UPDATE 2:10 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center has increased the chances that a tropical system will form in the Gulf of Mexico to 70 percent.
Forecasters said a tropical depression could form late this weekend or early next week. If the area of low pressure becomes a tropical storm, it would be named Michael.
Even if a tropical cyclone doesn’t form, tropical moisture will move north and northeastward in the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Hurricane Center is giving a group of showers and thunderstorms in the western Caribbean a 60 percent chance of development over five days.
Forecasters said showers and thunderstorms associated with an area of low pressure near Cabo Gracias a Dios on the eastern border of Honduras and Nicaragua became more concentrated this morning.
A tropical depression could form by late this weekend or early next week as it drifts slowly northwestward.
If it were to become a tropical storm, it would be named Michael.
According to Weather Underground’s Cat 6 blog, a similar system became Tropical Depression 16 at this time last year and would later become Hurricane Nate, which made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 1 storm on Oct. 7.
“Nate brought torrential rains and devastating flooding to Costa Rica, causing $562 million in damage (1% of their $57 billion GDP) – their most expensive tropical cyclone in history,” Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters in the blog. “Nate also did $225 million in damage in the U.S. The name Nate was retired after the 2017 season because of its impact on Central America, where 46 people died.”
Maps showing tracks of TCs fm position east of Honduras/Nicaragua (close to where trop distbnce is now) for September (left) and October (right). Can see the climatological shift toward right in the steering currents. From screen at CSC hurricane website https://t.co/CG6N95IxxUpic.twitter.com/lY5M0nvY5z
The South Florida Water Management District said the system should be in the Gulf of Mexico by Monday, and regardless of its track, an increase of rains for South Florida, “some potentially significant”, could begin early in the week.
National Weather Service forecasters also predict an area of low pressure will develop along the trailing track of Tropical Storm Leslie and start moving west. The counterclockwise flow around that system will pull deep tropical moisture around it as it approaches Florida mid week.
Forecasters said it’s too early to “speak definitively on widespread rains or flooding threats.”
“Regardless, it still looks like a wet and stormy pattern through at least mid week, and it will be something that will be watched closely over the coming days,” meteorologists wrote in their morning forecast.
The tropics are nothing if not tenacious this September, with a tropical wave trying to become the next named storm under a plume of dry Saharan air.
National Hurricane Center forecasters are giving the area of disturbed weather only a 20 percent of tropical development over the next five days, with nearly no chance of development in the next 48 hours.
But by September, SAL outbreaks overspread the Caribbean only 10 to 15 percent of the time.
“It’s just that they’re a bit smaller than their June to August cousins and they especially don’t tend to reach as far west,” Dunion said.
Forecasters said Monday that tropical development was unlikely over the next 10 days.
While hurricane season lasts through Nov. 30, the tropical waves that produce Cape Verde storms tend to diminish by late September, said Bob Henson, a meteorologist for Weather Underground, part of IBM.
“We’ve come past the normal peak and it was an especially sharp peak this year because everything kind of aligned,” Henson said. “It was just a constellation of ingredients that came together and if the formula changes just a little bit, the numbers can drop pretty sharply.”
This year, three hurricanes — Florence, Helene and Isaac — and two tropical storms — Gordon and Joyce — formed between Sept. 1 and Sept. 12.
Weather reporters covering Hurricane Florence no doubt dealt with hammering wind, driving rain, and charging storm surge.
But some people are criticizing what they feel are overly-dramatic reports from the storm.
In one clip, seasoned Weather Channel reporter Mike Seidel is bracing against Florence’s wind in Wilmington, N.C. when two people seemingly stride by behind him with little trouble in the gale.
The Weather Channel defended the experienced meteorologist.
“It’s important to note that the two individuals in the background are walking on concrete and Mike Seidel is trying to maintain his footing on wet grass, after reporting on-air until 1 a.m. this morning and is undoubtedly exhausted,” it said in a statement.
I find it sick and disturbing to use a natural disaster to boost ratings! I use to have mad respect for the weather channel but knowing what I know now going through it, I am truly disgusted by these actions. https://t.co/6tQj1YS0K3
The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang called out Hurricane Florence reporters in general who it thought were “manufacturing” action, “leaning into 30 mph winds like they are battling a Category 5.”
