Tropical disturbance continues slowly drifting toward South Florida

By Bryan Norcross - Hurricane Specialist

MIAMI - A tropical disturbance centered between The Bahamas and South Florida is slowly drifting toward the state. The chances have increased that it will eventually organize into a tropical depression or tropical storm, but that will most likely happen later in the weekend as it pulls away to the northeast.

The tropical disturbance we have been watching is getting a little better organized as it drifts toward South Florida. The disturbance has already been throwing quick downpours across the state, but the bulk of the moisture is on the east side -- the other side -- of the system. As it moves closer Friday, part of that moisture is expected to rotate over the southern part of the state, meaning the possibility of heavy rain is in the forecast.

The biggest threat to South Florida appears to be localized flooding from gusty tropical downpours.

How much rain we get is dependent on whether the center of the disturbance tracks offshore or just over the state. It's going to be a close call, and the computer forecast models are not being helpful in telling us. For now, just be ready for some periods of heavy rain through Sunday at least.

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The upper-air conditions are reasonably favorable for the system to eventually organize, although it will likely be slow because a good part of the circulation is expected to be over the landmass of Florida.

Over the weekend, the system is forecast by the computer models to move north and then northeast offshore of the Southeast coast. At that time, with the center over the Gulf Stream and upper-level winds forecast to be more favorable, a tropical depression, tropical storm and eventually a hurricane could form. The long-range projection is that it would stay offshore, but that's a few days away, at least.

After the disturbance moves away from South Florida, it will leave a tail of moisture behind. Exactly where that tail sets up is uncertain. It could be over the ocean, or it could be over the metropolitan area, so the possibility of more tropical downpours exists at least through the weekend.

Elsewhere, Tropical Depression Chantal is slowly fading away in the North Atlantic. And there are some strong tropical waves coming off Africa. Most immediately, the one midway between the Caribbean Islands and Africa has a slight chance to develop over the next few days, but all bear watching.

AUGUST 23, 1992: We woke up to 120 mph Hurricane Andrew aimed right at South Florida. (The modern estimate, using more precise science than we had in 1992, is that Andrew's top winds were 165 mph at that time.) 

More precisely, the official National Hurricane Center forecast showed Andrew going to South Dade, but we knew better than to try to pinpoint any one location at that time. Everybody from Boca Raton to the Florida Keys had to prepare.

Andrew was forecast to continue intensifying right up until landfall. The official forecast was for the top winds to be 135 mph when it crossed the coast, but NHC forecasters noted that it could be stronger.  

As is often the case before strong hurricanes, the weather was bright and sunny that Sunday. There was time to prepare, and people did. By mid-evening, there were few cars on the roads, and by late evening, it was time to hunker down.  

After the storm, most people told me they thought they were ready. But it was impossible to be ready for what was coming just a few hours later.

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