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Lake Wales and Frostproof in Severe Drought, But Storm May Threaten

Potential For Storm Development in the Gulf Next Week

As lawns wither and trees wilt across the central Florida, weather forecasters are eyeing long-range models showing a significant chance that a rare April tropical or sub-tropical storm could form in the Gulf of Mexico in coming days.

According to the Southeast Regional Climate Center (SERCC), drought conditions over most of the Florida peninsula range from severe to extreme, and most areas are recording the driest start to any year in over a century. So far at the weather station just south of Lake Wales, less than two inches of rain has fallen since January 1. While this time of year is normally drier than the summer months, normal precipitation would amount to about eight inches through April 6.

Despite the current dry conditions, a lack of spring cold fronts has led to rising water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, and a strong upper-level low could provide the trigger for a sudden spin-up to form, according to weather models and forecasters. Weather patterns in the upper atmosphere, generally about three miles above the surface, often drive the formation and movement of tropical systems at the surface.

Models are showing a strong surface low forming. According to forecasters at the National Weather Service in Ruskin, which forecasts the weather for Polk County, that low is expected to "meander" in the Gulf of Mexico before eventually moving northeast, dragging plentiful moisture over the state "that could finally make a dent on the ongoing drought across the state."

If a storm forms, it is much too soon to predict its impacts upon the Lake Wales/Frostproof area. Citrus growers, nurserymen, firefighters and homeowners alike are hoping for rain, but also hoping to avoid any wind impacts.

Polk County remains under a burning ban due to the threat of wildfires. A blaze caused significant damage near River Ranch two weeks ago, burning numerous hunting camps


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