Are the tropics waking up? Area near Bahamas piques interest

The official start of hurricane season is still a month away, but meteorologists are already watching something stirring near the Bahamas.

The National Hurricane Center has not identified the mass of showers and thunderstorms as anything to worry about and models are not pointing to a tropical system.

But hurricane experts with Weather Underground and Accuweather say the atmospheric set up, combined with water that’s about 2 degrees warmer than normal, has piqued their interest.

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

“If this were June, they would probably start tracking it, but the climatology is really against something forming this early,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters about the NHC. “This does have a chance of becoming a sub tropical depression or depression by Saturday. I give it a 10 percent chance.”

GOES-16 satellite imagery shows area of showers and thunderstorms near Bahamas.

For the past three years, tropical systems have formed before the June 1 start date.

Tropical Storm Arlene formed in April 2017. In 2016, Hurricane Alex formed in January, followed by Tropical Storm Bonnie spinning up in May. Tropical Storm Ana formed in May 2015.

Storms that form early in the year outside of the deep tropics are not a foreshadowing to a busier hurricane season.

In 2012, two tropical storms occurred in May — Alberto and Beryl. That turned out to be a busy year with 19 named storms and 10 hurricanes. But in 2015 Tropical Storm Ana formed in May, and there were just 11 named storms and four hurricanes.

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The first name on the 2018 tropical cyclone list is Alberto.

Accuweather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said he doesn’t see a trigger to spin up an Alberto this weekend, but said the weather pattern is something to pay attention to this time of year.

“Whenever you see an unusual feature like this this time of year, you take note because sea surface temperatures are warm enough,” Kottlowski said.

Masters said a reduction in upper-level wind shear as a low pressure system drops closer to Florida is one reason to watch systems like the one stirring now.

While the mass of storminess may  not become a tropical system, it could still play a role in weekend weather.

It is expected to move west and be over or near Florida on Saturday.

The National Weather Service is giving Saturday a 30 percent chance of showers with between a 40 and 50 percent chance on Sunday.

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How a new Florida law affects public beach access

A new law governing who can play on private beaches triggered a tidal wave of ire this year from groups fearful it will limit one of Florida’s most dearly held rights — public beach access.

Beginning July 1, local governments won’t be able to just pass a rule forcing private beach owners to allow surfers, sunbathers and shell seekers on their parcel of sand.

Instead, a municipality that wants to give people the ability to stroll through a private beach will have to seek a judge’s approval to enforce a rarely-used “customary use” law that refers to the general right of the public to use dry sand areas in Florida for recreation.

It’s a distinction that proponents argue is much ado about nothing – a tweak targeting an ongoing feud in the Panhandle’s Walton County between private beach owners angry about untoward activity by public beach goers on sand they own in front of their homes.

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“People jumped on this like the sky was falling and totally misrepresented it,” said Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill. “If a community wanted to stop someone from roping off their beach, they can stop them by going through the process in the law.”

Still, tourism and wildlife preservation groups, including the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council, are wary of the repercussions of the legal change, worried it will embolden private beach owners to restrict access and offend visitors.

“We are very much concerned,” said Glenn Jergensen, head of the Palm Beach County Tourist Development Council. “Beaches are what we are all about in Palm Beach County. We have 47 miles and it’s the number one activity people come here for.”

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state has 825 miles of sandy beach. Spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said DEP does not know how much of that is privately owned.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Palm Beach County owns 4.7 miles of beach frontage, while individual cities also have their own beaches, including 5 miles in Boca Raton, 1.3 miles of municipal beach in Delray Beach, 1,300 feet in Lake Worth, 960 feet in Boynton Beach and 750 feet in Lantana. The amount of privately-owned beach property in Palm Beach County was not immediately available through the property appraiser’s office.

Owners of private beaches are entitled to the sand on the landward side of the mean high tide line, while the public maintains access seaward of the mean high tide line.

In areas where public beaches are immediately adjacent to private beaches, it’s not uncommon for people to wander onto private property on walks, or even to set up beach chairs and coolers. On wide beaches the public use is typically not a problem, as it’s not occurring right up against the private owner’s home and there’s plenty of beach to go around.

