South Florida heat ties records, but early cool front possible next week

A nearly two-week streak of abnormally warm temperatures is challenging South Florida records and pushing heat indexes to “concerning” levels into the weekend.

Official weather service gauges in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale cooled Wednesday morning to only 81 and 82 degrees, respectively, tying overnight heat records set in both cities in 1998.

The unofficial low Thursday morning in West Palm Beach was 82 degrees, which would break a 1991 record of 81 degrees if it holds true.

CHECK The Palm Beach Post live radar

Blame a stubborn Bermuda High, which has had a hold on the state through much of the month, for the unusual warmth. Fifteen days have seen the mercury rise to 90-degrees or warmer at Palm Beach International Airport, including hitting a whopping 93 degrees on Sept. 19 and 20.

The normal daytime high for late September is 87 or 88 with the normal overnight low typically dropping to 75.

Derrick Weitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, said the extra daytime heat has been aided by an easterly sea breeze pushing further inland and causing showers and thunderstorms to bypass the coast.

“The storms increase cloud cover and rainfall to really cool things off, but we’ve been drier than normal for most of the month and had higher temperatures,” Weitlich said.

RELATED: South Florida weekly fishing report

An average of 4.6 inches of rain has fallen over coastal Palm Beach County this month, which is more than 2 inches below normal, according to South Florida Water Management District records.

Miami meteorologists warned Thursday of “feels like”, or heat index, temperatures in the triple digits into the weekend. West Palm Beach hit a high of 91 degrees Thursday with a heat index of 105. Although warm, it’s not enough to trigger a heat advisory which is issued when the index is forecast to reach 108 degrees for at least two hours.

“Heat indices are a concern the next few days as temperatures could feel 100 to 107 in some locations in Hendry, Glades, Collier, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties,” meteorologists at the Miami NWS wrote in their forecast.

Through Monday, daytime highs in West Palm Beach are expected to reach near 90 degrees with overnights dipping into the upper 70s.

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

This weekend, the Bermuda High will move further west with its center over the Peninsula. Its clockwise flow is forecast to whip winds up to 15 mph with higher gusts. By Monday, east winds could increase to 16 mph with higher gusts.

That means higher chances of rough seas and rip currents through the weekend.

On Tuesday, a stronger high pressure system moves across the northern part of the U.S., which could push a “backdoor” cold front “possibly through South Florida” Miami meteorologists said.

Although uncertainty in the forecast remains high, meteorologists said models have been hinting at the front with enough consistency they felt confident putting it in the forecast.

Weitlich said a backdoor front is one that comes from the northeast. He’s skeptical one would make it to South Florida this early in the season.

“In terms of temperatures, we certainly won’t see much of a change,” he said.

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What killed this baby manatee? Manatee mortality highest since 2013

Florida Fish and Wildlife officers recovered the body of this baby manatee on Sunday, July 29 in Cape Coral. Photo contributed

A photo taken Sunday in Cape Coral of a dead baby manatee has flooded social media as blue-green algae and red tide menace southwest Florida.

The image, posted on the Facebook page of the Cape Coral Sail and Power Squadron Fishing Group, was taken shortly before Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers could recover the body for a necropsy.

Martine de Wit, a veterinarian with FWC’s Marine Mammal Pathology lab, performed the necropsy Monday.

She said the calf was probably 2 to 3 years old, and that the death for now is being ruled “natural.”

“The animal had a severe infection of parasites in its gut and we see these kinds of infections around this age,” de Wit said. “We don’t know where the parasites come from. It could be transmitted by the environment by little snails that get on the vegetation that the manatees eat.”

But that doesn’t mean red tide wasn’t involved.

RELATED: Do you see a shark in this Delray Beach video? What an expert says

De Wit said it will take about a month for red tide toxicity tests to be returned. She said a lab will also test for toxin levels from algae, but that “we’ve never documented any disease in manatees related to blue-green algae.”

Blue-green algae is a problem in the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie Estuary this summer following record rains during May.

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.”

It’s unusual to see manatees dying from red tide toxins this time of year, de Wit said.

According to the Fort Myers News-Press, a whale shark that washed up on Sanibel earlier this month died from red tide poisoning. This past weekend nearly 4,000 dead fish were counted on Sanibel beaches and parks.

RELATED: Massive whale shark spotted of Palm Beach 

And the Wall Street Journal reported the number of dead or sick sea turtles washing up in southwest Florida is double the five-year average.

