Tropical Storm Sally closes in on Florida

Tropical Storm Sally formed Saturday afternoon just southeast of Naples, the National Hurricane Center said. NOAA

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. —Tropical Storm Sally came to life over the Gulf of Mexico Saturday afternoon, but South Florida is still feeling gusty winds and heavy rain in its wake.

Total rainfall of up to 6 inches was expected through Saturday night causing some urban flooding across South Florida. A tornado or two was also possible, according to the advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

The center of the disturbance was about 35 miles south-southeast of Naples. Rainfall up to 8 inches is expected in the Florida Keys.

The system had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph and is moving west at 7 mph, according to the hurricane center’s latest public advisory Saturday.

A tropical storm watch was issued late Friday for parts of the Florida Panhandle, from Ochlockonee River to the Okaloosa/Walton County Line.

Tropical storm or hurricane watches could be issued for a portion of the Gulf Coast by late Saturday, the hurricane center said.

The National Hurricane Center is monitoring a total of six systems in the Atlantic, including Tropical Storm Paulette, Tropical Storm Rene and now Tropical Storm Sally.

A second trough of low pressure developed Thursday morning over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. It is forecast to move over the northern and western Gulf of Mexico through early next week. It has a 30% chance of development.

Meanwhile, Rene is expected to strengthen into the season’s fifth hurricane. It is expected to become a hurricane by Saturday, the hurricane center said Friday. Category 1 hurricanes form when maximum sustained winds are in the range of 73 to 95 mph.

As of 11 a.m. Saturday, Rene was about 1,255 miles east-northeast of the Leeward Islands, the eastern border of the Caribbean Sea. Top winds measured 35 mph. It was moving west-northwest at 13 mph. Tropical-storm-force winds extended 70 miles from its center. Models predict Rene to continue moving west before turning toward the northern Atlantic.

Farther west, Tropical Storm Paulette is expected to become a hurricane on Saturday and bring hazardous conditions to Bermuda on Sunday night and into Monday, the hurricane center said. A tropical storm watch was issued late Friday for Bermuda.

Swells produced by the storm, potentially causing life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, are expected to affect areas including the southeast U.S. this weekend.

As of 2 p.m. Saturday, a hurricane warning was in effect for Bermuda as Tropical Storm Paulette was about 510 miles southeast of the island, moving at 15 mph with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 205 miles from its center.

Paulette and Rene, the season’s 16th and 17 named storms, both formed in the Atlantic on Monday. Models indicate the storms’ tracks will stay offshore, posing no threat to Florida or the United States.

The National Hurricane Center said that two more tropical depressions could form soon from waves over Africa.

A tropical wave that emerged off Africa’s west coast on Thursday is likely to become a tropical depression late this week or over the weekend as it moves across the eastern tropical Atlantic. It has been given a 90% chance of development.

Another tropical wave is expected to emerge in the same area over the weekend and travel east. Forecasters said it could become a tropical depression early next week. It has been given a 40% chance of development.

This is the time of year when storms tend to form in the open Atlantic, particularly near the Cabo Verde Islands. Those storms, which grow in size and intensity as they make the long trek westward across the Atlantic Ocean, are historically the most powerful and destructive hurricanes.

So far, there have been 18 tropical storms and four hurricanes this season, which runs from June 1-Nov. 30.

Laura was the season’s first major hurricane, making landfall in Cameron, La., as a Category 4 on Aug. 27. Hanna, Isaias and Marco were Category 1 hurricanes that made landfall in Padre Island, Texas; Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.; and at the mouth of the Mississippi River, respectively.

Pauline and Rene set records for earliest “P” and “R” storms in any Atlantic hurricane season, breaking the record held by Philippe and Rita back in 2005, according to Colorado State University Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach.

The remaining monikers for named storms this season in the Atlantic are: Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred. Any storms after Wilfred would be named after letters in the Greek alphabet. That has only happened once — in the 2005 hurricane season, according to The Weather Channel.

The tropical weather experts at Colorado State University predicted that 2020 could possibly be the second-busiest season on record, behind only 2005, the year that produced Katrina and Wilma. In August, the federal government issued an updated forecast for the season, predicting as many as 25 storms, which is more than the agency has ever forecast.

Tribune Wire

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