Yellow rope marks off a rectangular section of the beach behind a building in Palm Beach, south of the Lake Worth Pier, Tuesday, May 1, 2018. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

But on beaches that aren’t regularly renourished or where there are many public access points with parking that offers an easy path to private beaches, it’s become a concern, Passidomo said.

“There have been some disputes as to where the property line is and it’s becoming more of a discussion in communities that are not renourishing and where there is very little sand between the ocean and the land,” Passidomo said. “The bill bears in mind that it is paramount that the public has access, but the local government needs to establish it through a process.”

The Florida Supreme Court has stated that the general public may continue to use the dry sand area of a beach for recreational activities if they have used the beach without interruption for many years.

Three counties have enacted customary use ordinances to maintain public access to private beach areas, including Walton, Volusia and St. Johns. Volusia and St. Johns had their ordinances grandfathered in, but Walton’s was abolished by the bill that becomes state law July 1.

Jay Liles, a policy consultant for the Florida Wildlife Federation, said the legal change puts more of a burden on local governments, and worries private beach owners may be encouraged to rope off their property or put up no trespassing signs because of the law.

“It’s not a step in the right direction as far as we’re concerned,” Liles said. “The only way I know to enforce private property is to put up a sign, and that’s just an off-putting signal to anyone visiting our beaches.”

Some Palm Beach County private beach owners said they have no intention of roping off their sand. Representatives from The Breakers Palm Beach and the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach said the law won’t affect their current beach operations.

Developer Jeff Greene, who owns Tideline Resort & Spa in Palm Beach, said he’d never rope off the beach because part of the appeal is people-watching and taking an oceanfront stroll.

“It gives it a certain energy when people are walking by the hotel,” Greene said. “People are walking to the Four Seasons or to Lake Worth Beach, people are playing in the water. It’s nice visually.”

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Potential for funnel clouds, significant weather advisory for Palm Beach County

The National Weather Service has issued a significant weather advisory for eastern Palm Beach County with gusty showers creating the potential for funnel clouds.

The advisory is in effect until 9:45 a.m.

Areas affected include West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Wellington, Palm Beach, Juno Beach, Ocean Ridge, Greenacres, Royal Palm Beach and Lantana.

Forecasters said gusty showers along a line from the Port of Palm Beach to Lake Worth were moving west at 20 mph.

VIDEO: Watch paddle boarder get slammed by surfing dolphin

We’ve heard of territorial surfers, but this is a new one.

A dolphin in Australia was not happy that a stand up paddle boarder was in the way of its wave.

It looks like the whole pod was enjoying the surf when the dolphin body-checked the offending surfer, knocking him off his board.

It was posted on multiple social media sites over the weekend, including on the We Are Surfers Facebook page.

According to Business Insider Australia, the incident occurred at Gracetown, Western Australia.

Here’s another funny one with a locals-only attitude.

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What NASA found in the Everglades after Hurricane Irma

Eco tour guide Elizabeth Jolin sees the story of Hurricane Irma all around her, still.

More than seven months after the storm tore into the Florida Keys, once hidden rookeries loud with chirps are naked of leaves, the birds and hatchlings exposed. Shadowy mangrove tunnels thick with foliage on one side, are stripped to sticks on the other. Tangles of roots hold tight to sandy bottoms, but green buds of life are sparse.

Before and after Hurricane Irma photos taken by NASA.

“I think it’s so confounding,” said Jolin, who owns the Islamorada-based Bay and Reef Company with her husband Xavier Figueredo. “It’s completely changed the habitat and I feel a little powerless because I don’t know what it means to the future.”

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NASA is hoping to answer that question with a study, undertaken by happenstance, about the damage wrought in the Everglades and its recovery.

The research is born out of original projects looking at peat collapse and saltwater intrusion that included lengthy flyovers of 500-square-miles of remote Everglades in March and April 2017.

When the team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, M.D., returned in December, the landscape was…READ the rest of the story on and find out how Irma compares to Wilma when it comes to Everglades damage. 

An April 2017 image taken by NASA in Florida’s Everglades.
The same area photographed above after Hurricane Irma in December 2017.

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Hail, waterspouts and more rain in 24 hours than all of March

Tuesday’s robust thunderstorms spun up waterspouts, dumped marble-size hail, and sent more rain to Palm Beach County in 24 hours than during all of March.

