Forecasters are predicting a strong chance that a tropical system could develop in the Gulf by the end of the week. It could bring heavy rains and even flooding to the North Florida Panhandle. Regan McCarthy talked with Florida Public Radio meteorologist Jeff Huffman about what to expect.
WFSU: Jeff Huffman thanks so much for joining us today. I wondered if you could start by explaining a little about this unusual weather that’s developing. I think a lot of our listeners are surprised to see this weather coming from the North.
Huffman: “It’s important to remember that what comes out of this will probably be nothing different than a weak tropical storm as far as its influences in Florida. But how it evolves, or how it begins, is certainly a bit uncommon, not unheard of. We typically do see systems early in the hurricane season and then later in the year develop sometimes from weather systems that form first overland. And that’s what’s happening here. An upper level disturbance is sliding in across the South East and thunderstorms are going to start organizing over the Gulf and because the water is warm a tropical system will likely develop—originating though from an initial weather system over land.
WFSU: I’m hearing reports there’s a strong chance of this developing into a tropical system. What makes this tropical rather than an everyday weather system?
Huffman: That’s a great question. It’s because the disturbance is likely going to move over the water and develop what’s called a warm center. Tropical systems have a warm core system at their center and other weather systems moving over land are cold core related. It’s all about the science! But the end result here will be nothing more than a lot of rain in certain parts of Florida.
WFSU: When you say a lot of rain, for us here in North Florida and in the Panhandle, what should we be expecting?
Huffman: I want to make it every clear that it’s very possible that the inland areas, especially near Tallahassee, will miss out on most of the rain with this system. This will likely be a system that focuses more along the coast because it’s going to probably drift west. Right now there’s some uncertainly how far west it would go before it turns back north. Right now—and we’re speculating far out here, it’s probably Wednesday or Thursday before this tropical system even develops—but right now I think rainfall amounts will be just above normal for Tallahassee—maybe one to three inches. But closer to the Coast, near Panama City and around the Big Bend, certainly some higher amounts—possibly more than 4 inches—could fall by Friday.
WFSU: Is this something that we should be worrying about? I’m hearing you say, just expect a lot of rain. Is it time for listeners to go out and make sure they have enough supplies, like bottles of water for the next few days?
Huffman: Well, of course we would encourage that no matter what’s developing or not developing in the tropics because you know a hurricane plan is always easier to enact when you have a plan and you have these supplies stocked up. As of right now I don’t see any reason to believe this will be a significant tropical event for the Panhandle of Florida—even along the coast what we’re looking at is probably just some heavy rain, gusty winds and maybe some unsettled seas, but right now there’s no indication, to me at least, that this will be something significant for our area.”