Pythons are coming! Palm Beach County refuge mounts a defense

There’s no question they are coming with ill intent, southern assailants slithering toward the last remnant of the northern Everglades where freshwater veins lead to an unspoiled buffet.

The invasive Burmese python, which infests Everglades National Park, has yet to be seen inside the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge west of Boynton Beach.

RELATED: The Prince of Darkness goes on a python hunt. 


Duane “Caveman” Clark catches a ten-foot python during the Python Challenge in the Everglades Wildlife Management Area, on February 9, 2016. (Daniel Owen / The Palm Beach Post)

Without fortification, it’s just a matter of time before the voracious eaters enter the 141,000-acre refuge as conquering parasites, but defenses are being mounted, including a unique python trap that refuge caretakers hope will help with early detection and mitigation.

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“Unfortunately, at this moment there are not a lot of control methods — or any effective control methods — for the python,” said Rebekah Gibble, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service senior wildlife biologist at the refuge. “We have people working feverishly to develop other methods of control so we don’t get as bad as Everglades National Park.”

Related: Pythons ran amok in the Everglades until these guys showed up

USDA is testing a live snake trap at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge that utilizes two trip pans for the humane capture of larger, heavier snakes, such as the invasive Burmese python. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post) 

In 2016, a 10-foot-long python was found on a levee near the southeast side of the refuge, and there have been sightings in parking lots adjacent to the refuge, Gibble said. 

The USDA is testing a live snake trap at the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge that utilizes two trip pans for the humane capture of larger, heavier snakes, such as the invasive Burmese python. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Water samples taken from the refuge have also tested positive for python DNA, but the water may have flowed into the refuge from other areas.

WATCH: Epic battle between python and alligator caught on video.

“I think it’s inevitable that this area will get inundated with pythons so we want to do anything we can to control the invasion,” said Andrew Eastwick, a wildlife biologist at the refuge. “But we want to make sure that what we do doesn’t do more harm than good.”

They are hoping this 5-foot-long trap…Read more about how the innovative trap works in the full story on 

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Everglades hero hit with $4.3 million judgment in billionaire’s lawsuit

It was a showdown with Florida flair — a Martin County business with billionaire backing versus a 77-year-old environmentalist with a constitution as tough as Dade County Pine.

For eight days, the case of mining company Lake Point Restoration against storied Everglades protector Maggy Hurchalla played out in front of a jury.

Was their conflict that of a company wronged by a conservationist’s influence over public officials, or a well-heeled entrepreneur with a grudge and the money to satisfy it in a prolonged legal rumble?

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On Wednesday, the six-member jury sided with Lake Point, charging Hurchalla with interfering in an agreement between the company and Martin County, and levying a $4.3 million judgment against her.

Stuart environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla stands behind Florida Oceanographic Society Executive Director Mark Perry on January 16, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Hurchalla, a former Martin County commissioner and sister to the late U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, said she will appeal.

“I’m disappointed,” she said leaving the courtroom. “I think the judge made some very bad rulings of law.”

For Lake Point, the ruling is a third victory in a 5-year court battle that already cowed…Read the rest of this twisted tale of taxpayer loss at and find out who the billionaire businessman and former Wellington resident is that brought the suit.

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Lake Point Restoration near Port Mayaca is a controversial public-private partnership mining coarse aggregate, base rock, rip-rap and specialty sand products. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Typo in Trump budget, or is Florida’s bill for dike repair $200 million?

A Trump administration budget that appears to commit Florida to paying $200 million to expedite repairs on the Herbert Hoover Dike has some lawmakers scratching their heads and others critical of a project they said should be paid for with federal dollars.

Reconstruction of the aging dike, an earthen barrier holding back Lake Okeechobee from flooding Glades-area communities, is a $96 million line item in President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget released this week.