The storms preceded a late-season cool front that dragged drier air and sunshine into South Florida. Clear skies are expected into Friday when rain chances pick up to 30 percent.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

With the potent winter up north finally giving way to more spring-like weather, Tuesday’s cool front may be the last before the rainy season starts in May.

But it was a memorable one.

Four reports of hail in Martin County were recorded by the Storm Prediction Center, including ice chunks the size of quarters in Tequesta. The National Weather Service in Miami also said a trained weather spotter saw hail in Atlantis and Lantana. Video from Jupiter Inlet shows pea-sized hail bouncing off a balcony.

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“I’ve been living in this town 50 years and I’ve seen hail before, but I’ve never seen as much hail as I did yesterday,” said Tom Knapp, who lives just north of County Line Road in Tequesta. “You could have gotten a sled and slid down my front lawn there was so much hail.”

The following videos were taken by Knapp’s son, also named Tom, near the Jupiter Inlet. They show small hail and a palm tree that is smoking after being struck by lightning.

Lake Worth received the highest amount of rain at 3.16 inches, with Boynton Beach as runner up with 2.7 inches.

Most of coastal Palm Beach County got just 0.53 inches of rain in March, which was 3.03 inches less than what’s normal for the month, according to the South Florida Water Management District.

24-hour rain total ending 7 a.m. this morning. Source: South Florida Water Management District

Before Tuesday’s rain, coastal Palm Beach County was down nearly 4 inches since Jan. 1, with the 16 county region overseen by the South Florida Water Management District at an average 3.92-inch deficit.



The storms were particularly strong because they hit near peak warming of the day with a very cool upper atmosphere.

Thunderstorms produce hail if they have a particularly strong updraft that can suspend rain droplets in the freezing upper reaches of clouds. The size of the hail depends on the strength of the updraft – stronger updrafts can suspend frozen water droplets longer, allowing them to grow.

How much melt occurs as the hailstones fall to earth also impact size.

While hail is unusual in South Florida, it does happen.

Since 1976, there were 86 days in Palm Beach County where hail was reported.

Top 5 lightning strike myths and how to stay safe in a storm. 

What’s more rare is large hail. Since 1980, Palm Beach County has seen hail with a diameter of 1.75 inches (about golf-ball size) just 14 times, according to the National Weather Service’s Storm Events Database.

The most recent occurrence on record was on Feb. 24, 2010, when a trained weather service spotter recorded large hail west of Palm Beach International Airport during a thunderstorm that included 40 mph winds.

In late March 1996, hail damaged at least 100 vehicles at the airport and decimated a 60-acre cucumber field, according to the database.

Waterspouts were also spotted off Palm Beach County and in the Florida Keys from Tuesday’s storms.

South Florida’s rainy season typically begins in mid-May, so the really wet weather is still a few weeks away.

While Tuesday’s storms will help lessen drought conditions, they won’t be reflected in tomorrow’s report, which gathers data only through 8 a.m. the Tuesday before release.

This is the drought monitor map from April 19.

U.S. Drought Monitor report released April 19, 2018.


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Cold front may mean weekend washout for South Florida

Winter lobs another cool front toward Florida this weekend, promising an uptick in showers Saturday through Monday.

But this late in the season, forecasters aren’t expecting a drastic dip in temperatures. Daytime highs are predicted to hover near 80 degrees through at least Wednesday, with sultry overnights in the low 70s and high 60s.

The slow-moving low pressure system responsible for the front is plodding through the Gulf Coast states today and won’t be off the coast and into the Atlantic until Tuesday. That means there could be some cooler air behind it with north winds, but meteorologist James Thomas said it’s too early to be sure.

LIVE RADAR: Check The Palm Beach Post’s radar map.

A pedestrian shelters beneath a large umbrella as heavy rain falls in downtown Lake Worth Monday morning, January 8, 2018. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

“Cold fronts tend to modify this time of year and aren’t as potent as during the winter,” said Thomas, with the National Weather Service in Miami. “They just aren’t as potent.”

Saturday’s rain chances are 40 percent, but a bigger washout threatens Sunday with up to a 70 percent chance of rain.

Rain totals through Wednesday could tally as much as 2 inches in northern coastal Palm Beach County, with 1 to 1.75 inches in the south and west.

