Tropical system dumps flooding rain on Florida

The tropical system dumping rain over Florida is still expected to become Tropical Storm Alex, but not until its disorganized center has passed over the state later Saturday. In the meantime, half of Florida remains under a Tropical Storm Warning, and squalls near 50 mph have been reported in some places.

As of the 5 am advisory from the National Hurricane Center, the center of what is being referred to as Potential Tropical Cyclone One was located 100 miles southwest of Fort Myers, and the system was picking up its pace moving northwest at 18 mph with sustained winds of 40 mph and higher tastes.

“On the forecast track, the disturbance is expected to move across southern or central Florida today, over the southwestern Atlantic north of the Bahamas tonight, and near or to the north of Bermuda on Monday,” said NHC Senior Hurricane Specialists Robbie Berg.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend out 275 miles from its center with a weather station at Alligator Reef Light south of Islamorada reporting a sustained wind of 35 mph and a gust of 45 mph, and Carysfort Reef Light east of Key Largo reporting a gust of 48 mph within the last few hours, the NHC stated.

Overnight, its organization developed further, though, as it sped up.

“In other words, the system has gone the wrong way in becoming a tropical cyclone,” Berg said. “The global models suggest that the center may jump or re-form near the east-central coast of Florida this afternoon or this evening and then develop and maintain a more familiar tropical cyclone-like structure.”

It’s expected to turn toward the east-northeast while picking up more forward speed on Sunday as it moves into the Atlantic, and then turn toward the east Monday night.

Heavy rains continue to belt South Florida and portions of western Cuba, the NHC said, but Central Florida is expected to receive less bands of heavy rain on Saturday. Some parts of South Florida could see isolated maximums of 15 inches with flash and urban flooding warnings in place.

Some streets in downtown Miami flooded overnight, with city officials closing down streets after emergency responders dealt with multiple calls of cars stuck in the water.

“Please stay off the road and do not drive through floods,” warned officials with the City of Miami Fire-Rescue. “We continue to urge you to not drive or walk through standing water. Be safe and please allow us to assess the situation.”

Less than 10,000 people in Florida without power, mostly from Florida Power & Light in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, according to poweroutage.us.

A Tropical Storm Warning remains in effect running on the Gulf Coast from the middle of Longboat Key on the Sarasota-Manatee County border south, including all of the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas, and then back up Florida’s east coast to the Brevard-Volusia County line as well as Lake Okeechobee. Also parts of Cuba and Bahamas are under a warning with tropical-storm-force conditions expected within 36 hours.

In Cuba, heavy downpours brought by the system caused landslides and accidents that left two people dead in the capital, Havana, state media reported. A person was also reported missing in Pinar del Río province after falling into a rain-swollen river. The country’s Civil Defense organization said the main damages so far were to homes and the electricity system. The State electricity company said 50,000 customers were without power.

Osceola, Brevard and Polk counties remain under an inland Tropical Storm Warning and a flood watch as of noon Friday, according to the National Weather Service, saying those southern Central Florida counties could have expected up to 3-5 inches with some areas with up to 8 inches or rain, but by Saturday, the heaviest rain was farther south.

South Florida and the Treasure Coast, including Indian River County, St. Lucie County and Martin County, can still expect heavy flooding threats.

Officials with Central Florida power companies including Duke Energy, Orlando Utilities Commission and Kissimmee Utility Authority, said they’re prepared to deal quickly with any power outages.

June 1 marked the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30. Forecasters expect another above-average year for tropical system production. Last year saw 21 named storms, and 2020 had a record-breaking 30 named systems.

As a Pacific storm, Hurricane Agatha caused flooding and mudslides that killed at least 11 people and left 20 missing in Mexico, officials said. It caused rivers to overflow their banks and swept away people in homes, while other victims were buried under mud and rocks.

Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season since 1949. Climate scientists say tropical systems will become more powerful and destructive because of global warming.

Orlando Sentinel staff writers Amanda Rabines, Joe Mario Pedersen and Roger Simmons and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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