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Hurricane season

Gulf disturbance more organized

 

cmorgan@MiamiHerald.com

A tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico grew more organized on Wednesday and forecasters were giving it a good chance of becoming a depression, perhaps even the hurricane season’s first named storm

But the system also has little time to strengthen; meaning heavy rain, flooding and some minor storm surge will likely be the biggest threat along the Florida’s Gulf Coast — with the strongest impacts coming Thursday before the system is swept across the state and into the Atlantic Ocean by an approaching front.

“It’s going to get picked up by the trough and accelerate,’’ said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County. “It will be moving into the Panhandle by tomorrow or tomorrow night.”

The system’s slightly more northerly path was expected to reduce rainfall across Miami-Dade and Broward counties. It still could be a dreary Thursday — with perhaps an inch or two of rain and heavier downpours in spots — but forecasters expect effects to taper off beginning Friday.

The storms could still pop up during the weekend but would be mostly scattered, said Chuck Caracozza, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. The service put the rain chance for Southeast Florida at 40 percent on Saturday, dropping to 30 by Sunday.

“It looks like more of your typical South Florida weekend,’’ he said.

The hurricane center, which gave the Gulf system a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next day or so, planned to send a Hurricane Hunter aircraft into the storm Wednesday afternoon.

Feltgen said the disturbance had a broad circulation but wind shear was also leaving it looking lopsided, pushing most clouds and storms far to the east over Florida and western Cuba. The system also was fighting dry air, he said, which was restricting its development. Sustained winds would need to reach 39 mph for it to earn the name Andrea.

Still, a large area from Southwest Florida to the Panhandle could see two to four inches of rain from the disturbance. Along with gusty winds, there was also the potential for riptides, storm surge and even tornadoes as the system moves north in the Gulf.

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