Rainfall totals through Wednesday.

While two hefty bouts of rain have hit South Florida this month, the U.S. Drought Monitor continues to show all of Palm Beach County in a moderate drought, with portions of Broward, Miami-Dade in severe drought.

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

Most of Palm Beach County has received about 60 percent of normal rainfall since Jan. 1. That leaves it at a 4.4-inch deficit through mid-April.

In the 16-county region overseen by the South Florida Water Management District, just 48 percent of normal rain amounts have fallen, leaving it with an average deficit of 4.3 inches.

U.S. Drought Monitor report released April 19, 2018.

Thomas said thunderstorms are possible Sunday, with showers that could linger through the day and into Monday, which has a 60 percent chance of rain.

“This won’t be just a couple showers,” Thomas said. “It will be widespread rainfall and longer lasting that what we have been seeing recently.”

The National Weather Service has issued a high risk of rip currents for today and Sunday, falling to moderate Monday.

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UPDATE: Planet-hunting satellite launch delayed

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: Space X has canceled its launch today, hoping to try for a Wednesday launch window.

Previous story: A planet-hunting satellite is scheduled to launch tonight from Cape Canaveral aboard a Space X Falcon 9 rocket.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, is scheduled for liftoff at 6:32 p.m. with a 30-second launch window. A backup launch window opens Tuesday at 6:13 p.m.

On its two-year mission, TESS will look for planets smaller than Earth all the way to gas giants. It will do this by monitoring more than 200,000 bright host stars.

Regular dips in the brightness of stars could indicate orbiting planets.

The launch will be webcast on the SpaceX website and NASA TV.

Space X will attempt to land the first stage of the rocket on the “Of course I still love you” drone ship offshore.

The second drone ship is named “Just read the instructions.” The names were chosen by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk to honor the sci-fi author Iain M. Banks. 

Space X drone ship “Just read the instructions.”

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff.

Today, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is hosting several events to be broadcast live on NASA TV. View the TESS Briefings and Events page for the full list of event participants.

Worlds orbiting other stars are called exoplanets.

Thousands of exoplanets have already been discovered. In 2016, NASA developed a unique way to introduce some of them to the public with an whimsical vacation-planning guide.

Described as being similar to Luke Skywalker’s Tatooine, this planet orbits a pair of stars.
This so-called “rogue planet” doesn’t orbit a parent sun. Artists envisioned a place “Where the nightlife never ends.”

The wonders of space can be difficult for people to grasp because it sometimes comes across as just data, said Joby Harris, a visual strategist with NASA during a 2016 interview.

“Our universe has gotten so much bigger but people aren’t talking about it,” Harris said. “The power of imagery with science really makes the connection with people.”

An artist’s rendition of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS.

Worst of storms moving offshore, chilly mornings ahead

UPDATE 9:30 p.m.: The worst of tonight’s storms are moving offshore, making room for cooler drier air to filter in behind.

National Weather Service meteorologists in Miami have let all warnings expire and expect remaining rainfall to end by 2 a.m.

Sunny skies are expected at least through Wednesday, with overnight lows Tuesday dipping to 55 in West Palm Beach and cooler inland.

The normal daytime high for this time of year is 82 degrees. The normal overnight low is 66.

Rain totals from the South Florida Water Management District show upwards of two inches have fallen since 7 a.m. in at least one are of southwest Palm Beach County.

This time lapse video is from Stacy Hamlin in Royal Palm Beach.

UPDATE 8:43 p.m.:  A line of strong thunderstorms moving northeast at 40 mph has triggered a significant weather advisory for areas of central and southeast Palm Beach County, including West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Wellington and Boca Raton.

The advisory is in effect until 9:45 p.m.

About 3,200 Florida Power and Light customers in Palm Beach County are without electricity, including 2,500 in a community near U.S. 441 and Lyons Road.


There are a few flight delays at Palm Beach International Airport.


UPDATE 8:30 p.m.: The severe thunderstorm warning for eastern and central Palm Beach County will expire at 8:30 p.m. The storm that triggered the warning has moved out of the area, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

UPDATE 8:13 p.m.: A severe thunderstorm warning remains in effect until 8:30 p.m. for eastern and central Palm Beach County.