The president highlights it as an “innovative partnership” with Florida that will provide another $66 million in federal dollars if the state ponies up $50 million on top of the $50 million Florida lawmakers approved during the 2017 legislative session for dike repairs.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

Gov. Rick Scott, who personally lobbied Trump for dike money during a New Year’s Eve event at the president’s Mar-a-Lago Club on Palm Beach, heralded the payment plan in a statement released Monday.

“President Trump’s budget announcement today is great news for Florida and solidifies his commitment to me to secure the federal funding needed for critically important repairs to the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike,” he said.

Related: 1928 hurricane survivor recals long night.

But a footnote…Read the rest of the weird story about a mystery mention of a $200 million bill in the full story on 

Standing atop the Herbert Hoover Dike near Clewiston in October 2017 are (left to right) Almur Whiting and John Campbell of the Army Corps of Engineers. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

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Both sides steadfast tsunami false alarm not their fault

How a tsunami warning last week appeared as a real threat to residents from Palm Beach County to Maine rather than a test is still a mystery with the National Weather Service and private-sector company AccuWeather both claiming it wasn’t their fault.

The National Tsunami Warning Center, part of the National Weather Service, issued a monthly tsunami test message at about 8:30 a.m. Feb. 6.

But at least one private sector company, whose CEO was tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, did not explicitly say the NWS warning was a test until the push alert sent to user smart phones was clicked on.

“Got this alert on my phone this morning and almost fell over,” said a Delray Beach resident who contacted The Palm Beach Post. “Why??  There has to be a better way.”

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Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather initially said the NWS used flawed coding to issue the alert.

The firm, founded by Trump nominee Barry Myers and his brothers, stuck with that conclusion after further investigating how the alert was disseminated.


“The AccuWeather computer issued the NWS warning because the NWS computer coding indicated it was either real or a test,” AccuWeather said in a statement. “The NWS coding was conflicted.”

According to AccuWeather, one element of the coding indicated it was an actual warning, which would mean a tsunami with the potential to generate widespread inundation is imminent, expected, or occurring.

AccuWeather said another element of the coding showed the warning was just a test.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

“With such conflicting coding by the NWS, the AccuWeather system defaulted to the interpretation to save lives rather than place lives at risk,” the company’s statement said. “It seems clear the NWS codes were the problem.”

The Weather Channel also listed a tsunami warning on its apps, but did not send a push alert. spokeswoman Katherine Wong said the company’s computers overlooked a field of code that indicated the alert was a test.

“In looking closer at the technical specifications, we’ve identified a better way to identify this type of message in the future,” Wong said. “We are adjusting code for a deeper search of terms in both header and copy code to protect against this situation happening again.”

An unknown number of people received the alert, causing confusion from the Caribbean to Maine.

The National Weather Service said the test warning was not sent out on any of its channels used to communicate with the public and, after further investigation, found it was issued correctly.

“We are working with private sector companies to determine why some systems did not recognize the coding,” the NWS said. “Private sector partners perform a valuable service in disseminating warnings to the public.”

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February heat breaks 115-year-old record in West Palm Beach

After a cool January that ended nearly 3 degrees below normal statewide, February is turning the heat back up.

Temperatures in South Florida have been running warmer than normal for the past seven days, including in West Palm Beach where weekend highs of 82 degrees were 6 degrees higher than what’s typical for this time of year.

But it’s the overnight lows that have been setting the records.

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Sunday’s low temperature only dipped to 74 degrees, which breaks the previous overnight heat record for Feb. 11 of 73 degrees set back in 1903. Temperature records in West Palm Beach date back to 1888.

The 74-degree reading is a whopping 15 degrees warmer than the normal overnight temperature for this time of year of 59 degrees.

Today’s morning low temperature at Palm Beach International Airport also dipped to 74 degrees. If that holds true, that would tie the overnight heat record set for this day in 1959.

In Miami, Sunday’s low temperature fell only to 75 degrees, which ties the record warmest minimum temperature for the date previously set in 1994.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

Naples was the only official gauge monitored by the National Weather Service in Miami to reach a record daytime high when the mercury hit 87 degrees. That beat the previous record of 85 degrees set in 1999.

