Potential Tropical Storm Threat Grows for Florida as Peak Season Approaches
Last updated 8/18/2023 at 6:47pm
A significant shift in weather patterns in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean basins has increased chances of tropical storm development that could potentially threaten Florida and the Lake Wales Ridge area.
The Atlantic Hurricane season is heating up just as the historical peak weeks of the six-month period approach. Models are now showing an increased likelihood of storms that could affect Florida.
Water temperatures in the Atlantic basin are at record levels, as is the total oceanic heat, which is measured at depth. Both are factors that help induce strong hurricanes.
During this weekend a tropical wave now over the Bahamas is expected to pass over south Florida, causing a shift in winds to the east and southeast that should increase rain chances here. The system is given a small chance of further development over the Gulf of Mexico.
At least one run of the trusted GFS model shows a strong system moving northward across Cuba and approaching the west coast of the Florida peninsula. GFS is often relied upon by the National weather Service Hurricane prediction center in Miami.
Several models of surface and tropospheric conditions are also showing likely developments across the Atlantic as the annual African storm season heats up.
The jet stream which had created a stagnant "heat dome" during June and July has now turned to a persistent southerly flow from the Pacific into the American Southwest, generating monsoon rains there while shifting patterns downstream over Florida.
The nearly-unprecedented threat of a Hurricane or strong tropical storm approaching southern California adds emphasis to the disturbing trend. Major destructive flooding is again possible for the Southwest.
While other areas of the country have experienced severe flooding as well this year, parts of Florida have experienced drought conditions during what are normally the wettest months of the year. That may change rapidly.
Florida residents are again reminded to have a Hurricane plan in place, with ample stocks of ready-to-eat canned or dried foods, water, and solar-powered emergency lighting. Most residents of the Lake Wales Ridge would be encouraged to shelter at home. There is only a single Hurricane shelter serving southeast Polk County, located at Spook Hill Elementary School in Lake Wales.