Residents in Florida should brace themselves for at least one tropical storm this week, with forecasters predicting that watches could be issued as early as Monday.
An area of low pressure roughly 300 miles north of Puerto Rico was responsible for a vast region of disorganized showers and thunderstorms on Sunday. Forecasters began referring to it as Invest 98L.
“This system is forecast to move generally northwestward over the southwestern Atlantic where environmental conditions appear favorable for additional development, and a subtropical or tropical storm is likely to form in the next day or so,” the National Hurricane Center said in a tropical weather update at 7 p.m. Sunday.
“By the middle of this week, the system is expected to shift westward or west-southwestward over the southwestern Atlantic, where more development is probable.”
The hurricane center estimates that the system will develop in the next 48 hours and 90 percent in the next five days.
Various weather models predict the system could make landfall on Florida’s east coast later this week, but experts dispute the storm’s severity – whether it will be a tropical/subtropical storm or even a hurricane.
Regardless of how powerful the storm is, the National Hurricane Center warned that coastal flooding, tropical storm-force gusts, heavy rainfall, severe surf, and beach erosion are all possible this week along Florida’s east coast and most of the southeastern United States coast.
“Those with an interest in those locations should continue to monitor the track of this system, as a tropical storm, hurricane, and storm surge watches may be required for a part of these areas by early Monday,” warned the hurricane center.
State officials have been monitoring NHC bulletins and asked locals to pay attention to the weather system on Sunday.
“Floridians should brace themselves for an increased danger of coastal flooding, heavy winds, rain, rip currents, and beach erosion as early as Tuesday,” warned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Twitter.
Similarly, the Florida Division of Emergency Management warned that residents on the state’s east coast should prepare emergency supply kits for at least seven days, even if the system’s route is still uncertain.
“It appears that weather will deteriorate as the workweek progresses,” National Weather Service forecaster John Pendergrast in Melbourne said. “Deteriorating weather for Central Florida are expected to begin about Tuesday and late Tuesday and last until Thursday.”
Residents living near the St. Johns River and other low-lying locations near rivers and beaches in Central Florida should be concerned, according to Pendergrast. Forecasters estimate that river levels may rise slightly or remain unchanged depending on the quantity of rain, which is presently expected to be 3-4 inches.
Rainfall should have no effect on Tuesday’s election, according to Pendergrast.
“It appears that the true direct effects of the system will not present themselves until after Tuesday,” according to his statement.
Meanwhile, NHC forecasters are keeping an eye on another region of low pressure several hundred miles east of Bermuda, where a tropical storm could form in the coming days. This system is not likely to have an impact on Florida.
The season’s sixth and seventh storms formed last week, with Hurricane Lisa impacting Belize on Thursday morning and Hurricane Martin becoming extratropical in the north Atlantic by Thursday afternoon.
The Atlantic hurricane season lasts until November 30. Through Martin, the season’s 14 named systems have now met the NOAA projection for 2022.
According to NOAA, the season will be above average, with 14 to 21 named tropical storms. This follows a record 30 named storms in 2020 and 21 named storms in 2021.