“Main story today will be the continuing warm temperatures,” wrote National Weather Service meteorologists in a morning forecast. “It appears that high temperature records at all sites will be in jeopardy today.”

Today’s high temperature in West Palm Beach is forecast to reach 85 degrees – 9 degrees above normal, but just shy of the 87-degree record set in 1975.

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Morning temps 16 degrees above normal ahead of cold front

Temperatures today will be much warmer than normal as a cold front approaches with possible showers and thunderstorms.

The low this morning at Palm Beach International Airport was just 73 degrees, that’s 16 degrees above normal for this time of year.

The high temperature today is expected to reach 82 degrees, which is 7 degrees above normal.

Southeast winds ahead of today’s cold front are helping to warm up things up and could contribute to possible storms this afternoon.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

National Weather Service meteorologists in Miami are giving today a 40 percent chance of rain, with the Storm Prediction Center forecasting thunderstorms this afternoon as the front approaches.

The map below shows the front’s location at 1 p.m. today. 

“At this point, it doesn’t look like we are looking at severe weather, but it’s not out of the question that there might be an isolated strong thunderstorm,” said Chris Fisher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami.

The front should be into the Florida Straits by early tomorrow morning, with north winds cooling high temperatures Wednesday to 75 degrees.

By Thursday, the high temperature will reach about 70 degrees as skies clear and low temperatures dip back to normal in the upper-50s.

One year ago the same region identified for thunderstorms today was under an “enhanced” risk for severe weather. The Storm Prediction Center’s “enhanced” category is the third most severe on a five-level scale.

The elevated alert level was for good reason. Two tornadoes embedded in a powerful squall line ahead of a cold front hit areas of The Acreage, Palm Beach Gardens and Juno Beach in the early morning of Jan. 23, 2017. The tornadoes blew out windows, mangled bleachers at The Benjamin School, damaged fences at W.T. Dwyer High School and left about 14,000 people without power.

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About eight mobile homes in Juno Beach sustained heavy damage, but no injuries were reported.

The same squall line spun up a third tornado in Miami-Dade where four two-story apartment buildings sustained roof damage, leaving 13 people homeless.

Five tornadoes were reported Sunday in Missouri, Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana ahead of the same cold front reaching Florida today.

Damage at W.T. Dwyer High School from the Jan. 23, 2017 tornado.

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Cold blast deeper than expected across South Florida

Update 2:40 p.m.: Temperatures throughout Palm Beach County plummeted into the 30s Thursday morning, marking the first time since 2014 that the official temperature in West Palm Beach sunk below 40 degrees twice in one month.

The reading at Palm Beach International Airport bottomed out at 39 degrees near dawn Thursday. That followed a 38-degree morning on Jan. 4.

According to NWS records, it was January 2014 the last time temperatures at the airport dipped below 40 degrees twice.

“If it’s going to get cold, January and early February are the times when we expect to see it,” said Dan Kottlowski, an AccuWeather senior meteorologist. “This year the sweaters and jackets have had to come out.”

Mist rises from the water behind a surfer at Lake Worth Beach Thursday morning, January 18, 2018. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Previous story: The powerful cold front that swept through South Florida overnight has dropped temperatures into the 30s extending from metro areas of Palm Beach County to Lake Okeechobee.

At 7 a.m., the temperature at Palm Beach International Airport was 39 degrees, with gauges in Wellington ranging from the mid to upper-30s.

Jupiter was at just 36 degrees at 7:20 a.m.

The forecast low this morning at the airport was 43 degrees, but a brisk northwest wind helped pull the arctic air that tormented much of the southeast earlier this week further into the Peninsula.

Larry Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said cloudless skies overnight added to the colder temperatures.

Without clouds, the Earth loses its heat more quickly. Clouds act like heaters, emitting downwelling radiation that keeps temperatures at the surface warmer.

Related: Why clouds don’t act like “blankets.”