At 8:13 p.m., meteorologists were tracking a thunderstorm over The Acreage and near Wellington moving northeast at 25  mph. The storm has wind gusts up to 60 mph.

UPDATE 8:10 p.m.: A significant weather advisory is now in effect through 9 p.m. for areas of coastal Palm Beach County including metro areas from Boca Raton to Teqeusta.

Torrential rainfall and frequent lightning accompanies these storms.


UPDATE 7:55 p.m.: A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for central and eastern Palm Beach County with areas affected including Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Riviera Beach and Palm Beach Gardens.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar. 

National Weather Service forecasters said wind gusts of 70 mph are possible with these storms. A gust of 68 mph was recorded west of Pahokee earlier this evening when the storms moved through.

The warning is in effect until 8:30 p.m.

UPDATE 7:45 p.m.: Thunderstorms in southern Palm Beach County have triggered an extension of the significant weather advisory until 8:45 p.m. for areas that include Boca Raton.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar. 

Small hail, funnel clouds and wind gusts up to 50 mph are possible with these storms.

UPDATE 7:06 p.m.: Areas in Palm Beach County from Boca Raton to Jupiter are under a significant weather advisory until 8 p.m. as a strong line of thunderstorms moves in from the west.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar. 

Forecasters are warning that small hail, funnel clouds, frequent lightning and winds in excess of 45 mph are possible with these storms. Several stronger storm cells are lining up across Central Palm Beach County.

A marine warning for Lake Okeechobee is in effect until 8:30 with a severe thunderstorm capable of producing waterspouts located northeast of Clewiston and moving east.

UPDATE 6:25 p.m.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for western Palm Beach County as a line of storms move in from the Gulf of Mexico.

The advisory is in effect until 7:45 p.m.

Forecasters said small hail, funnel clouds and winds higher than 45 mph are possible with these storms.

Lightning strikes ahead of a cold front moving into the region in West Palm Beach, Florida, March 20, 2018. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

By Tony Doris

UPDATE, 1 p.m.: Nine counties on Florida’s west coast are currently under a tornado watch, according to the National Weather Service.

Among these are Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas in the Tampa area, Manatee and Sarasota near the cities of Sarasota and Bradenton, and the Central Florida counties DeSoto, Polk, Hardee and Highlands.

The watch is in advance of a cold front bringing intense storms to the state. This same front is expected to possibly create storms and high winds in our area later today.

ORIGINAL STORY: The National Weather Service reports a cold front moving across northern Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico this morning could bring dramatic weather to South Florida this evening and overnight.

Our area faces “marginal risk for severe weather,” Meteorologist Larry Kelly said. But it could get exciting even before the front arrives. Look for scattered showers and thunderstorms in the early afternoon through evening.

More on the potential for a stormy Sunday night from Kimberly Miller on WeatherPlus.

“It is possible for these showers and storms ahead of and with the front to produce strong gusty wind of 50 to 60 mph, frequent lightning, heavy rain, small hail, and isolated tornados,” he said.

The National Weather Service is forecasting that scattered showers and thunderstorms will begin after 2 p.m. with wind gusts possibly as high as 26 miles per hour.

Monday should be mostly sunny with highs in the upper 70s and lows overnight in the mid-50s.

Strong weekend storms possible with cool front

The National Weather Service is warning of the potential for strong to severe storms this weekend as a cold front approaches South Florida.

While scattered showers are possible for Saturday, Sunday has the highest chances for robust thunderstorms with small hail and lightning beginning in the afternoon through evening. Isolated tornadoes are also possible.

LIVE RADAR: Check the Palm Beach Post live radar map. 

“The primary potential impacts for Sunday looks like damaging winds,” meteorologists wrote in a forecast discussion. “However, hail and even some tornadoes cannot be ruled out over South Florida for Sunday.”

Related: Lightning kills randomly, know myth from fact.

As of late Thursday, the Storm Prediction Center has Florida with a 15 percent chance of severe weather on Sunday, but that will be updated today.

The cool front should bring temperatures closer to normal early next week.

The normal high temperature for this time of year is 82 degrees, with an overnight low of 66.

While a 70 percent chance of rain is forecast for Sunday, rain accumulation may not be very high. The Weather Prediction Center has about an inch of rain falling through Wednesday.

This map is valid for 8 p.m. Saturday.

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