miles southeast of Cape Fear, N.C. with 130 mph winds. It is moving west-northwest at 17 mph.

Florence is still predicted to increase in intensity to 145 mph over the next day, but a shot of wind shear and the storm pulling cooler water to the surface as it meanders, could reduce wind speeds to 120 mph as it nears the coast.

That’s still a major Category 3 hurricane with “life threatening storm surge and catastrophic flash flooding.”

The Weather Prediction Center is forecasting up to 20 inches of rain along the North Carolina coast through Wednesday.

Florence’s hurricane force-winds extend outward up to 70 miles from its center, with tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 175 miles.

Storm surge, which is responsible for about 49 percent of deaths directly attributable to Atlantic tropical cyclones, may be higher than 9 feet above ground in portions of North Carolina.

Storm surge watches and warnings are in effect from the Virginia-North Carolina border south to Edisto Beach in South Carolina.

A storm surge watch means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the coastline in the  next tw days. A warning reduced that to 36 hours.

Hurricane Florence, Sept. 12, 2018

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UPDATE: Category 4 Florence lumbers toward Carolina coast, evacuations urged

UPDATE 6:30 a.m.: Life-threatening freshwater flooding is likely from heavy rainfall, which may extend inland over the Carolinas and Mid Atlantic. Large swells affecting Bermuda and portions of the U.S. East Coast will continue this week, which may cause life-threatening surf and rip currents.


Hurricane Florence

UPDATE 11 p.m.: Hurricane Florence is taking aim at the U.S. East Coast with Category 4 winds, spurring North Carolina’s governor to urge coastal residents to evacuate. At 11 p.m., the storm’s winds remained at 140 mph but some strengthening is expected, according to the National Hurricane Center.

RELATED: Where South Florida stands as three hurricanes roar in active Atlantic

On the current forecast track, the hurricane center predicts, the center of Florence will move over the southwestern Atlantic between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday, then approach the coast of North Carolina or South Carolina on Thursday.

Hurricane Florence

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper is urging residents to evacuate the state’s coastal areas as Florence moves closer to landfall.

Continue reading “UPDATE: Category 4 Florence lumbers toward Carolina coast, evacuations urged”

UPDATE: Gordon’s top winds rise as it moves northwest

 

 

Update 9 p.m.: Tropical Storm Gordon is steaming toward the Gulf Coast with top winds increasing to 60 mph, leaving Palm Beach County to deal with lingering rain and dangerous rip currents into Tuesday.

“The direct impact from Gordon is more or less all over for Palm Beach County,” said Arlena Moses, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
“The main concern over the next day is rip currents. The risk remains high through Tuesday.”

The currents pose a danger to swimmers and small craft. The chance of rain remains at about 50 percent for most of Palm Beach County on Tuesday.

As the storm moves southwest of Tampa at 17 mph, the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama face a hurricane warning.

UPDATE 5 p.m.: Tropical Storm Gordon continues to speed northwest at 17 mph with 50 mph sustained winds.

With Gordon expected to intensify over the Gulf of Mexico, a hurricane warning has been posted for the Alabama and Mississippi coasts, an increase from a hurricane watch issued earlier today.

Gordon is expected to be a hurricane when it makes landfall along the central Gulf Coast, National Hurricane Center forecasters said in their 5 p.m. advisory.

 

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UPDATE 2 p.m.: The center of Tropical Storm Gordon is about 15 miles west-southwest of Marco Island with 50 mph winds.

The storm, which is moving at a swift 16 mph, is expected to strengthen in the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Tuesday or Wednesday. Although the official National Hurricane Center forecast keeps Gordon a strong tropical storm, forecasters said there is a chance it could reach Category 1 strength before hitting the coast.

A hurricane watch is in effect for the areas west of the Florida-Alabama border to the mouth of the Pearl river.

UPDATE 11 a.m.: Hurricane watches have been issued for areas of the Alabama and Mississippi coastlines as Tropical Storm Gordon continues to organize as it moves closer to warm Gulf of Mexico waters.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said it is possible that Gordon could peak as a Category 1 hurricane just before landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for Miami-Dade, Monroe and Collier counties.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map here.

UPDATE 10:51 a.m.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for areas from Greenacres through Jupiter as a strong thunderstorm threatens torrential rains and wind gusts up to 45 mph.

UPDATE 10:11 a.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a significant weather advisory for Palm Beach County as gusty showers move through areas including Boca Raton.

The advisory is in effect until 10:45 a.m.

“The main threat continues to be the flooding potential as more rain is expected through the afternoon and early evening hours,” NWS Miami meteorologists said in their morning forecast.

Previous story: Tropical Storm Gordon is moving quickly, expected to pass through southeast Florida by this afternoon, but tropical storm warnings are in effect for areas of Miami-Dade, Collier and Monroe counties as heavy rain continues.

Gordon, the seventh named storm of the season, was expected to form once it reached the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, but spun up a little before the forecast predicted.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map here.

Palm Beach County is under a significant weather advisory until 10 a.m. with National Weather Service meteorologists warning of strong thunderstorms east of Lantana bringing wind gusts of up to 55 mph and the possibility of funnel clouds. The storm is moving at 35 mph to the northwest.

