BREAKING: Preliminary results show red tide present in Palm Beach County


The Karenia brevis algae, which causes red tide, is present in Palm Beach County’s coastal waters, according to preliminary results from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The tests of water samples taken after several people complained of respiratory issues on Saturday showed low to medium concentrations of red tide. The water samples were taken Sunday.

“We will enhance our monitoring and testing,” said Susan Neel, director of FWC’s community relations office. “Red tides on the east coast are rarer and typically of shorter duration than those on the Gulf coast.”

Beaches from Jupiter to Delray Beach have been closed to swimming since Saturday, with some cities closing the sand portion of the beach also.

“It’s unusual, but it’s not unheard of for it to end up on the east coast,” said Richard Stumpf, a NOAA oceanographer who studies harmful algae blooms and their movement. “The reason it’s rare is you have to have the bloom and an east wind. It’s a combination of things that have to happen.”

Red tides are naturally occurring and have been observed in the Gulf of Mexico since the 1800s.

The bloom can reach the east coast if it gets caught in the Gulf of Mexico’s loop current and travels with the Florida current through the Florida Straits into the Gulf Stream – a north-moving river of warm water that skims the Palm Beach County coastline. Once in the Gulf Stream, waves can force the toxin produced by the Karenia brevis into an aerosol form, that can then be carried by east winds to Palm Beach County beaches.

A test for red tide taken Wednesday at the Juno Beach Pier was negative.

Since 1972 when the transport of red tide from the west coast to the east was first identified, seven other instances have been documented, according to FWC. Those include 1990, 1997, 1999 and 2006.

Stumpf said he’s monitoring satellite images of the state and doesn’t see any clear evidence of red tide on the east coast. High concentrations of red tide can appear brown in the water.

“There’s nothing I can pin down and say, ‘Oh, there it is,’” Stumpf said. “Our best guess is it’s piled along the edge of the Gulf Stream and it’s really hard to see that.”

Some people experience respiratory irritation (coughing, sneezing, tearing and an itchy throat) when the Florida red tide organism is present and winds blow onshore. The Florida Department of Health advises people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions, such as emphysema or asthma, to avoid red tide areas.

According to FWC’s website, a water sample from the Juno Beach Fishing Pier taken Wednesday by the Loggerhead Marine Life Center tested negative for the presence of Karenia brevis. That result was released in a Friday report.

The lack of the algae in the water column last week is consistent with red tide forecasts from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration which said no “respiratory irritation associated with Karenia brevis is expected” on the east coast of Florida.

Red tides on the East coast of Florida are extremely rare. They can even subside and then reoccur. The duration of a bloom in nearshore Florida waters depends on physical and biological conditions that influence its growth and persistence, including sunlight, nutrients and salinity, as well as the speed and direction of wind and water currents.

There have been 57 occurrences of red tide in the Gulf of Mexico since 1953.  Eight of those events have made their way to the east coast in the area of Palm Beach County (with cell counts 100,000 cells/liter or more).  All eight of those events originated in the Gulf of Mexico and were carried by currents to the east coast.


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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New hurricane forecast released as peak season approaches

The official hurricane season begins June 1, but Mother Nature really turns up the heat beginning in mid-August when tropical cyclone activity typically spikes.

But Colorado State University has some reassuring news today in its August updated forecast that continues to call for a below normal season.

RELATED: The El Niño forecast has changed, what it means for hurricane season

Hurricane season typically begins to peak in mid-August.

CSU is predicting nine more named storms through November, three hurricanes, and one major hurricane of Category 3 or higher.  Today’s forecast does not include sub-tropical storm Alberto, or hurricanes Beryl and Chris.

A normal season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

Phil Klotzbach, the lead author of the forecast, said an unusually cool tropical Atlantic and increasing chances of an El Nino forming during the fall or winter influenced the updated forecast.

The CSU forecast is intended to provide a best estimate of activity to be experienced during the upcoming season – not an exact measure.

Hurricane Chris sits nearly stationary off the Carolinas on July 10, 2018. 

Michael Bell, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU and co-author of the report, cautioned coastal residents to take proper precautions.

“It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season,” Bell said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its updated seasonal forecast Aug. 9.

ELATED: How El Nino boosts winter storms in Florida.

Today’s prediction comes on the heels of a report from the National Hurricane Center that showed July was an unusually active month for tropical cyclones with hurricanes Beryl and Chris.

Based on 30-year climatology, one named storm typically forms in the basin in July.

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Above normal tropical cyclone activity occurred in July, but the 2018 season overall is forecast to be below average.

Mother’s Day forecast: Rethink outdoor plans

Mother’s Day could be washout as rainy season perks up.

South Florida’s rainy season may be starting right on time with scattered to numerous showers in the forecast at least through Mother’s Day.

A few isolated thunderstorms are possible Saturday night into Sunday, with mainly locally heavy rainfall that could add up to more than 4 inches through Tuesday for coastal areas of Palm Beach County.

RELATED: Best brunch spots for Mother’s Day

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Miami said a “very prolonged period of high rain chances” is possible, which could help alleviate some of the moderate to severe drought in portions of South Florida.

