A massive but relatively meek tropical depression sloshing toward the Sunshine State promised a dreary Wednesday for Manatee County and an even messier day for South Florida.
Forecasters expected the system to strengthen enough overnight to earn the name Tropical Storm Nicole, but the chief concern was rain, not wind.
There could be buckets of it in South Florida, 4 to 8 inches overall, coming down in 2-inches-an-hour torrents at its most intense before tampering off tonight.
Manatee should expect rainfall amounts of a tenth to a quarter of an inch county wide, along with maximum sustained winds of 10 mph and gusts up to 20 mph, according to Rick Davis, meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Ruskin office.
“We expect to see scattered and numerous showers and thunderstorms, and that’ll be for most of Wednesday and into Wednesday night,” said Davis, who added a drier weather pattern is expected to kick in for the rest of the week once the storms get through.
Much of Manatee received light amounts of rain Tuesday, except extreme East Manatee, which saw about 1.5 inches in spots, Davis said.
Tropical storm warnings were posted Tuesday from Key West to Jupiter. Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Collier counties were also placed under flood watches for a system tracing the same up-from-the Everglades path as two infamous storms that caused tens of millions of dollars in flood damage a decade ago — Hurricane Irene in 1999 and the “no-name storm” a year later.
Felix Garcia, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said the system was moving too quickly to deliver that sort of devastating deluge.
“It’s definitely going to bring rain and flash-flooding, but nothing compared to those storms,” he said.
At 11 p.m. Tuesday, tropical depression No. 16 was about 95 miles south of Havana and 290 miles southwest of Miami, moving northeast at 8 mph with top sustained winds of 35 mph.
On its projected path, the storm would pass over central Cuba, which could see up to 10 inches of rain, sometime late Tuesday, then gain strength and speed as it hits the Florida Straits.
On the Cuban government news site www.cubadebate.cu, Cuba’s chief meteorologist José Rubiera warned that the system would affect Matanzas province overnight, and be felt as far east as Granma, Las Tunas and Ciego de Avila.