A wind gust of 56 mph was recorded at Florida International University in Miami at 8:54 a.m.

Sustained winds this morning at Palm Beach International Airport have been running about 9 to 20 mph, with a 21 mph gust recorded before 2 a.m. Miami International Airport reported gusts of up to 35 mph before 9 a.m.

As of 9 a.m., Gordon was 60 miles southwest of Miami moving west-northwest at about 17 mph with sustained winds of 45 mph. An Air Force hurricane hunter is headed into Gordon this morning.

Gordon is still expected to remain a tropical storm, with winds topping out at 60 mph in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tropical Storm warnings are also in effect for the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Rainfall estimates for the 24 hours preceding 8 a.m. show the heaviest showers hitting Miami-Dade County, according to the South Florida Water Management District. But those numbers will increase as the gauges update this morning.

Rain estimates in the 24 hours preceding 8 a.m.

The Weather Prediction Center is forecasting rain totals as high as 5 inches through Wednesday morning in South Florida.

 

A year ago today, Hurricane Irma was a Category 3 storm about 885 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Florida would be in the cone by Sept. 4 and Irma hit South Florida seven days later as a Cat 4 hurricane.

See the top 15 Hurricane Irma moments here. 

September is the peak of hurricane season, and the National Hurricane Center is also watching Tropical Storm Florence, which is about 895 miles west-northwest of the Cabo Verde Islands with 60 mph winds. The official 5-day forecast for Florence tops it out at 65 mph.

But the track forecast is a little uncertain. Hurricane center experts still expect it to move northwest before it comes anywhere near Florida as it travels around the western edge of an area of high pressure.

“The main source of uncertainty in the track forecast is exactly when and to what extent Florence will make this turn,” NHC hurricane specialist David Zelinsky in his forecast.

Top 15 Hurricane Irma moments

Hurricane Irma made seven landfalls, including four as a Cat 5.

A year ago Aug. 27, a tropical wave that would become Hurricane Irma left the west coast of Africa.

It was clear it meant business from the very beginning. Even as a wave, it was producing a widespread area of deep thunderstorms that quickly concentrated into a closed circulation.

By Aug. 30, the system was a tropical depression. Just 30 hours later, Irma was a hurricane.

BOOKMARK The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking map here.

Category 5 Hurricane Irma begins to impact the northern Leeward Islands with 185 mph winds on Sept. 5, 2027

“Irma continued to strengthen, and it reached major hurricane status by Sept. 1, only two days after genesis,” National Hurricane Center meteorologists wrote in their postmortem of the monster cyclone. “This 70-knot increase in intensity over a 48-hour period is a remarkable rate that is only achieved by a small fraction of Atlantic tropical cyclones (about 1 in 30).”

Another notable storm stat – Irma maintained Category 5 strength for a stunning 60 consecutive hours.

RELATED: Think you survived a Cat 4 in Hurricane Irma? Not even close

On its 13-day journey, Irma made seven landfalls, four of which were at Cat 5 power. It hit Florida twice on Sept. 10, first at Cudjoe Key as a 134-mph Cat 4, before skipping up to Marco Island where it landed as a 115-mph Cat 3.

The following are some key dates and milestones for 2017’s Hurricane Irma:

  • Aug. 27: A tropical wave that would become Irma leaves the west coast of Africa.
  • Aug. 31: Hurricane Irma forms.
  • Sept. 1: Hurricane Irma reaches Category 3 strength with 115 mph winds.
  • Sept. 4: Hurricane Irma reaches Category 4 strength with 132 mph winds.
  • Sept. 5: Hurricane Irma reaches Category 5 strength with 178 mph winds.
  • Sept. 6: Landfall on Barbuda as Cat 5. (178 mph)
  • Sept. 6: Landfall on St. Martin as Cat 5. (178 mph)
  • Sept. 6: Landfall on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands as a Cat 5. (178 mph)
  • Sept. 8: Landfall on Little Inagua, Bahamas as Cat 4 (155 mph).
  • Sept. 9: Landfall near Cayo Romano, Cuba as a Cat 5 (167 mph).
  • Sept. 10: Landfall on Cudjoe Key, Fla., as Cat 4 (132 mph). It’s the first major hurricane to hit Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
  • Sept. 10: Landfall near Marco Island, Fla., as Cat 3 (115 mph).
  • Sept. 11: Irma passed between Tampa and Orlando as a Cat 1 storm with tropical-storm-force-winds that extended 360 nautical  miles from center.
  • Sept. 11: Irma weakens to a tropical storm 20 nautical miles west of Gainesville.
  • Sept. 11: Center of Irma moved over southern Georgia just west of Valdosta with 52 mph winds, and becomes a remnant low a day later.

Irma didn’t break records in terms of maximum strength, but it’s in second place for how long it sustained Category 5 strength,” said John Cangialosi, a hurricane specialist with the NHC in Miami who co-authored the Irma postmortem. “Most hurricanes will oscillate more, and while they can get to this intensity, they don’t hold it very long.”

The 1932 Cuba Hurricane, or Santa Cruz del Sur hurricanen holds the top spot for maintaining Cat 5 status at 72 consecutive hours.