“Mostly clear skies, dry conditions, and a cold airmass will help to lower minimum temperatures near Lake Okeechobee to the lower 30s,” National Weather Service forecasters in Miami reported this morning. “Maximum temperatures may struggle to reach the upper 50s by Lake Okeechobee and lower 60s elsewhere.”

A wind chill advisory remains in effect for areas of Palm Beach County west of Interstate 95 through 10 a.m.

Hundley Farms Vice President John S. Hundley, who grows sugar cane and vegetables east of Belle Glade, said temperatures hit 32 degrees in some areas, but he hasn’t determined if much damage occurred.

“Could be colder tonight because no wind. Conflicting weather reports right now,” Hundley said. “If we have cloud cover, even a little bit, it could save us.”

The 39-degree reading at PBIA this morning is 18 degrees below what’s normal for this time of year.

“We’ve gotten spoiled into thinking winters aren’t as harsh as they should be, but this winter so far has proved us wrong,” said Dan Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather. “You go through two to three years of warm winters and people get meteorological amnesia.”

This is the fourth significant cold front to hit South Florida since mid-December.

At Roth Farms, east of Belle Glade, cosmetic damage was a concern this morning, but the bigger challenge is the more time it’s taking for crops to mature.

“Radishes are taking an extra week to be ready to harvest with the recent cold,” said Ryan Roth, Roth Farms vice president.

Here are temperatures from throughout the county. To read this report “1 S Jupiter” is 1 mile south of Jupiter.

...Palm Beach County...
1 S Jupiter                   36 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.90N/80.10W        
Jupiter                       36 F     0734 AM 01/18   26.94N/80.11W        
2 ESE Belle Glade             36 F     0715 AM 01/18   26.67N/80.63W        
4 NNW Boca Raton Equestrian   36 F     0732 AM 01/18   26.50N/80.22W        
3 SE Belle Glade              37 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.66N/80.63W        
3 WSW Wellington              37 F     0714 AM 01/18   26.65N/80.29W        
3 NW Haverhill                37 F     0731 AM 01/18   26.72N/80.16W        
2 S Juno Beach                37 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.84N/80.05W        
Juno Beach                    38 F     0727 AM 01/18   26.89N/80.06W        
3 WNW Sandalfoot Cove         38 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.36N/80.24W        
Delray Beach                  38 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.46N/80.08W        
1 E Boynton Beach             38 F     0718 AM 01/18   26.53N/80.07W        
2 SSE Lake Worth              39 F     0728 AM 01/18   26.58N/80.06W        
2 ESE Boca Raton Equestrian   39 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.43N/80.16W        
1 ENE Aberdeen Golf Course    39 F     0737 AM 01/18   26.57N/80.14W        
1 N Greenacres City           39 F     0708 AM 01/18   26.66N/80.14W        
1 SSE Riviera Beach           39 F     0709 AM 01/18   26.76N/80.07W        
3 SSE Aberdeen Golf Course    39 F     0729 AM 01/18   26.52N/80.15W        
1 W Ocean Ridge               39 F     0722 AM 01/18   26.53N/80.07W        
2 NW West Palm Beach          39 F     0729 AM 01/18   26.73N/80.08W        
Ilnternational Airport        39 F     0653 AM 01/18   26.68N/80.10W        
2 SSW Ocean Ridge             40 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.50N/80.07W        
1 ENE Haverhill               40 F     0727 AM 01/18   26.70N/80.10W        
3 NNE Boynton Beach           40 F     0731 AM 01/18   26.57N/80.08W        
2 NNE Lake Worth              40 F     0733 AM 01/18   26.66N/80.05W        
2 WNW Delray Beach            40 F     0731 AM 01/18   26.48N/80.12W        
2 E Royal Palm Beach          40 F     0733 AM 01/18   26.71N/80.19W        
2 NE Palm Springs             40 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.65N/80.07W        
4 NNW Boca Raton Equestrian   40 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.50N/80.22W        
Boynton Beach                 41 F     0734 AM 01/18   26.53N/80.08W        
2 ENE Lake Worth              41 F     0732 AM 01/18   26.64N/80.04W        
2 NNW Boca Raton              41 F     0729 AM 01/18   26.39N/80.11W        
1 WNW Boca West               41 F     0720 AM 01/18   26.39N/80.19W        
1 S Juno Beach                41 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.86N/80.06W        
1 NE Boca Raton               41 F     0713 AM 01/18   26.37N/80.09W        
Canal Point                   43 F     0700 AM 01/18   26.86N/80.63W        
2 WNW Sandalfoot Cove         45 F     0728 AM 01/18   26.36N/80.24W