De Wit said one of the few positive things for manatees is that they are not as clustered during the summer months as they are in winter and spring when they are looking for warm water.

“Now they are all over the state and spread out so the animal numbers are not as dense as they are in the spring,” she said. “That’s why the mortalities are not as high even though we have red tide.”

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Crazy summer weather pattern lights up South Florida skies

An unusual summer weather pattern cracked open South Florida’s sky Sunday, spearing Palm Beach County with more than 2,500 lighting strikes in two hours and detonating storms along pools of rain-cooled air.

Fed from above by sub-freezing temperatures whipped into the state by a plunging jet stream, and gorging on sticky daytime highs that peaked at 94 degrees in West Palm Beach, the rapid-fire storms temporarily cut electricity to as many as 12,000 homes.

VIDEO: Lightning scares the bejesus out of Florida officer

“It was like a tropical storm was hitting, it was huge,” said Theo Hayes, who lives near the Intracoastal in West Palm Beach. “The rain got to the point where I couldn’t see Palm Beach Island. It was weird, but that’s Florida weather.”

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Miami said the pattern that emboldened Sunday’s storms will be in place again Tuesday with an upper-level area of low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico sending in westerly winds to battle afternoon sea breezes.

RELATED: Florida lightning deaths hit alarming number with stormy months ahead

Storms similar to Sunday’s focused their ire south on Monday, hitting mostly in Miami-Dade County. But a 70 percent chance of showers is in Tuesday’s forecast for West Palm Beach, with another round of widespread thunderstorms possible, according to meteorologists at the South Florida Water Management District.

“I sat there with a glass of beer in one hand and …. READ the rest of the story at MYPALMBEACHPOST.COM and find out how long this weather pattern will last. 

A lightning bolt over downtown West Palm Beach, Aug. 31, 2007 (Jennifer Podis, Palm Beach Post)

BREAKING: Florida had wettest May on record, here’s by how much

A fat jet of tropical air took aim at Florida last month, breaking a more than century-old record for the wettest May statewide and helping muster an early tropical cyclone named Alberto.

From Key West to Pensacola, Florida averaged 9.23 inches of rain in May, topping the 2009 record of 8.91 inches in measurements that have been logged since 1895.

The rain totals were released Wednesday by the National Centers for Environmental Information, which also reported last month was the warmest May on record for the contiguous U.S.

RELATED: Clearing up the confusion of weather warnings

Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with the centers, said Florida’s waterlogged month was notable not just for breaking a rain record, but for crushing it.

“That’s a pretty big part of the story in Florida,” Crouch said. “We usually don’t break records by that big of a margin.”

In West Palm Beach, 11.41 inches of rain fell last month, ranking May as the 11th wettest on record, but the tally is still a whopping 6.9 inches more than what’s normal for the month.

“It was gloomy and nasty and muddy,” said Michael Catron, owner of Southern Native Nursery in Loxahatchee. “As far as an event goes, May’s rains were one of the worst.”

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Catron said the persistent showers that lasted from Mother’s Day through Memorial Day were tough on a business that depends on landscapers and homeowners being able to work outside. Keeping plants from sitting in puddles of water for days was also a chore.

“I had two pumps going and we wasted a lot of time pulling plants out of flooded areas,” Catron said. “It just wasn’t a fun time.”

Flooded plants at Southern Native Nursery on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in LoxahatcheeMichael Catron, owner of Southern Native Nursery on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in Loxahatchee, Florida on May 21, 2018. Michael Catron, owner of the nursery says this is the second worse flooding since Hurricane Gordon in 1994. Catron has owned the nursery since 1980. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The National Centers for Environmental Information are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Their monthly climate reports are gathered by averaging observations from individual weather gauges nationwide – both automated and from volunteer observers. Crouch said because it’s known how rain spreads on average from place to place, the centers are able to interpolate statewide measurements back 124 years.

While May was notably wet for Florida, Crouch said there’s no rainfall trend statewide in terms of looking for clues that point to climate change.

Colin Zarzycki, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., said that while a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor making for heavier rains, it’s wrong to pin a single month’s record on global warming.

“It’s not fair to say that having the wettest May on record is due to climate change, but having events like that is consistent with climate change,” Zarzycki said. “We would expect these records to get broken more frequently as the climate changes, that’s the direction we are going.”

