Severe weather expected today

Published 12:03 am Saturday, August 4, 2012


As the tropics began heating up, local residents didn’t have to wait for the inclement weather as storms rolled in Friday and are expected to continue today.

“And a few may become severe, so stay aware,” said Susan Harris, county EMA director.

According to the National Weather Service, these storms could have frequent and potentially deadly lightning, with strong wind gusts from 45 to 55 mph. A few storms could also become severe, with damaging winds in excess of 60 mph and hail up to quarter size.

Locally, heavy rains will be the main hazard.

Forecasters are also looking to the tropics, as there is one tropical storm that has formed and two other systems that have a chance of becoming named storms in the coming days.

On Friday, data collected from a reconnaissance plane and radar showed the small, but well-defined, center of Tropical Storm Ernesto to be moving westward, just south of St. Lucia.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts that the storm will strengthen gradually this weekend, and could reach hurricane strength by Monday.

Maximum sustained winds Friday were at around 50 mph.

It is expected to pass south of Jamaica on Sunday.

National Hurricane Center forecasters are uncertain on the path east of Jamaica, and said the track models diverge considerably. Some models keep Ernesto on a more westward track, while another group has the cyclone turning more to the northwest.

“As for Ernesto it is now becoming active, but it is too early to speculate,” Harris said.

Forecasters are also watching a large area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms over the central and northwestern Bahamas and adjacent Western Atlantic water, which is associated with a surface trough, the NHC said.

Upper-level winds could become a little more conducive for development over the weekend as the trough moves to the northwest at 5 to 10 mph. It has a 20 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.

Also on the radar is a well-defined low-pressure area associated with a tropical wave that is located about 135 miles south-southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, according to the NHC.

Forecasters said that although environmental conditions are currently conducive for tropical cyclone formation, dry air and cooler waters could inhibit additional development in a day or two.

This system has a medium chance – 50 percent – of becoming a tropical cyclone during the next 48 hours.