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Statewide Weather Outlook for March 20 - 24, 2012

spring-break-with-sunshine-249x187Pleasant and Warm Conditions through Mid Week… Scattered Showers Return to the Peninsula Forecast Wednesday…

Increasing Rain Chances over the Panhandle Thursday… High Rip Current Risk along Southeast Florida Beaches this Week…

Tuesday:

Today will be another mostly sunny, warm, and pleasant day across the Sunshine State.  High pressure will remain in control of our weather but windy conditions will likely develop.  Winds may gust as high as 20-30 mph with some gusts reaching up to 40 mph along the immediate coastline.

Additionally, a few light showers may develop over the offshore waters and move onto coastal areas of East Central and Southeast Florida.  Rain chances are only near 20% and most areas will stay dry.  There is also a slight chance, around 20%, for a developing shower and thunderstorm over the Eastern Big Bend and Suwannee Valley later this afternoon.

High temperatures will peak in the low to mid 80s throughout inland portions of the Sunshine State.  Closer to the coast, expect highs to peak in the upper 70s to low 80s.  Our low temperatures will also stay rather warm and in the upper 50s over inland portions of North Florida and the low 60s near the North Florida Coast.  Central Florida will see lows fall into the low 60s while South Florida stays in the upper 60s to low 70s tonight.
 By tonight, areas of fog will likely develop. Most locations of the Panhandle will receive patchy fog but a few localized areas of Northeast Florida and the Nature Coast may see dense fog develop.  In these locations, visibilities may be reduced to a mile or less.

Wednesday – Saturday, North Florida:

Wednesday will be another breezy day over North Florida as a cold front approaches the area from the west and high pressure sits over the Western Atlantic to our east.  Other than a slight increase in cloud cover over the Panhandle, Wednesday will be a pleasant day for Northwest Florida.  A few stray showers may develop during the afternoon over the Suwannee Valley as the seabreeze moves inland, but rain chances are around 20-30% and widespread severe weather is not anticipated.  If any storms develop, lightning will be the main threat.

By Thursday, rain chances will increase over the entire Panhandle in response to the approaching cold front.  Rain chances will gradually increase from west to east and are around 60% over the Western Panhandle to account for more widespread shower activity due to the cold front.  The remainder of Northwest Florida has a 30% chance for scattered showers developing during the afternoon and Northeast Florida has minimal rain chances.  Up to 1-2 inches of rain may fall over the Western Panhandle on Thursday with higher amounts possible in some of the stronger thunderstorms.  These heavy rainfall amounts could lead to minor flooding in low-lying areas and on roadways.

By Friday, as the front continues to impact our weather, there will be near a 30-40% chance of rain to account for scattered showers and a few thunderstorms developing over the area.  Rain chances are expected to be near half of an inch or less, but these could be higher in some of the stronger showers or storms.  These conditions will likely persist through Saturday where there continues to be around a 30% chance for a passing shower or storm over North Florida.  It is important to note that the chance for rain may change as we approach the end of the week so we encourage everyone to keep up-to-date with the latest forecast.

High temperatures will stay unseasonably warm through the week as temperatures peak in the upper 70s near the North Florida coast and in the low to mid 80s over inland areas.  Our lows will also stay warm and in the upper 50s to low 60s over inland areas and in the mid 60s near the coast through the end of the week.

Wednesday – Saturday, Central and South Florida:

A cold front situated to our west and a high pressure system to our east will set up a weather pattern that favors breezy conditions and isolated showers over many portions of the Peninsula on Wednesday.  Moisture will gradually increase over the region throughout the day as easterly to southeasterly winds flow over the area.  These conditions, in combination with the warm temperatures, will allow isolated to scattered showers to develop along the inland moving seabreeze over the Peninsula Wednesday afternoon.  Rain chances are around 20-30% to account for a stray shower or two but outside of the shower activity, a mix of clouds and sun will be in place.  Additionally, with the onshore winds, breezy conditions will persist, especially over the eastern half of the Peninsula.  Winds may gust as high as 20-30 mph.

Rain chances will generally stay the same Thursday through Saturday as enough moisture lingers over the area to allow scattered showers and storms to develop along the afternoon seabreeze.  Rain chances are around 20-30% over Central Florida each day through the early part of the weekend and outside of the showers that develop, mostly to partly sunny skies will be in place.  South Florida, however, will see decreasing rain chances and mostly sunny and pleasant conditions in place through the end of this week.

The overnight forecast for Central and South Florida will remain calm and quiet this week.  Any shower activity that develops during the afternoon Wednesday and Thursday will dissipate after sunset with tranquil weather through the remainder of the night.  With plenty of moisture over the area, there is the potential for patchy fog to develop over the Nature Coast both Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Our high temperatures will peak in the low to mid 80s over all of Central and South Florida this week.  The Keys will also stay rather warm and in the upper 70s.  The overnight temperatures will dip into the mid 60s over Central and Southwest Florida and into the upper 60s to low 70s over Southeast Florida.  The Florida Keys will stay quite warm and in the mid 70s each night this week.

Fire Weather & Drought Conditions:

Low relative humidity values this afternoon have lead to a Red Flag Warning to be issued for inland Panhandle counties this afternoon.  With increasing moisture through the week, conditions will stay above critical level for fire weather watches and warnings statewide.  However, with increasingly dry soil and vegetation, our wildfire concerns will remain elevated each day this week.  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.

Looking at our drought conditions, the U.S. Drought Monitor shows 98% of the state under moderate drought, nearly 40% of the state under a severe drought and around 15% under an extreme drought.  It is estimated that the Panhandle and South Florida still need 6-9 inches of rain to completely relieve the long-term drought.  Elsewhere, Northeast Florida needs around 12-15 inches and all areas of the Peninsula north of Lake Okeechobee need around 9-12 inches to relieve this drought.  These conditions are forecast to persist or intensify across most of the state through at least June.  County-wide Burn Bans are in effect for Glades, Hendry, Lake, Osceola, and Polk Counties.

Rip Currents:

At the coast, increasing onshore winds will bring a high risk of rip currents to the beaches of Southeast Florida, from Palm Beach County through Miami-Dade County today.  These same conditions put the beaches of Northeast and East Central Florida, from Nassau County through Martin County, under a moderate risk of rip currents.  In addition, a moderate risk of rip currents will also be in place for the Florida Panhandle beaches from Escambia County through Franklin County.  These conditions will likely persist along the Atlantic Coast through Friday before wind speeds and the rip current risk decreases on Saturday.

For the Panhandle, these conditions will persist through the early part of the weekend with an increase in the risk along the Big Bend coastline on Saturday.  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.

Click here for the latest watches, warnings, and advisories from the National Weather Service.

For coastal and offshore forecasts throughout Florida and Georgia, please click here.

Michelle Palmer
Deputy State Meteorologist
State Meteorological Support Unit
Florida Division of Emergency Management
www.FloridaDisaster.org
www.KidsGetAPlan.com

Happy Spring!!

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