Deputy Weather Editor Angela Fritz said the drama is “driving me up the wall.”
“Really? There is no need for this,” she wrote in a column. “The wind is not the story here, and everyone knows it because they watched Florence drop in strength before it made landfall.”
Plus, Fritz said, if you are going to lean into the winds of a raging storm (turn your sound down) “do it right.”
In other social media posts, meteorologists were criticized for standing outside in the weather, while admonishing viewers not to do the same.
Ginger Zee, chief meteorologist at ABC News, responded saying she always puts safety first.
Florida Climatologist David Zierden also chimed in, asking if being outside during a storm is any less safe than a football game.
I am a degreed meteorologist and weather nerd. I go outside to watch thunderstorms, outside and windows instead of a safe room for severe weather. I want to see the weather as it happens as a viewer. Is this any less safe than an NFL football game? @Ginger_Zeehttps://t.co/8XA4dsvebT
Hurricane season runs June 1 through Nov. 30 and has so far challenged forecasts calling for a below normal season.
Through today, there have been 10 named storms, 53.5 named storm days, five hurricanes, 16 hurricane days and an accumulated cyclone energy, or ACE, of 81.4. ACE is a way to measure the strength and duration of storms.
But AccuWeather forecasters aren’t giving up on Isaac making a comeback in the Gulf of Mexico later this week.
“AccuWeather meteorologists are not suggesting that Isaac will turn into another Harvey, which fell apart entering the western Caribbean then rapidly regained strength while moving across the Gulf of Mexico,” forecasters wrote,
The key, according to AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski, will be in how much wind shear Isaac encounters and whether it can avoid interaction with the Yucatan Peninsula.
Nearly 25 percent of South Florida residents surveyed about hurricane preparations in the year after Irma said they would not evacuate if a Category 3 or 4 storm was headed their way even if it was forecast to hit within 10 miles of their home.
According to a survey released Monday – the year anniversary of Hurricane Irma’s Florida landfall – by the FAIR Foundation, and Get Ready Florida! about 18 percent of Floridians statewide said they would not evacuate in the face of a Cat 3 or 4 storm.
South Florida includes Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
The survey polled 1,000 Florida residents between Aug. 23 and Sept. 2 as part of the National Hurricane Survival Initiative.
“You’d think that after Irma caused so much damage and cost so many lives in Florida last year, more people would understand what’s at stake,” said former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, in a press release announcing the survey. “Floridians really have to take these risks seriously and be prepared for the worst because it can come at any time.”
While no one argues people in zones ordered to evacuate by emergency managers should do so, there has been discussion in the year following Irma about whether too many people fled the storm that didn’t need to.
It’s estimated as many as 3 million people who evacuated were not in evacuation zones.
And these so-called “shadow evacuees” may be encouraged to ride out the next storm at home in an effort to minimize traffic, extend gas supplies and increase available hotel rooms.
“I think it’s fair to suggest the people stay put if they can because they are taking gas and hotel rooms from people who are leaving to save their lives,” said Palm Beach County Emergency Manager Bill Johnson in an April Palm Beach Post story about over evacuations.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered in Palm Beach County for about 153,000 people. Another 138,000 people live in areas that were under voluntary evacuation. About 17,000 people stayed in Palm Beach County shelters.
With the exception of mobile homes, evacuations in Florida are based on storm surge, not wind. That means people should evacuate tens of miles inland, not hundreds of miles north, Johnson said.
“We ask people to stay in the county,” Johnson said. “We need to break down the myths that you need to evacuate to Arkansas to be safe.”
Other findings of the survey included:
A majority of Floridians who evacuated during Hurricane Irma said the process cost them more than $300. Of these, 40% said the evacuation cost them $500 or more, while an additional 20% said the cost was between $300 and $500.
For the most part, Floridians are more prepared to meet the needs of their pets in a storm than they are the humans in their home.
The portion of Floridians who mistakenly believe it’s safe to run a generator somewhere in the home has increased over the past nine months.
More than one-third of Floridians who live less than 2 miles from the coast don’t have flood insurance.
More than half don’t know what their homeowners or renters insurance covers in a hurricane, with many incorrectly believing insurance covers things like replacing spoiled food, removing debris from the yard, and buying a generator.