Crouch said May’s warmth nationwide, which broke the record set during the dust bowl era of 1934, does represent a long term warming trend.

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According to the NCEI, the average May temperature across the U.S. was 65.4 degrees last month, 5.2 degrees warmer than average. Nationwide, there were more than 8,590 daily warm temperature records broken or tied in May. That’s 18 times more than the 460 cold temperature record set during the month.

“May was definitely contributing to the trend,” Crouch said.

Florida’s average temperature in May was 76.1 degrees, compared to the warmest May in 2010 which averaged 78.5 degrees.

Last month’s showers and cloudiness contributed to Florida’s lower average temperature.

Mary Montanaro, of Barky Pines Animal Rescue and Sanctuary, carries Rocco the dog through flood waters in far western Palm Beach County last month. (contributed)

“The rainy pattern started and it persisted with very little interruption through the end of the month,” said Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “We tapped into this deep moisture and it really didn’t break.”

A pattern “eerily similar” to what Florida experienced in May is setting up in the Gulf of Mexico, said Alex Wallace, an on-camera meteorologist with The Weather Channel.

A deep dip in the southern branch of the jet stream is again poised to pump tropical moisture into the Sunshine State.

“It’s just the cycle this time of year,” Wallace said. “It’s the rainy season.”

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Heavy rain, flooding expected; estimates rise for Jupiter, Boca

A pedestrian tries to keep dry on Clematis Street Thursday morning, August 24, 2017. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m.: The National Weather Service for Miami-South Florida has increased the amounts of liquid precipitation expected in South Florida through Tuesday. In Palm Beach County, the latest graphic shows increased rainfall estimates for Jupiter and Boca Raton.



Palm Beach County is included in an area of concern for excessive rainfall Sunday through Monday.

The Weather Prediction Center has expanded the region at a marginal risk for heavy rain to include nearly the entire east coast of Florida. That means there is a 5 to 10 percent chance that rain will be heavy enough to cause some flooding as a low pressure system forms in the eastern Gulf of Mexico pulling in tropical moisture.

Marginal risk for excessive rainfall Sunday into Monday.

National Weather Service forecasters in Miami have not issued any watches or warnings, but are monitoring the system closely.

Showers are expected to start late Saturday and persist periodically through at least Monday, and possibly into Tuesday. Because steering winds will be light, showers and thunderstorms could linger over areas, causing some flooding in low-lying regions or those with poor drainage.

“Overall, the air mass will have a tropical feel with deep layered moisture and enough instability to create concerns,” Miami NWS meteorologist Barry Baxter wrote in an afternoon forecast. “Probabilistic rainfall forecast data does show a concerning signal along the east coast metro through Monday.”

Rain totals through Wednesday morning could be as high as 6 inches in some coastal areas of Palm Beach County.

Forecast rain totals Friday through Wednesday morning.

Update 9:30 a.m. The National Weather Service has issued a special briefing for the expected heavy rain this weekend.

An area of low pressure is forecast to develop over the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, sending a surge of tropical moisture into the region.

The rain is expected to start late Saturday and continue through the early part of next week. Periods of heavy rain and scattered thunderstorms are possible with rain amounts into Monday morning of 1 to 3 inches. Locally heavier amounts are possible.

Previous story: A gulp of tropical moisture is forecast to sweep into South Florida this weekend, dousing Mother’s Day and heralding a seasonal shift as punctual as the tides.

The rainy season, a faucet that brings Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties up to 70 percent of their annual rainfall, could make its 2018 debut with widespread showers dumping up to 4 inches of rain Saturday through Tuesday.

While the wettest weather is expected Sunday, the sky may open late Saturday as a slowpoke area of storminess forms in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The system’s counterclockwise spin will pull soggy air into the Peninsula. At the same time, the front that brought rain to South Florida on Sunday will move north from where it’s been stalled in the Florida Straits.

RELATED: 5 ways to treat Mom to a great Mother’s Day in Wellington, Royal Palm.

“No one escapes this one. Everybody is going to get wet,” said Kevin Scharfenberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “The question will be where the heaviest pockets of rain will be, but we are looking at an average between late Saturday to Tuesday of 2 to 4 inches.”

CHECK The Palm Beach Post live radar map.

That means anyone with outdoor plans for Mother’s Day may want a contingency.

