Tropical depression likely to form, drench South Florida: experts

Tropical depression likely to form, drench South Florida: experts

It’ll be a wet weekend in South Florida as a low pressure system that could become a tropical depression or the Atlantic’s first named storm of 2022 approaches the state from the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

But there’s some good news, too. The disturbance that was being watched near the Bahamas, off Florida’s east coast, has been given a near-zero chance of developing and is headed out to the sea away from the US, as of Thursday morning.

Rain is the biggest threat from the low pressure system that is a remnant of the Pacific’s Hurricane Agatha, which hit Mexico on Monday, and could become Tropical Storm Alex in the Atlantic.

“The bottom line is this system, as it moves north, will slowly organize and it’s very possible we could have a depression perhaps as early as maybe late [Thursday] or first thing Friday,” said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.

The low pressure system is expected to travel northeast toward Florida and could deliver as much as 8 to 12 inches of rain to some areas.

As of 8 am Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said odds remained at 80% for it to develop into a tropical depression or Tropical Storm Alex in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico or northwest Caribbean Sea in the next 48 hours.

Although there are strong upper-level winds, the NHC said, “this system is likely to become a tropical depression or tropical storm while it moves slowly northeastward over the northwestern Caribbean Sea and southeastern Gulf of Mexico during the next day or two.”

The upper-level winds could keep the system as a tropical depression or low-level tropical storm.

“As the system moves northward, it will be running to more vertical wind shear so that will probably limit how strong it will get, at least initially,” Kottlowski said.

“We kind of think the main thing that people need to focus on from this system is the rain, and it looks like the highest chance for flooding rainfall from this will be over the southern third of the state of Florida, so roughly anywhere from Naples to Vero Beach and on southward, that’s what appears to be at this point the most likely areas to see some very heavy rainfall.”

Kottlowski said if the system becomes tropical, the northeast to southeast quadrants will produce the heaviest rainfall.

“The more organized it is, the more concentrated it will bring heavy rainfall to sections of southern Florida,” he said. “But if it remains disorganized then there will be a much larger area that could see heavy rain. Maybe the rainfall is not as heavy, but you could still end up with several inches of rain over a much larger area.”

Showers and and thunderstorms had increased in the northwest Caribbean Sea in association with the low pressure system that spun off from Agatha, according to the National Weather Service. Agatha originated in late May in the Pacific Ocean.

Hurricane Agatha made landfall on the Pacific coast of southern Mexico on Monday as a Category 2 storm. The resulting low pressure system traveled across a mountainous region in Mexico to emerge into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico/northwest Caribbean Sea.

Storms don’t often cross over from one basin to another, and it’s more uncommon that one crosses from the Pacific into the Atlantic, said AccuWeather meteorologist Jake Sojda. That’s what could happen with the disturbance that may become Alex.

As for the disturbance off the southeast US coast, that weak surface trough near the Bahamas has almost dissipated as forecasters give almost no chance of developing.

On Thursday morning, the system was located about 200 miles east-northeast of the northwestern Bahamas. Forecasters said the shower activity associated with this weak surface trough has diminished and shearing winds remain strong in the area. The system is expected to drift northeast at 5 to 10 mph during the next couple of days.

Whether Alex forms or not, South Florida is going to see heavy rainfall by the weekend, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesperson for the NHC in Miami.

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“Now, what it’s going to look like, where it’s going to go, how large it will be and things like that, it’s way too early to determine,” Feltgen said.

This is a La Niña year, meaning water temperatures will be warmer than usual and there’s less wind shear to tear apart storms.

Warm water temperatures are an optimal factor in tropical storm and hurricane development. In mid-June of last year, Tropical Storm Claudette formed in the Gulf waters and came ashore in Louisiana.

Current water temperatures are about one to two degrees higher than average for this time of year, Sojda said, creating favorable conditions for the disturbance to develop.

“Despite the warm water that we’re looking at right now, I don’t think were currently anticipating a particularly strong system,” he said. “There’s a number of things that will come into play over the next few days.”

Hurricane season officially starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Floridians can buy supplies to prepare for this hurricane season free of sales taxes through June 10. Pet supplies are now included in the list of tax-free items.

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