Disruptive and possibly dangerous weather to arrive at the Florida Peninsula late today
The tropical disturbance in the northwest Caribbean is still in the throes of getting organized. Heavy tropical rains and gusty winds are already occurring, but hostile upper-level winds are preventing it from consolidating.
Hurricane Hunters are scheduled to fly into the system this afternoon to see if a closed circulation has developed under the clouds that we can see from the satellite. An ocean buoy located not far from the apparent center of the disturbance is consistently showing winds in the 30 to 35 mph range, so the system is guaranteed to contain gusty winds when it gets to Florida, even if it doesn’t organize and intensify.
A tropical system needs an organized circulation and tall thunderstorms reasonably close to the center to significantly intensify. Computer forecast models indicate that the atmospheric pattern will only be marginal for organization. As a result, the system is not forecast to evolve into anything stronger than a tropical depression or low-end tropical storm.
If it does achieve sufficient organization, and winds reach 40 mph or higher, it will be called Tropical Storm Alex. This could happen very close to the Florida southwest coast.
In any case, through today and tomorrow, a mass of tropical moisture will surge toward the southern part of the Florida Peninsula. Several inches or rain with some locations receiving closer to a foot are expected. The open question is, how far north will the heavy-rain swath extend. Until the system gets more organized, and forecasts are more certain, people along the I-4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando need to stay aware. The likelihood of heavy rain in South Florida is high, however.
Because the hostile upper winds are blowing from the west, the heavy rain will be pushed to the east side, the front side of the system. As a result, the tropical moisture should arrive tonight, increase tomorrow as winds gust at or near tropical-storm strength (40 mph), and continue into Saturday. By late Saturday, it might still be gusty, but dry air on the back side of the system should arrive.
The ground in many parts of South Florida is saturated from days of heavy rain, so stay aware of Flood Alerts issued by the National Weather Service.
Some fast-developing tornadoes sometimes occur in these situations as well.
If the National Hurricane Center thinks that the system might organize enough to bring winds of 40 mph or higher to Florida, they will issue Tropical Storm Watches or Warnings. That could happen as soon as today. If that is required, they will designate the system Potential Tropical Cyclone One as part of the protocol.
Remember, a Potential Tropical Cyclone is still just a disorganized disturbance, but forecasters at the NHC think it might organize before it reaches the coast, and if it does, it has a good chance of producing winds over 40 mph.
It may well be dangerous to be on the roads in the southern part of Florida Friday into the daytime on Saturday. Think about changing your plans so you’re settled during the gustiest and rainiest part of the storm.