Ashley Koecheler, a manager at the popular Guanabanas waterfront restaurant and bar in Jupiter, said they’ve been watching the forecast expecting a crush of customers Sunday. The restaurant has some covered seating, but is largely open.

“We’re pretty used to the weather in South Florida and dealing with the rain,” she said. “It would put a damper on the day, but we would work around it to make sure everyone was covered.”

RELATED: Best brunch places for Mother’s Day

The Weather Prediction Center has the far reaches of southeast Florida under a marginal threat…READ what to expect and when in the full forecast at 

Sunfest forecast day 2: May need an umbrella

Sunfest doors open Friday at 5 p.m with partly sunny skies, but rain chances increase after sunset.

The National Weather Service in Miami is forecasting a 10 percent chance of rain during the day with a 40 percent chance tonight.

Headliner Incubus takes the Tire Kingdom at 9 p.m with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats on the Jet Blue stage.

BREAKING: Rainy season start, end dates now fixed

The onset of South Florida’s rainy season used to be a cyclical anticipationunique in the U.S., a water cooler guessing game of when the tropics will open wide with daily showers to quench winter’s thirst.

But the annual mystery is over.

The National Weather Service in Miami has designated May 15 through Oct. 15 as the permanent dates for the rainy season, fixing the days similar to the set time frame given for hurricane season.

Robert Molleda, the warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Miami, announced the change Thursday, saying it will help increase awareness of what can be the most dangerous time of year for weather in South Florida.

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“We get most of our rainfall and all the associated hazards — lightning, flooding, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms — during this time,” he said. “I think we can use it as a way to get everyone ready for the rainy season similar to the way we get ready for hurricane season.”

In the past, the rainy season was determined by looking at dew point temperatures, sea surface temperatures, and an established pattern of rainfall typical to the rainy season — at least three consecutive days.

“Many of these factors occur independently of each other and don’t have clear beginning and end dates, but instead occur mainly during transition periods which can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks in length,” Molleda said.

The decision on May 15 to Oct. 15 was made after examining records dating to the 1960s on rainy-season start dates. South Florida gets an average of 70 percent of its rain during the wet season.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Florida climatologist David Zierden said the reasoning for setting rainy season dates is “sound.”

“Having fixed dates certainly simplifies things for messaging and simple comparisons,” Zierden said. “For scientific studies, a more meteorological-based definition that accounts for year to year variability would still be better.”

In addition to hurricane season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 30, other fixed weather dates include the calendrical beginning of summer, fall, winter and spring. But even those differ depending on whether they are meteorological or astronomically-based. Meteorological seasons run in succinct blocks. For example, winter is Dec. 1 to March 1.

Astronomical seasons begin on the solstice and equinox.

While many areas have seasonal shifts other than the traditional four — such as the southwest’s monsoon season — South Florida’s seasons are unique in that they are influenced not just by latitude, but also by being surrounded by water.

Molleda said he doesn’t want to discourage people from debating when the rainy season will kick in, or end, and plans to keep an in-house record of rainy-season start dates that may differ from the official calendar for climatological reference.

The set rainy-season dates will cover the seven counties overseen by the Miami office of the NWS — Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward, Collier, Palm Beach, Glades and Hendry.

Treasure Coast counties, which are overseen by the Melbourne office, will not have set rainy season dates, said meteorologist Scott Kelly.

“Our onset is more variable,” Kelly said. “It’s not very different than Miami’s but we are not comfortable setting a beginning and end date because it is more variable up our way.”

Late season cool fronts that let dry air reach Central Florida, but don’t push through South Florida, can delay the rainy season in areas north of Palm Beach County.

While having set dates may increase awareness of rainy-season hazards, others say it’s inconsequential.

“I think having an official announcement date of when the rainy season stops or starts is not of that much value to locals,” said Tequesta resident Tom Knapp, Jr. “People who live down here know about when the heavy rains and thunderstorms start to either ruin our afternoon plans, or bring us a welcome relief from the heat.”

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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)

Sunfest forecast day 1: Small chance of rain for Mr. Idol

A small chance of rain and temperatures in the high 70s will greet Sunfest goers tonight.

While skies will be partly sunny as Sunfest gates open at 5 p.m., rain chances start to grow at 7 p.m. and hit 30 percent by 8 p.m.

A system stirring near the Bahamas is forecast to move west Friday into Saturday, increasing the rain chances for West Palm Beach to 40 percent Friday night and up to 60 percent Saturday during the day.

