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  • Writer's pictureBryan Norcross

Gulf disturbance close to becoming Tropical Storm Alex; impacts in Florida increase through the day

The broad center of the tropical disturbance is located near the northeast corner of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. An intense cluster of heavy rain and gusty winds is to the east of the center. The outer fringes of the system have already reached South Florida.

The National Hurricane Center has designated the system Potential Tropical Cyclone One. This is the name they give to a disturbance that is too disorganized to be called a tropical depression or tropical storm, but has the potential to gain that organization before reaching land. And it’s close enough to land the watches and warnings are required.

In this case, the system will be designated Tropical Storm Alex when Hurricane Hunters find a sufficiently organized center. It’s close, so there’s a good chance the Tropical Storm Alex designation will happen today.

The winds associated with the strong cluster of thunderstorms have already reached 40 mph, the tropical storm threshold, so this system will likely skip over the tropical depression stage and go right to Tropical Storm Alex if it organizes.

Whether or not an organized circulation pulls itself together, so the system is designated Alex, the gusty winds and heavy rain are coming toward the southern half of the Florida Peninsula. The strongest impacts are expected to arrive later today and last into tomorrow.

All of the bad weather is being pushed ahead of the developing center of circulation, so this is not a situation where it makes sense to track the center of the storm. Strong upper-level winds blowing across the system are responsible for making it so lopsided. They are forecast to continue, so significant strengthening appears unlikely. It doesn’t appear that Alex could get anywhere near hurricane strength.

Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for the entire southern peninsula and the Keys, but the highest threat of strong wind gusts of 40 or 50 mph will be in areas expose to onshore winds on the Southwest Florida coast, in the Keys, everywhere over the open water, and in high-rise buildings. Some quick tornadoes are also possible, especially in extreme South Florida and the Keys.

The current thinking is that the strongest winds will be coming from the west or southwest when they impact the Miami/Fort Lauderdale metro area. Once the wind starts blowing, be careful on elevated highways and bridges.

A dense surge of tropical moisture will precede the center of the storm. The National Weather Service is predicting 4 to 8 inches of rain with some spots getting a foot from Central Florida south to the Keys. This will fall on top of nearly saturated ground due to the constant downpours of the last week.

The heaviest rain will likely come in bands, so some areas will get significantly more than other areas nearby. The heavy rain bands will also contain the strongest wind gusts. Driving could be dangerous once the strongest bands move across Florida late today into early tomorrow.

The storm will affect the northern Bahamas in the same way as Florida, just delayed by 12 hours or so. The strong upper winds should keep Alex from being much stronger by the time it gets there.

The same upper winds that are pushing the strong thunderstorms to the front side of Alex’s circulation are push dry air into the back of the system. As a result, once the front-side rain passes across the Florida Peninsula tomorrow, the weather will significantly improve. Saturday evening and Sunday look good.


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