The quiet storm season may rumble back to life

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    By Kate Spinner

    After a brief brush with fall, warm, moist weather is expected to return to Florida next week, coinciding with heightened chances for tropical storm activity in the Caribbean.

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    A cold front this weekend is forecast to dip across the Florida peninsula and stall. The front is expected to shift tropical wind currents, shuttling a mass of moisture from the south to Florida.

    No tropical storms were predicted Wednesday. But the widespread thunderstorms and moisture in the Caribbean, and the predicted path of that weather, serve as a reminder that hurricane season is not over. The official end to the season arrives on Nov. 30.

    Warm Caribbean seas, low wind shear and lots of lingering moisture are suddenly making conditions perfect for tropical activity, said Jeff Masters, chief meteorologist with Weather Underground.

    “All we need to do is get something over the ocean,” Masters said, referring to the open Caribbean.

    The National Hurricane Center was watching one disturbance near Costa Rica for tropical development Wednesday. Most computer models predict that the system is more likely to dissipate over land than head north to become a tropical storm.

    “It’s just that time of year where you watch anything in the western Caribbean,” said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

    Feltgen said most tropical systems that form in October arise in the Caribbean, often from the remnants of cold fronts, such as the one that brought record low temperatures to Tampa over the weekend.

    Even if the system near Costa Rica diminishes, the Caribbean is loaded with moisture that likely will move north.

    In addition to the shifting winds from the cold front, a trough of low pressure over the southern U.S. will help drag the tropical moisture north, said Eric Oglesby, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Ruskin.

    The timing for the arrival of the storms and how much rain they will bring depends on when the cold front stalls over Florida. On Wednesday, it was forecast to stall over the peninsula late Saturday or Sunday.

    Such a scenario would bring the tropical weather to Southwest Florida by Tuesday or Wednesday.

    “The timing could change significantly between now and then. It’s a system that hasn’t developed well,” Oglesby said.

    He said the tropical moisture and the threat of tropical storms this time of year are normal.

    “In October, that’s when there is a secondary peak of tropical systems in Florida, so this isn’t that unusual,” Oglesby said.

    Masters pointed out that in late October last year, major hurricanes Omar and Paloma formed in the Caribbean during weather conditions similar to those in place now.


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