CHECK The Palm Beach Post live radar map. 

“Right now, it doesn’t look like a washout,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters about the weekend weather. “It will be more hit and miss with periods where there could be a few hours of rain showers.”

SUNFEST 2018: Everything you need to know.

The  headliner tonight is Billy Idol. He takes the Tire Kingdom state at 8 p.m.

Gates on Friday also open at 5 p.m.

“Confidence is a little below average on exactly how much moisture and showers there will be this weekend,” said Andrew Hagen, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Miami. “How this potential system evolves will really determine our rain chances.”

SunFest goes on rain or shine. No refunds or ticket exchanges are offered because of bad weather. Umbrellas, even beach umbrellas, are allowed in the venue.

RELATED: What you should know about the 2018 hurricane season.

In 2013, three days of rain dampened the festivities.

Workers with Harbor Entertainment of Nashville ready an installation for the entrance to the Sunfest Art District Monday morning, April 30, 2018. Drew Dedo, owner of Harbor Entertainment and originally from West Palm Beach, says 180 of the inflatable balls sized from 18 inches to 9 feet in diameter will be installed. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

While that’s not expected this year, meteorologists have been watching for potential tropical development from the system near the Bahamas.

Masters said the potential for a sub tropical depression or depression forming by Saturday is about 10 percent. The National Hurricane Center has not identified any areas of concern.

“If this were June, they would probably start tracking it, but the climatology is really against something forming this early,” said Masters about the NHC.

CHECK The Palm Beach Post live radar map. 

Accuweather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said he doesn’t see a trigger to spin up a tropical system 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.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 28: Billy Idol attends the 11th Annual Musicares Map Fund Benefit concert at Best Buy Theater on May 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

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Storms continue to about 8 p.m., then sunshine for weekend

Update 4:42 p.m.: The National Weather Service expects the storms spread across Palm Beach County to last through at least 8 p.m. before tapering off.

The cold front pushing the storms is forecast to move into the Florida Straits overnight, with drier air filtering in behind.

Mostly clear skies are forecast for Saturday and Sunday with highs in the mid 80s.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Update 4:24 p.m.: Strong thunderstorms in northwestern Palm Beach County have triggered a significant weather advisory for areas including Palm Beach Gardens, Pahokee, Canal Point, The Acreage and Jupiter Farms.

The advisory is in effect until 5 p.m.

The severe thunderstorm warning for northeastern Palm Beach County has been canceled.

Earlier today, a tornado warning was issued for areas in northeast Broward County and southeast Palm Beach County.

The National Weather Service says a trained weather spotter saw a tornado, but it is a preliminary report that has not been confirmed.

Update 4:09 p.m.: A thunderstorm warning is in effect until 4:45 p.m. for northeastern Palm Beach County.

Forecasters are watching a thunderstorm over Loxahatchee Groves near Wellington that is moving northeast at 10 mph. Cities affected are Wellington, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach and Palm Beach.

Concerns include winds up to 60 mph, small hail and lightning.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Update 3:50 p.m.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for central and northeastern Palm Beach County, including Wellington, West Palm Beach, Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach and Lake Park.

The advisory is in effect through 4:30.

Small hail, funnel clouds and winds in excess of 45 mph are possible with thunderstorms moving northeast.


Update 3:30 p.m.: A large area of storms is over Palm Beach County approaching the coast with showers expected from Boca Raton to Jupiter.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

The National Weather Service says there is a preliminary report of a tornado touching down in the Coral Springs and Margate area of Broward County earlier today. The tornado was reported by an NWS-trained spotter, but has not been confirmed by meteorologists.

National Weather Service meteorologists believe the worst of the storms will be finished just after 8 p.m.

A marine warning is in effect until 4:15 p.m. for coastal waters from Jupiter Inlet to Deerfield Beach.

At 3:44 p.m., severe thunderstorms capable of producing waterspouts were located along a line extending from near Palm Beach Shores to Deerfield Beach moving northeast at 17 mph.

Update 3:15 p.m.: The afternoon storms are approaching the western communities of Palm Beach County as the sea breeze interacts with west winds ahead of a cold front.

Forecasters said some severe storms are possible this afternoon into evening with hail, gusty winds and a small chance of isolated tornadoes.