Water plan discriminates against Miccosukee, tribe says

An ambitious project to protect Treasure Coast waterways from rashes of damaging algae reached its first benchmark last week, meeting a deadline as tight as a gator’s bite, but now faces critics who decry it as shortsighted and discriminatory against the Miccosukee Indian Tribe.

The billion-dollar plan, slated for state-owned land in western Palm Beach County, includes sending Lake Okeechobee overflow into an above-ground bowl formed by berms up to 37-feet high to reduce freshwater discharges into the brackish ecosystems of the St. Lucie Estuary.

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It is also touted as a partial answer to environmentalists’ refrain to send the water south into the greater Everglades — the natural path before man scarred Florida’s revered River of Grass with canals, roads and homes cut into marshland.

That watershed feeds into the lands of the Miccosukee, who fear receiving harmful nutrient-laden water tainted by agriculture north of the lake.

Water full of algae laps along the Sewell’s Point shore on the St. Lucie River under an Ocean Boulevard bridge on June 27, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

The tribe sent a letter to South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Ernie Marks the same day the district’s proposal was due to state lawmakers saying the plan — mandated by legislation passed in 2017 — discriminates against the Miccosukee in favor of the Treasure Coast.

“Clearly, the purpose of the legislation is to reduce the high volume of polluted water from being discharged into the northern estuaries,” wrote Billy Cypress, tribe chairman. “While we do advocate for ‘shared adversity,’ it seems time after time, the only adversity is that which is imposed on Tribal lands.”

Marks is scheduled to present the plan to lawmakers Thursday during the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The reservoir was pushed… Read the full story at and find out why the plan could cost taxpayers as much as $1.7 billion. 

Groups representing Guardian of the Glades and #OurLivesMatterToo listen to presentations on a reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee that is meant to keep damaging lake water out of the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. The meeting was held at South Florida Water Management District headquarters in West Palm Beach, Florida on December 21, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

READ MORE: WeatherPlus Blog

S. Florida temps to plunge into 30s, snow possible in N. Florida

A cold front pushing through mid-week will dump temperatures Thursday in coastal areas of Palm Beach County to 12 degrees below normal with more frigid 30s expected in areas west of Lake Okeechobee. 

If the forecast holds true, overnight lows Wednesday in West Palm Beach will dip to 50 degrees with the high Thursday reaching just 63 degrees at Palm Beach International Airport.

The normal high temperature at the airport for Jan. 18 is 75 degrees.

This will be the fourth strong cold push since mid-December with nearly half of January’s average daily temperatures below normal.

Last year, just three January days had below normal average temperatures by mid-month.

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National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said a lack of clouds Wednesday night should allow temperatures to fall into the  mid 30s west of Lake Okeechobee, low 40s for much of interior South Florida and low 50s along the east coast.

Related: Why clouds aren’t “blankets” that trap heat overnight. 

“Northerly flow will continue through the day Thursday, keeping temperatures from rising above the mid 60s, some 10-15 degrees below seasonal norms,” forecasters wrote in a Tuesday morning discussion.

Related: Remember when it snowed in South Florida?

By Friday, winds in South Florida will turn to the northeast, which typically acts to moderate temperature and increase moisture with air flowing in from over the Atlantic.

