Ready or not, South Florida, rain is coming.
Regardless of whether a tropical wave lurking offshore actually musters the strength to become a more fierce storm, forecasters say the region is in for a soggy, wet weekend, with possible flooding. Early Friday morning, the system continued to weaken as it encountered crippling wind shear. But forecasters say there’s still a chance it could find footing in warm waters over the Bahamas and make a powerful landfall in South Florida and the Keys.
“The problem it’s had is a combination of dry air and wind shear. And those are two enemies of a tropical cyclone trying to develop,” said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen. “It’s been fortunate we don’t have something forming.”
On Thursday, a hurricane hunter plane found the storm no longer packed tropical storm force winds as it pushed through the southeastern Bahamas and still lacked a defined center. At 2 a.m. the storm had slowed to 10 mph as it neared Cuba and the southeastern Bahamas. Forecasters maintained earlier odds that scaled back projections for a tropical storm forming in five days from 80 percent to 60 percent. Forecasters also started watching a second disturbance that has formed in the northern Gulf of Mexico, but don’t expect it to become a storm before it reaches the Texas coast.
Even with better odds, Florida officials still worried a rapidly intensifying storm would provide little time to warn the public.
“If it does spin up on the coast, a warning would be fast,” Feltgen said. “Things could change on short notice.”
Hurricane models have also had trouble forecasting the messy storm, he said. “There isn’t a center of circulation, so what do the models latch on to?”
Even without powerful winds, forecasters warned Thursday evening that the storm’s heavy rain still posed a threat to flood-prone islands in the Caribbean, with Hispaniola and Cuba at risk for flash floods and mudslides. The Bahamas could also see gusty winds Friday and Saturday, forecasters said.
So what could South Florida see? If no storm forms, heavy rain could still likely drench the state, with dangerous rip currents churning up beaches.
“It may not be an all-day rain, but a pretty wet weekend, like 60 to 70 percent,” said National Weather Service senior meteorologist Stephen Konarik. Areas closest to the path of the storm would also see heavier rain and gustier winds, he said, with the increased risk of flooding.
Even with the slight weakening, worried officials continued making preparations around the state, concerned that a rapidly intensifying storm would provide little time to issue watches and warnings usually issued days in advance.
Read more at our news partner, the Miami Herald.