Hurricane Irma was slowed down to a low-end Category 4 hurricane by its rub against Cuba before a Sept. 10 landfall in Florida.

The strongest wind speed recorded in the Florida Keys from Hurricane Irma was a 120-mph gust on Big Pine Key. A gust of 129 mph was recorded near Marco Island, while a gauge at the Naples Pier registered a 141-mph gust.

While many official National Weather Service gauges failed during the storm, Palm Beach International Airport’s remained operational, recording a 91-mph gust at about 7 p.m. Sept. 10.

The strongest sustained wind speed measured in Palm Beach County was 70-mph at a Weather Flow station in Jupiter. That’s 4 miles below a Cat 1.

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NHC watching what would become Hurricane Irma.

Another heartbreaking video of a dead manatee, but it’s not what some people think

Another jarring video of a dead manatee on Florida’s west coast has surfaced on social media as red tide and blue-green algae continue to plague the area.

The disturbing images, taken near the Cape Coral Yacht Club, show a female manatee tied to a dock with a smaller manatee clinging to it. In some videos, other manatees can be seen hanging out nearby.

But this is not a baby manatee desperately trying to stay with its dead mother.

RELATED: What killed this baby manatee? Manatee mortality highest since 2013

As unpleasant as it may be, the smaller manatee is trying to mate with the dead one, which is tethered to the dock so that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission can pick it up to perform a necropsy.

FWC veterinarian Martina deWit confirmed this morning that the video was of a mating attempt.

“It is not uncommon for male manatees to do this, as the female still has an attractive scent to them, even after she has passed away,” deWit said.

Just because it’s not a baby and a mother, doesn’t mean it’s not a terrible sight to see a dead manatee.

Wildlife on the west coast is suffering with fish kills in the thousands, a dead whale shark on Sanibel and dead manatees.

This year, 484 manatees have died in Florida through July 20.

That’s the highest number for this time of year since 2013 when 694 manatees died through mid-July. By the end of 2013, more than 800 manatees were dead, topping the previous record of 766 set in 2010 during a lengthy cold snap.

Just eight of the deaths were in Palm Beach County, with half related to boats or other human interactions. By far the highest number if manatee deaths were in Lee County where 109 died, 52 of which were ruled natural. Red tide-related deaths are categorized as natural.

RELATED: Quick fix for Lake O algae woes uses land now roamed by cows

Of the deaths this year, 29 were red tide-related with another 51 suspected to be from red tide.

“The worst we’ve had so far for red tide was 2013,” de Wit said. “Right now, the numbers are above baseline, and what is unusual, is it’s lasted through the summer.”

Screenshot from video taken in Cape Coral on Tuesday of deceased manatee tied to a dock so Florida Fish and Wildlife could pick it up for a necropsy.

BREAKING: Scientists feared Lake O’s algae bloom would do this

The most recent satellite image of Lake Okeechobee’s blue-green algae bloom shows it grew over the weekend after falling to 30 percent coverage earlier this month.

A Sunday image shows about 40 percent of the lake infected with the cyanobacteria. That’s about 220 square miles.

Sachi Mishra, a satellite oceanographer with NOAA, said the increase could be because of calm winds helping the algae accumulate nearer the surface where they are easier for the satellite to see.

Mishra said despite the 10 percent increase in coverage, she generally thinks the bloom is receding. It covered 90 percent of the lake on July 2.

Read more here about a heated exchange in Washington, D.C. over the algae issue in South Florida that occurred last week. 

Extent of cyanobacteria on Lake Okeechobee as seen July 29, 2018 by infrared satellite images from the Sentinel-3a operated by the EU Meterological Satellite Office.

 

BREAKING: Hurricane center identifies possible tropical disturbance, low chance of formation

The National Hurricane Center says an area of low pressure is likely to form along the coast of North Carolina on Wednesday, with conditions that could support tropical formation thereafter.

There is a 10 percent chance of something tropical forming over the next 48 hours and a 20 percent chance over the next five days.

RELATED: Will a hurricane be named after you this season? 

According to forecasters, the area of low pressure could form along a stationary front near the coast and then move east or northeast away from the U.S.

If the system becomes a tropical storm, it would be named Beryl.

While early hurricane predictions called for a slightly above average hurricane season, that’s been called into question with the possible emergence of El Niño in the fall.

An El Niño watch issued last week put the world on alert that the capricious climate pattern with a global sway on weather is likely to make an appearance this fall or winter.

For Florida, the periodic warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean can mean a less active hurricane season with fewer powerhouse Cat 5 tropical cyclones. But it also leans toward stormier days during the darkest part of the year when the Sunshine State typically enjoys its dry season.

Everything you need to know about the hurricane season is on The Palm Beach Post’s Storm 2018 page. 

Scientists said this week not to count either scenario as certain, but the evidence of an awakening El Niño was enough for the Climate Prediction Center to trigger the watch.

“The issue for the hurricanes is does El Niño develop in time and with sufficient strength to suppress the later part of the season,” said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Conditions are evolving more toward an El Niño right now, but there is sill a long way to go.”

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