Torrential rain from Hurricane Irma washed more than 450 metric tons of phosphorus into Lake Okeechobee last September, contributing to a phosphorous dump that ended the year 10 times higher than the established goal.
In the weather year of May 2017 through April, 1,046 metric tons of phosphorous was washed into Lake Okeechobee with the highest amounts coming in September and October following Hurricane Irma’s Sept. 10 landfall.
The target goal for phosphorous into Lake Okeechobee is 105 metric tons per year.
Drew Bartlett, deputy secretary of ecosystem restoration for the Florida DEP, presented the numbers at a South Florida Water Management meeting this morning.
He said 90 percent of the loading comes from runoff north of Lake Okeechobee, including agriculture and urban development as far north as Orlando.
“We have a long way to go,” Bartlett said about meeting the goal of 105 metric tons per year. “That’s hard, but I’m not going to say impossible. If I start saying impossible, than I start encouraging people to give up and I’m not looking to do that.”
Phosphorus contributes to blue-green algae blooms, which have occurred on Lake Okeechobee this summer and plagued the northern estuaries where excess lake water is discharged.
During the 2017 weather year – May 2016 to April 2017 – the estimated phosphorus in Lake Okeechobee was 369 metric tons, which is about 80 metric tons lower than it was when the goal of 105 was adopted in 2001.
“We’ve had the goal for almost 20 years and we’re not really coming close,” said Newton Cook, a member of the water district’s Water Resources Analysis Coalition. “There is no answer to this question as long as we have Orlando and Disneyworld and Traditions.”
Bartlett said there have been 166 projects completed to reduce phosphorus in the lake with an additional 54 underway.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Confidence that 2018 will experience a below normal hurricane season increased substantially this week as global forces align to temper tropical activity.
An updated forecast released Thursday by the federal Climate Prediction Center is now calling for a 60 percent chance of a less active storm season, a hefty jump from a May forecast that predicted only a 25 percent probability of below normal activity.
Gerry Bell, the center’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, said the growing likelihood that a storm-thwarting El Nino will form in the fall combined with tropical Atlantic water temperatures that are the coldest since the 1990s were key factors in making the new prediction.
The forecast comes as Florida enters the peak of hurricane season between mid-August through October when 95 percent of hurricanes form. Already four named storms – Alberto, Beryl, Chris and Debby – have spun up this season. Beryl and Chris both mustered hurricane strength.
As of Thursday afternoon, Tropical Storm Debby was still churning harmlessly in the northern Atlantic.
And hurricane experts warned Thursday there will be more storms.
“It’s not dead,” said Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist with the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Storms can pop up quickly and we do expect more storms.”
The hyperactive 2017 storm season produced 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes.
Bell said when the May forecast was released the chances an El Nino would form were only 45 percent.
An update this week puts the odds of an El Nino forming in the fall at 65 percent and up to 70 percent of a winter El Nino that could last into 2019. Bell compared this season to 2015, which had 11 named storms and 4 hurricanes.
“Please remember the hurricane seasonal outlooks are a general guide and do not predict landfalling storms,” Bell said. “Whether or not a storm strikes land is determined by the weather patterns in place when the storm approaches and those are generally not predictable until five to seven days in advance.”
Earth was put on an El Niño watch in June, but it’s not officially declared present until ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific are more than 1 degree above normal and are expected to maintain that temperature for six months.
After that, it can take 30 to 60 days for the atmosphere to respond.
The onset of El Niño occurs in tandem with the relaxation of the trade winds — those Earth-skimming easterlies that have guided sailing ships across the world’s oceans for centuries.
With the trade winds reduced, warm water that has piled up in the western Pacific Ocean and around Indonesia rushes back toward the east. That movement of warm water shifts rainfall patterns and the formation of deep tropical thunderstorms. The exploding storms whose cloud tops can touch the jet stream disrupt upper air patterns so winds come more out of the west.
The west winds create shear in the Atlantic, which can be deadly to budding hurricanes.
“The main message should be that no matter what this or any other prediction says that people must treat this like the peak of hurricane season and be prepared,” Goldenberg said. “Remember, 1992 was overall a very slow year.”
Category 5 Hurricane Andrew – the first named storm of the 1992 season – devastated areas of South Florida when made landfall Aug. 24.