A severe thunderstorm warning for southeastern Palm Beach County will expire at 3:30 p.m.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Update 2:57 p.m.: A severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for southeastern Palm Beach County including Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

The tornado warning has been canceled. The thunderstorm warning is in effect through 3:30 p.m.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

The thunderstorm was located over Coconut Creek moving east at 10 mph.

Concerns include 60 mph wind gusts, hail and lightning.

More thunderstorms are expected this afternoon into early evening as a cold front approaches South Florida.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Miami said the atmosphere is primed for more severe storms, and there is a chance of isolated tornadoes.

The front should move into the Florida Straits overnight.

Update 2:40 p.m.: The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning for southeastern Palm Beach County.

The warning is in effect until 3:15 p.m. A tornado warning means a tornado was spotted on radar or on the ground.

Forecasters said the tornado was over Parkland moving east at 10 mph, which puts areas of Boca Raton in its potential path.

Forecasters in Miami are saying radar is showing rotation as westerly winds interact with South Florida’s sea breeze.

The Storm Prediction Center had increased South Florida’s risk level for severe weather to marginal earlier today.

Update 1:50 p.m.: The risk for severe weather this afternoon in South Florida has been escalated to “marginal” by the Storm Prediction Center.

The marginal level is the lowest on a five-tier scale.

Forecasters said they increased the risk level because of higher moisture levels measured in the upper atmosphere by the National Weather Service office in Key West. That moisture will likely spread northeast, creating the possibility for a few strong storms capable of marginally severe hail and locally damaging winds.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Scattered thunderstorms are forecast to develop late afternoon into early evening over the east coast metro areas of South Florida.

Some of the storms could be strong with winds gusting to 45 mph and small hail.

“Can’t rule out the possibility of one or two storms becoming severe, more likely due to wind rather than hail,” Miami meteorologists wrote in an afternoon discussion. “Tornado risk appears to be none to very low, but always need to watch sea breeze and boundary collisions.”

Previous story: A cold front approaching South Florida today puts thunderstorms and lightning in the afternoon forecast, before a weekend return to mostly clear skies.

The front is attached to a low pressure system moving off the northeast coast today. It increases rain chances to 50 percent this afternoon, and National Weather Service forecasters are warning of some strong thunderstorms with the possibility of lightning, small hail and gusty winds.

Check The Palm Beach Post live radar.

Forecast location of cool front at 8 p.m. tonight.

Miaimi meteorologists said the focus of the showers will be along the east coast with southwest winds from the front pushing against an afternoon sea breeze.

The front is expected to move into the Florida Straits overnight with high pressure nudging in behind.

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

That means drier air and clear skies for the weekend, but not cooler temperatures.

Daytime highs will remain seasonably normal for this time of year in the low to mid 80s, with overnight lows hovering around 70.

The rain is still needed in South Florida with Thursday’s drought monitor report extending areas of severe drought into Collier and Lee counties.

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Palm Beach County continues to have moderate drought in the western areas and near Lake Okeechobee, while the drought has modified to “abnormally dry” along the coast.

Drought monitor report released April, 26 2018.

While the threat of rip currents should remain low along both coasts this weekend, Collier County beaches are under a hazard alert for possible respiratory problems relating to red tide.

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South Florida’s clear skies make for great stargazing, what to see tonight

High pressure has hold of South Florida meaning cloudless skies perfect for stargazing tonight.

A low pressure system will approach the state tomorrow, which increases rain chances to 20 percent and may obstruct nighttime viewing.

But tonight, the waxing gibbous moon will rise over the eastern horizon at 4:49 p.m., and will later be joined by the bright star Spica.

Look for Spica south of the moon tonight before it creeps closer tomorrow and Saturday.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

“Spica is a blue-white gem of a stare, but you might not discern its radiant color in the harsh moonlight, either,” notes Bruce McClure in his Earth and Sky column.

But once the moon retires from the night sky in a week or two, McClure says Spica’s color will be more noticeable.

The next big meteor shower is the Eta Aquariids, which are remnants of Halley’s Comet.

That shower will peak May 6 and I’ll have more in the WeatherPlus blog about when and where to look for those next week.

According to NASA, the Eta Aquarids are known for moving swiftly – about 148,000 mph. But fast meteors can leaving glowing trails that last for several seconds to even minutes.

Halley’s Comet was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1705, but is believed to have been recognized for millennia. NASA says the comet is featured in the Bayeux tapestry – an embroidered cloth that depicts the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

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