Environment

Tropical depression forms off Yucatan, threatens South Florida with heavy rain

Beach goers in August 2010 watch five foot waves from Hurricane Danielle pound the coast off Vero Beach, causing extensive beach eronsion.
Beach goers in August 2010 watch five foot waves from Hurricane Danielle pound the coast off Vero Beach, causing extensive beach eronsion. MIAMI HERALD

A wet, messy storm in Mexico’s Bay of Campeche strengthened early Wednesday to a tropical depression, a warning that the Atlantic hurricane season is still open for business.

The system, a remnant of Tropical Storm Trudy that triggered fatal mudslides in southern Mexico last week, is expected to become a tropical storm Wednesday as it heads toward the Yucatan Peninsula with winds of about 35 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. But forecasters expect a cold front moving south to keep it from growing as the storm nears the U.S. coast. Still, South Florida could get hit with heavy rain and possible flooding later this week.

Where and when the tropical storm’s remnants and the cold front collide will probably determine who gets soaked, said NHC spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

“They’re playing a game of what if and when,” Feltgen said.

As it crosses the Yucanta, the storm could produce five to 10 inches of rain and life-threatening floods, forecasters warned. A Hurricane Hunter plane was investigating the system Wednesday morning.

The crucial front, part of a nor’easter off the coast of New Jersey and New York, is expected to reach Lake Okeechobee by Wednesday evening, said National Weather Service meteorologist Barry Baxter. The front won’t bring dry air or cooler temperatures, but it could push the soggy tropical system farther south, he said, and pull rain over South Florida.

Forecasters expect the front to stall over the Florida Keys, meaning Miami-Dade and Monroe counties are likely to get the most rain.

While the 2014 hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, has remained largely quiet in Florida, late-season storms can be tricky and deliver punishing winds and rain. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma sailed out of the Gulf of Mexico a week before Halloween and caused $17 billion in damage to the state. Hurricane Sandy triggered massive flooding in the Northeast in 2012 after it landed in New Jersey on Oct. 29.

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