Experts warn of rapid intensification of storm that could hit landfall in Florida next week

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landfall in Florida

landfall in Florida The Caribbean Sea is brewing a tropical cyclone that has the Florida Peninsula in its crosshairs, and forecasters warning of a rapid intensification that could slingshot the system to major hurricane strength as it nears the Sunshine State.

landfall in Florida As of 5 p.m. Friday, the disturbance dubbed Tropical Depression Nine was still gaining strength in the Caribbean with 35-mph winds and moving west-northwest. A turn toward the north as it approaches western Cuba is expected Monday before it begins to gorge on the 83- to 85-degree, high-octane waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

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National Hurricane Center meteorologists said the track forecast Friday was a spread from the eastern Gulf of Mexico to east of Miami, and could change significantly depending on the forward speed of the system and an expected dip in the jet team that will pick the system up and move it east. The question is where will it pick it up and when.

The hurricane center upgraded Tropical Depression 10, which is off the coast of Africa and expected to dissipate quickly, to Tropical Storm Hermine at 5 p.m. Friday. That would make TD Nine, Ian.

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Tropical Depression Nine could become Category 3 hurricane for Florida

If the storm follows the official Friday track, its center would be approaching Sarasota on Wednesday afternoon with 115-mph Category 3 winds.

Tropical-storm-force winds could be felt in Palm Beach County as early as Tuesday afternoon into evening with the southwest coast of the state feeling winds of 39 mph or higher winds Tuesday morning.

“The one thing to remember five days out is the track error is 200 miles,” said Todd Kimberlain, senior meteorologist for the South Florida Water Management District. “But it could be a potentially large, powerful and destructive hurricane if it doesn’t lose any steam.”

It’s important to note that the storm could go anywhere inside the forecast cone, not just down the center. About 30% of the time, the storm travels outside the cone, and effects can be felt far afield of the storm’s center.

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon for 24 counties, including Palm Beach County, Martin and St. Lucie.

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Kimberlain emphasized that now is the time to gather supplies and make plans if evacuation orders are made. Evacuations are based on storm surge, not wind. So-called “shadow evacuations,” where people flee who are not in an evacuation zone or unsafe home should be avoided as it adds dangerous traffic to roadways.

Palm Beach County Emergency Management Director Mary Blakeney said it was too early to know if evacuations would be called, but the Emergency Operations Center is ramping up with regular calls with National Weather Service meteorologists and state emergency officials.

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She stressed that people celebrating Rosh Hashanah, which begins Sunday and lasts through Tuesday, should try to stay tuned to the weather and emergency forecasts. Also, she fears new residents, who may have not experienced Hurricane Wilma, will think a storm making landfall on the west coast will have less impact on the east coast.

“Just because it may come to us as a west-coast approaching storm, we all learned from Hurricane Wilma that those storms can do significant damage to our county,” Blakeney said. “These storms can be very big, and intense and wide.”

Wilma hit southwest Florida with Category 3-force gales of 120 mph. By the time it reached Palm Beach County, it was a strong Category 2 storm that tossed hundreds of railroad cars from their tracks in Clewiston, left more than 6 million Floridians without electricity, leveled a Lake Worth church, blew trailer parks to bits and blasted windows out of condos on A1A.

Many parts of Palm Beach County went more than a week without power. The last was restored about 19 days following the storm.

Tropical Depression Nine forms, could hit Florida as Hurricane Hermine next week