Written by Michelle Palmer, Deputy State Meteorologist, FDEM Tuesday, 03 April 2012 13:27
…Unseasonably Warm Conditions Persist through Mid Week… Scattered Afternoon Showers & Storms Today & Tomorrow…
Rain Chances Increase Thursday & Friday as a Cold Front Sweeps Through the State… Fog Potential this Week… Elevated Wildfire Risk Each Day due to Lightning Treat & Current Drought…
A weakening area of showers and thunderstorms moving through the Western Panhandle will continue to affect the westernmost portions of the state through the afternoon hours. Plenty of moisture, the warm daytime temperatures, and the afternoon seabreezes will all combine to allow scattered showers and storms to develop over the rest of North Florida today. Rain chances are near 20-30% and although conditions are not favorable for widespread severe weather, a few of the developing thunderstorms may briefly reach severe levels with frequent lightning, strong wind gusts and small hail. Additionally, there is also a minor threat for localized flooding due to heavy downpours over North Florida. By tonight, most shower and storm activity will dissipate and the calm overnight conditions will be favorable for the development of fog by daybreak tomorrow.
Our high temperatures today will peak in the low 80s near the coast and the mid to upper 80s across the rest of the state. Low temperatures tonight are expected to dip into the low to mid 60s over North Florida. Central and Southwest Florida will likely stay in upper 60s while Southeast Florida dips into the low 70s.
Wednesday – Saturday:
On Wednesday, high pressure will continue to drive our weather with plenty of sunshine in the forecast once the morning fog dissipates. However, there will be just enough moisture over the state to combine with the energy from a passing disturbance to allow a few isolated showers to develop along the afternoon seabreeze. There is around a 20-30% chance of rain across the entire state as the seabreezes move inland and collide. Much like today, conditions do not appear to be favorable for widespread severe storms, but one or two may briefly approach severe levels with gusty winds, small hail and localized flooding. For Wednesday night, most shower and storm activity will slowly diminish after sunset and with calm conditions in the forecast, areas of fog will likely develop across the state. Some locations may see dense fog with low visibilities on roadways by daybreak Thursday
There will be a more organized severe storm threat on Thursday as a cold front slowly approaches the state from the west. Rain chances increase to be near 50% across North Florida and although the forecast is still rather uncertain, there may be a slight risk for severe weather. The main reason for the uncertainty is that, at this point, it is unclear how strong the front will be once it passes through the area. However, there is the possibility of severe storms on Thursday with frequent lightning, damaging wind gusts, large hail and heavy downpours. We encourage everyone to continue to monitor future forecasts for more information about the potential for severe storms on Thursday. For Central and South Florida, although the threat for showers and storms will not be as great as over North Florida, the afternoon seabreezes will develop and may allow a few isolated storms to develop. Rain chances over the Peninsula are near 20-30% to account for a passing shower or two during the afternoon. For the overnight forecast, rain chances will persist across North Florida, although the threat for severe weather will diminish. Areas of fog will be possible, especially over Central and South Florida.
The front will continue pushing southward through the state on Friday with drier air moving in behind it. Rain chances will remain elevated, around 30-50% over the Peninsula and ahead of the front. A few thunderstorms may also develop over the Peninsula on Friday, but widespread severe weather is not anticipated. For North Florida, once the front pushes through, drier air will begin to filter in and this will act to lower rain chances. Skies will begin to clear through the afternoon hours.
Saturday will be a mostly dry and sunny day with breezy conditions developing in the wake of the cold front. Sustained winds may reach up to 15-20 mph, with higher gusts, especially over the Peninsula. Rain chances are only near 20% or less over the Peninsula to account for a lingering shower or two, but most areas will stay dry under plenty of sunshine.
Highs on Wednesday will stay unseasonably warm in the mid to upper 80s statewide. On Thursday and Friday, with increased cloud cover over North Florida, highs will only peak in the low 80s while Central and South Florida stay in the mid to upper 80s. By Saturday, in the wake of the front, highs will slightly cool and only stay in the upper 70s over North Florida and the low to mid 80s over the Peninsula. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, our lows will dip into the mid 60s over interior North Florida and in the upper 60s to low 70s over the rest of the state. By Friday, cooler air will begin to filter into North Florida behind the front and lows will fall into the upper 50s over North Florida while Central and South Florida stay in the upper 60s to low 70s. These same lows are forecast for Saturday night, but a few interior locations of the Peninsula may also dip into the low 60s.
Fire Weather & Drought Conditions:
With our current drought conditions and the dry soil and vegetation across the state, conditions will be favorable for the development of wildfires each day. Although rain chances are elevated this week, lightning strikes may spark additional wildfires and this will keep our threat elevated. Despite the lower wildfire risk through the rest of this week, everyone is urged to exercise care with respect to outdoor activities that could cause wildfires. We encourage all residents and visitors to stay Firewise. County-wide Burn Bans are in effect for Glades, Hendry, Lake, Osceola, and Polk Counties.
Looking at our drought conditions, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows 98% of the state under moderate drought, nearly 52% of the state under a severe drought and around 15% under an extreme drought. It is estimated that all areas north of the I-4 Corridor need 12-15 inches of rain to completely relieve the long-term drought. Elsewhere, areas between I-4 and Lake Okeechobee, and also extreme Southeast Florida, needs an additional 9-12 inches while the rest of South Florida needs 6-9 inches. These conditions are forecast to persist or intensify across most of the state through at least June.
At the coast, light winds and calm seas will result in a low risk of rip currents statewide today. By Wednesday, increasing onshore winds along the Big Bend and Peninsula Gulf Coasts will result in an elevated risk of rip currents. These same winds will increase along the Panhandle coast on Thursday. These conditions will persist through Friday. On Saturday, once the front passes through, strong winds will develop along the Atlantic Coast and this will likely increase the risk of rip currents. We encourage all beachgoers and spring-breakers that plan to enter the surf to look for warning flags and to also swim within sight of a lifeguard. Everyone should check their local rip current forecast and learn how to escape a rip current before going to their beach destination.
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