At least 20 research groups, private companies and universities churn out annual hurricane forecasts, including the University of Arizona, The Weather Co. and Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center.
An El Niño watch issued Thursday 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.
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.”
Climate Prediction Center forecasters are giving El Niño a 50 percent chance of arriving in the fall, with a 65 percent chance of appearing during the winter. Hurricane seasonal predictions are largely dependent on El Niño because of its wide-scale influence in the tropics.
NOAA’s May 24 hurricane forecast for this season called for between 10 and 16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and up to four major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
The Army Corps is “undermining” Florida’s plans for an ecosystem-saving reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee with doubts about the restorative benefits of sending water to the central Everglades, according to state water managers.
The $1.4 billion reservoir, slated for state-owned land in western Palm Beach County, was approved by state lawmakers last year. It is expected to serve two key purposes — protect northern estuaries from harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges that can seed algae blooms and allow more water to follow its historic flow south.
Last week the assistant secretary of the army for civil works said the reservoir is “feasible from an engineering and construction viewpoint.”
But an 86-page review of the plan raises several “technical, policy, and legal concerns” and questions why flows of water diverted from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries are important to fixing the Everglades.
“The opinion that such water is ‘essential’ to Everglades restoration because that water is ‘critically important to the health of the Everglades’ is conclusory,” the review states. “It does not provide a technical basis by which to judge the reasonableness for adopting such a conclusion.”
In a sternly worded June 1 letter, South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Ernie Marks and Governing Board Chairman Federico Fernandez said the Army Corps has “laid the foundation for delay and avoidance of federal cost share.”
Reservoir costs are to be split between the state and federal government.
“The uncertainty that the headquarters staff included within the report related to cost sharing and water to the Everglades is backtracking on prior commitments,” said Eva Velez, the district’s director of Everglades policy. “We are in sync with the assistant secretary of the army and we have heard the folks in the estuaries who need relief, and then there are career folks in headquarters that are undermining that progress.”
Despite the Corps’ questions about the reservoir, the project was referred to the Office of Management and Budget for review and is widely supported by Florida lawmakers, including U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and U.S. Representatives Brian Mast, Carlos Curbelo and Francis Rooney.
“We have made our message very clear: we will not continue to let discharges destroy our backyards,” said U.S. Rep Mast (R-Palm City). “Congress has made its intentions clear, and I will not tolerate any more bureaucratic delays.”
Gov. Rick Scott spoke with White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday regarding the importance of the reservoir and repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike.
“Congress has failed to solve these problems for decades, and the Governor has fought to advance these important priorities and deliver results for these communities,” said Scott’s Communications Director John Tupps.
The dispute is timely.
On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers began releasing water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River to lower the lake level and make room for wet season rains or deluges from tropical systems. Releases were already occurring in the Caloosahatchee. If the lake gets too high, it can erode the Herbert Hoover Dike, which protects Glades-area communities from flooding.
The Corps prefers to keep the lake between 12.5 feet and 15.5 feet above sea level. As of Tuesday, it was 14.2 feet above sea level.
But the freshwater discharges reduce the salinity level in the estuaries, harming seagrasses and oysters.
The lake water also contributes to the growth of cyanobacteria — a blue-green algae that can explode to damaging proportions in fresh water high in phosphorous and nitrogen.
A scum of algae has been spotted on the lake in recent days, and Treasure Coast residents fear a repeat of 2016 when thick mats of stinking algae fouled their waterways following lake discharges.
“Because of what we all experienced in 2016, we are very sensitive,” said Jacquie Thurlow-Lippisch, former Mayor of Sewall’s Point. “We are concerned for our businesses, our real estate, and it’s a health issue for people who live on the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee.”
Oceanographer Rick Stumpf, is monitoring the algae bloom on Lake Okeechobee via satellite as part of his work with a special Harmful Algae Blooms office in NOAA’s National Ocean Service.
“What there is now for a bloom is really small. It’s small enough that a satellite image would not be interesting, which is a good thing,” Stumpf said. “It’s not at all extensive, and for at least the last several days, there is nothing of consequence near the releases.”
The planned project south of Lake Okeechobee includes the 10,500-acre above ground reservoir, which can accommodate a water depth of up to 22.6 feet, and a 6,500-acre storm water treatment area.