CHECK The Palm Beach Post live radar map.

Rainfall accumulation forecast through Tuesday morning.

But too much of the wet stuff leaves a potential for localized flooding in low lying and poorly-drained areas.

Rain chances pick up to 60 percent beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday increasing to 70 percent overnight into Sunday and through 7 p.m. Sunday  night.

Related: Melania Trump’s Mother’s Day interview

The Weather Prediction Center says there is a marginal threat for excessive rainfall Saturday morning into Sunday along the coasts of Broward and Miami Dade counties where the tropical flow will most heavily focus. A marginal risk means there is between a 5 and 10 chance that rainfall could cause flash flooding.

Temperatures will remain seasonally normal with highs this weekend in the low to mid 80s and overnight temperatures in the low 70s at the coast, but cooler inland.

Earlier this week, the heavy rain was forecast to start on Friday, but has since pushed back to Saturday. Timing depends somewhat on the formation of a weak low in the crook of Florida’s big bend area that will suck in tropical moisture.

National Weather Service Mother’s Day forecast

AccuWeather is forecasting Saturday to be more of a mixed bag, but agrees with the NWS forecast for heavy rain Sunday.

AccuWeather Mother’s Day forecast

The Weather Channel also agrees it will be a wet weekend.

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.”

U.S. Drought Monitor report released May 10, 2018

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.

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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.

Some state officials want “shadow evacuees” to stay home next hurricane

Category 5 Hurricane Irma begins to impact the northern Leeward Islands won Sept. 5, 2027

An estimated 6.8 million Floridians evacuated for Hurricane Irma. Some did so twice.

Subtle shifts in the storm’s path sent the east coast scurrying west, then fleeing north where landlocked Leon County ran out of hotel rooms and filled 10 shelters with people, half of whom were from other parts of the state.

Gridlock on Florida’s Turnpike meant a 20-hour trek into Georgia as lines of cars jockeyed to escape the Sunshine State, crushing traffic like an accordion against the border where driving on the shoulder was no longer allowed.

But Florida officials said about 3 million of those who left were not in evacuation zones.

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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 rooms at the inn.

It’s a nuanced message of emergency — “know your zone, know your home.”

Related: Do you know your evacuation zone? Look it up here.

In other words, if you’re not in an evacuation zone, can your home withstand the forecast winds? And if it can, can you withstand what comes after the storm?

Is it fair to ask some people to stay put during the storm? Read more about the issue in the full story at 

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Follow me at the National Hurricane Conference this week

It’s hard to believe but the official start of the 2018 hurricane season is just around the corner.

To get ready for the June 1 kickoff, emergency managers, meteorologists and law enforcement officials are meeting this week in Orlando to cover topics from Hurricane Irma’s traffic nightmare to an early look at what the season may have in store.

The 2017 season had three of the top five most expensive hurricanes on record with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University hurricane expert, will speak today about what’s happening in the atmosphere that may influence the 2018 season.

Also today, state leaders will discuss evacuation planning and what lessons were learned about fuel supplies during Hurricane Irma.

Follow me on Twitter @kmillerweather for updates. I’ll be participating in a session this morning on making sure the media get correct and timely information from emergency managers to relay to the public.

If you have any questions, please email me at

Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose all spun simultaneously in September 2017.


Landmark weather satellite joins sibling after successful Cape launch

Choking fields of wildfires, violent lightning storms and ghosting meadows of dense fog will be seen as never before after a landmark satellite joined its sibling in the silence of space.

The GOES-S satellite, a tech marvel with a 16-channel camera built by the Melbourne-based Harris Corp., launched at 5:02 p.m. from Cape Canaveral.

The launch followed the heralded November 2016 trip made by sibling satellite GOES-R, now GOES-16, when it rocketed into a position where it can more closely monitor the tropics.

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GOES-S will be positioned where it can observe most of the Western Hemisphere, from the west coast of Africa to New Zealand. This includes Alaska, Hawaii and the northeastern Pacific, where many weather systems that affect the continental U.S. form.

Full disk scan from the GOES-16, which launched in November 2016.

“The GOES-S satellite will join GOES-16 and NOAA-20 as NOAA continues to upgrade its satellite fleet,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross earlier this week. “The latest GOES addition will provide further insight and unrivaled accuracy into severe weather systems and wildfires in the western United States.”

GOES stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, and the GOES-S is the latest in a series of GOES satellites that were first launched in 1975. Geostationary means that GOES-S will orbit with the Earth, keeping pace with the planet’s spin.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

The GOES satellites are identified by letters until they are launched and given numbers. GOES-S will become GOES-R17.

GOES-S will scan the Earth five times faster and with four times the resolution of current satellites. Its 16 camera channels are triple the number of the satellite it is replacing.

“GOES-S will provide high-resolution imagery of the western U.S. and eastern Pacific completing our satellite coverage to further improve weather forecasts across the entire country,” said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

Southeast region scan from GOES-16.

