The tropical wave swirling off the coast of Florida strengthened slightly Friday afternoon, but mostly remained a big wet mess.
National Hurricane Forecasters said at 2 p.m. that thunderstorms in the system had increased as it moved between the northeastern coast of Cuba and the central Bahamas. Wind shear continued to keep the storm from intensifying, but forecasters warned conditions could become more favorable as the wave pushes to the northwest. While they upped the chances of a tropical storm forming over the next two days from 20 to 30 percent, odds of it forming when it nears Florida remained at 60 percent.
The latest forecast models have shifted the storm south, although several still show the system rolling across the Florida Keys. Between Sunday and Monday, the storm could dump two to four inches of rain across the island chain, Monroe County emergency officials said. Winds may reach 25 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph, well under tropical storm force winds.
As the storm moves northwest over warm water, there’s still a chance it powers up in the Gulf of Mexico and thrashes the gulf coast.
“So it still poses a significant risk, and we are urging everyone to remain vigilant and to prepare for this possible scenario,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon.
For now, it looks like Miami-Dade County has dodged any serious impacts. Calling preparations a “pretty good dry run,” county Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a Friday morning press briefing that officials are still anticipating heavy rain Sunday through Wednesday.
“If you have plans for the weekend, you might want to adjust those,” he said.
The rain, and the potential for power outages and flooding, could also complicate voting in Tuesday’s primary election. Gimenez said so far all precincts are scheduled to be open and officials will have a better take on potential problems closer to Tuesday.
“We will adjust accordingly. We don’t expect that to happen,” he said.
Even if the storm remains a messy tangle of thunderstorms, forecasters warn Hispaniola and central Cuba could get hit today with heavy rains that could trigger dangerous flash floods and mudslides. The Bahamas will likely see gusty winds and heavy rainfall, with Florida and the Keys getting the same miserable weather over the weekend.
A hurricane hunter plane was scheduled to investigate the storm Friday morning.
Forecasters also began tracking another disturbance in the northern Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas and Louisiana early Friday. However they gave the storm very little chance of becoming a tropical storm — just 10 percent — before it arrives in Texas.
Out in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Gaston was located about 1,100 miles east of Bermuda at 11 a.m. Friday and moving northwestward about 15 mph. The storm is expected to take a turn to the northeast Monday and remain far from the U.S. coast. Over the next 48 hours, forecasters say the storm may regain strength and become a hurricane again over the next three days, and then begin to weaken.
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