Today, gusty northeasterly winds will bring a high risk of rip currents along the Atlantic beaches and hazardous boating conditions. The NWS has issued alerts for a high rip current risk and small craft advisory through this evening.

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West Palm Beach

The cold front Wednesday is part of a winter storm dubbed Inga by The Weather Channel that could bring snow as far south as Tallahassee where the possibility of “wintry precipitation” is in the forecast for tonight. That is forecast to change to “mostly/all snow by early Wednesday morning” in areas of northwestern Florida.

“It’s pretty unusual that our office would be dealing with two winter events in such quick succession,” said Mark Wool, a meteorologist in the Tallahassee office of the NWS. “We’ve just had a very amplified storm track across the nation where the jet stream dips well south and helps bring the winter systems across the southern states.”

Pensacola forecast:

Low temperatures in North Florida behind the front could drop into the 20s with the daytime highs “near or below freezing”

South Florida won’t see the front push through until Wednesday night, leaving early Wednesday morning with the coolest temperatures.



Boca Raton

READ MORE: WeatherPlus 

Perseid meteor shower outburst could mean 200 meteors per hour

One of the most anticipated meteor showers of the year will be doubly special Thursday as Jupiter bolsters the power of the Perseids.

The annual Perseids meteor shower peaks through early Friday morning, and astronomers don’t expect to see a show of such extravagance again until the Perseids of 2027.


Track storms on The Palm Beach Post radar map.

That’s because Jupiter’s weighty gravitational pull is influencing this year’s Perseids, tugging at the space particles responsible for the shower so that their orbits moved closer to Earth. So while an average Perseid meteor shower will rain down 60 to 90 meteors per hour, there may be double that amount this year.

“This is one I would watch this year,” said Bill Cooke, lead for NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office in Huntsville, Ala.

The Perseid meteor shower is considered runner-up on the grandness scale only to the Geminid meteor shower in December.

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But Cooke said the Perseids are special because they are known for sending showy fireballs streaking through the sky with long trains that may linger for several seconds. Fireballs are brighter than the planet Venus, and a Perseid fireball can light up the ground like a brief spotlight.

“They can produce some very spectacular meteors,” Cooke said about the Perseids. “Some people say they have a yellow color.”

While the Perseid shower radiates from the bold constellation of monster-slayer and mythical Greek hero Perseus, the meteors are actually debris from the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. The comet orbits the sun in a large cigar-shaped motion, with Earth passing through the comet rubble every year in mid-August.

Perseus was a mythological Greek hero who is known for beheading Medusa and saving Adromeda from the sea monster Cetus.
Perseus was a mythological Greek hero who is known for beheading Medusa and saving Adromeda from the sea monster Cetus.

The comet sheds debris that can range from the size of a pin head to a half-dollar, Cooke said. They slam into Earth’s atmosphere at 132,000 mph.

“With a little luck you’ll see a ‘shooting star’ every minute or so on average,” said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky & Telescope magazine.

Sam Storch, a retired astronomy professor and member of the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches, said people shouldn’t be discouraged if they walk out there door and don’t see a meteor right away.

He suggests finding a dark spot away from light pollution and with no obstructions such as tall buildings. He suggests finding a dark spot away from light pollution and with no obstructions such as tall buildings. The moon this year will be waxing gibbous, so you won’t have the light of the full moon to interfere with seeing a meteor.

“The thing about the Perseids, they are reliable,” Storch said. “This is one of the ones to see.”

Whether South Florida’s skies will cooperate is another thing. The National Weather Service in Miami is giving Palm Beach County a 40 percent chance of showers Thursday, dropping to 30 percent Friday morning.

A super moon lights up the night sky over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
A super moon lights up the night sky over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

If Mother Nature does obscure South Florida’s view of the Perseids, at least two groups are planning live broadcasts of the show.

NASA is planning a webcast beginning at 10 p.m. today on its UStream channel.’s broadcast will be live beginning at 8 p.m.

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