Lockhead Martin designed and built the 6,280-pound spacecraft that will orbit 22,500 miles above the Earth. The behemoth will be carried into space by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which has a main engine and four beefy solid rocket boosters.

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This illustration depicts NOAA’s Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S). NASA oversees the acquisition of the spacecraft, instruments and launch vehicles for the GOES-R Series program.
Credits: Lockheed Martin

How a split in the polar vortex helped turn up the heat in Florida

The wintertime spell of record heat continued in Florida this week with a seasonal oddity in Earth’s northern latitudes partly to blame.

A split in the polar vortex, a pinwheel of stratospheric arctic air that circles the North Pole, helped force frigid winds into the western U.S., and triggered a chain reaction that allowed tropical warmth in the east to drift as far as Lake Ontario.

For Florida, it’s meant a record mercury reading of 89 in Tampa on Tuesday — 16 degrees above normal — and mostly sunny skies in Palm Beach County where an April-like daytime high crept to 83 Tuesday. On the southern banks of Lake Ontario, Rochester, N.Y. reached 70 degrees Tuesday — a staggering 35 degrees above normal. Boston also hit 70 degrees, which is 30 degrees above normal.

SEE: Check The Palm Beach Post radar map

“There will be lots of records smashed east of the Mississippi,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground. “The whole northern hemisphere is going through an adjustment after the polar vortex split.”

According to the National Weather Service in Miami, little will change for South Florida through the weekend with partly sunny skies, a 20 percent chance of rain and temperatures in the low to mid 80s. Overnight temperatures this week will hover near 70.

In Palm Beach Gardens, where the Honda Classic is scheduled through Sunday at the PGA National Resort & Spa, spectators may want hats to guard from the sun, while players may be more wary of the winds.

“It should be fairly breezy Thursday and Friday, then the winds come down a little Saturday and Sunday,” said Larry Kelly, a meteorologist with the NWS in Miami. “Thursday looks to be the breeziest with gusts up to 21 mph.”

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Jane Broderick, the director of golf for the PGA National Resort and Spa, said the forecast winds aren’t out of the ordinary for the tournament. In 2016, peak wind speeds as measured at Palm Beach International Airport hit up to 35 mph during the week of the Honda Classic.

But a strong easterly flow is more apt to send balls into the water in the Bear Trap, Broderick said.

“The prevailing winds have always made the champion golf course a little more difficult,” Broderick said. “If the winds are blowing strong, the players may have to change their target.”

Forecasters are not expecting a repeat of the disastrous 2015 tournament when 5 to 7 inches of rain fell in areas of northern Palm Beach County, flooding PGA National and sending hundred of spectators scurrying for cover. The deluge was the result of a stalled cold front that sparked thunderstorms and winds swift enough to topple the floating scoreboard near the 18th green.

“They will suspend play if there is dangerous weather, but that’s not likely without a front,” Broderick said.

And there is no front in the forecast for South Florida, Kelly said.

While the northeast will cool down in the coming days, the high pressure and warm temperatures will continue for the Sunshine State.

Tiger Woods at the Honda Classic Pro-Am at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens on Feb. 21.

Already this month, 18 heat records have been set or tied at stations monitored by the Miami NWS in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Naples.

The Southeast Regional Climate Center shows 11 cities in Florida are having their warmest February on record, including Tampa, Sarasota, Melbourne, Fort Myers and Miami.

West Palm Beach’s average temperature so far this month is 74.7, making if the third warmest February on record as of Tuesday, according to the climate center.

“It’s definitely one of the warmest Februaries,” Henson said. “It will be a photo finish for record warmest.”

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41 years ago this month, something magical fell in South Florida

Forty-one years ago this month the atmosphere gave a frozen gift to South Floridians that many will never forget.

Snow fell.

From Tallahassee to Miami, flurries of white floated down, an event that amazed children and adults alike.

An unusual weather pattern – similar to what’s been driving the biting cold fronts through South Florida in recent weeks – turned the polar jet stream into a twisting river of powerful winds sweeping south over the warm Gulf of Mexico and into South Florida where climate history was made.

The front page weather story on Jan. 20, 1977 began like this: Record-shattering cold that created heavy snow flurries for the first time ever in Palm Beach County also caused a flurry of problems with crops freezing, schools closing, power failing and ducks dying.

It was the day before a peanut farmer would be inaugurated as the 39th president of the United States — a time before weather events were politicized, analyzed, dissected, sucked dry of magic and wonder.

In 1977, it was just snow in South Florida, and it was enchanting.

Previous to Jan. 19, 1977, the farthest south snow had been seen was along a line from Fort Myers to Fort Pierce in February 1899, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

“I went outside to take an observation and I noticed these particles flying by. At first I thought they were bugs, but it was snow,” said Joe Vidulich, a 27-year-old meteorological technician at the federal weather office then stationed at PBIA. “I ran back inside so excited and my partner was sleeping in a chair. I said, ‘Wake up Bernie, it’s snowing.’ He said, ‘You must be drunk.'”

Read the full story and how local people remember the event at 

Snowball fight on steps of Florida Capitol. Wikipedia