Messy Gulf storm could become rare preseason tropical system

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The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season set to begin in two weeks may be getting a jump start.

On Monday, National Hurricane Center forecasters said they were continuing to watch a messy storm blamed for dumping heavy rain and foul weather across South Florida over the weekend. Despite atypical conditions, models suggests a low pressure system may spread and fuel a rare preseason storm.

They gave the system, located in the southeast Gulf of Mexico, a 40 percent chance of forming over the next five days, but said any development would likely be slow.

“What we’re talking about right now is a pretty disorganized system,” said hurricane specialist Richard Pasch, who issued the morning outlook.

Current conditions don’t favor a tropical system developing, he said, but models indicate a low pressure area southwest of the system could begin to spread and allow it to intensify. They don’t expect much change Monday or overnight, but say conditions could change over the week if the low builds.

“Obviously, we’ve been surprised in the past, so we’re going to keep an eye on it,” he said.

Over the weekend, the system pushed nasty weather across South Florida, generating heavy rain and tornado warnings in parts of Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades counties. Key West recorded more than twice the previous record for rain on a May 13 on Sunday, and the South Florida Water Management District recorded 3.25 inches in North Miami Beach. The heaviest rain on the mainland fell to the north, with Pompano getting more than two inches and Coral Springs recording 3.16 inches, according to district gauges.

sfwmd 0514 rain map.PNG

Some areas of South Florida got hit with heavy rain over the last 24 hours, including 3.25 inches in North Miami Beach and more than 3 inches in Pompano. Source: South Florida Water Management District.

In Miami Beach, heavy rain and high tide combined to make a messy morning rush hour.

Residents and business owners complained that parts of South Beach and Sunset Harbour flooded. On Española Way some drains clogged and water rose roughly a foot and a half on Sunday night, said Salvador Muñoz, a waiter at Oh! Mexico. To keep sidewalk tables above water, he said some were moved away from the curb.

Small drains prone to clog left the street flooded Sunday until midnight, he said.

Miami Beach officials said the city’s pumps operated without any problems during the heavy rain, but they plan to check them anyway “in an abundance of caution,” public works director Roy Coley said in an email.

Rain on Monday could continue to cause minor flooding throughout the day, mainly in the west and east coast, the Miami office of the National Weather Service warned. The risk of rip currents is also high along the coast. As the storm churns north, rain will likely continue in South Florida at least through Wednesday.

Hurricane forecasters plan to issue another update at 4 p.m. Monday and have scheduled a hurricane hunter plane to investigate the system Tuesday if it looks like formation is more likely, Pasch said.

If the low forms as predicted by models, the system could meander offshore for a few days. Since most of the heavy weather is in the storm’s southeast corner, that likely means more rain for South Florida, not unwelcome news for an area that has been struggling with drought conditions and wildfires. On Monday, the rain helped douse a massive fire in the Big Cypress National Preserve that had blazed across more than 82,000 acres, the National Park Service said in an email.

“Irma produced quite a bit of rain, but then we ended up very dry,” Pasch said. “So we’re looking forward to much-needed rain.”

Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich


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