First tropical storm of season? Not likely

The 2009 hurricane season begins in only two weeks, and already Florida is facing its first tropical system of the year, with lots of thunder and rain expected throughout the rest of the week.

The system is a hybrid, offering the whipping winds of a nor’easter combined with the pouring rain of a tropical storm, according to meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. Parts of Central and South Florida may even receive over four inches of rain.

“This’ll be the first exciting weather you’ve had in ages,” Kottlowski said Monday.

The cause: a low-pressure system stretching from Cuba to Bermuda is growing stronger, fed by the cool high pressure system now in the Gulf of Mexico.

If winds reach a sustained 39 mph, it might become the first named storm of the 2009 season: Ana. But cool waters in the Gulf will likely prevent that from happening, Kottlowski said.

Expect continued rain showers for the coming days in Manatee, as well

Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport received .63 inches of rain Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Ruskin, raising its May total to 2.19 inches. The monthly normal up to this point is 1.6 inches.

Thanks to the rain, the Florida Division of Forestry in Manatee reported no wildfires Monday in the Myakka River District of Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota counties.

“The rain has certainly helped,” district duty officer Lombar Dia said Monday. “It was a quiet day,”

For the year, there have been 161 wildfires reported in the district burning 7,709.1 acres. Most of those occurred before a 1- to 2-inch rainfall April 14.

For the year at the airport, 7.14 inches have fallen, versus the normal 11.95.

The Keetch-Byram drought index read 421 on Monday for Manatee. The index is a measure of moisture in soils and plants, on a scale from zero to 800. Higher values indicate drier conditions.