NHC issues tropical storm watch for Florida ahead of TS Alex

A tropical storm watch has been issued for Florida’s Gulf coast, Lake Okeechobee and the east coast south of the Volusia/Brevard county line as the area prepares to see first tropical storm of this season beginning as early as Saturday morning, according to the latest projected path from the National Hurricane Center.

The NHC released its first official path prediction Thursday for a system entering the Gulf of Mexico from Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The latest path prediction has the system entering the Gulf of Mexico from Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula by Friday and moving across the southern and central portions of the Florida Peninsula on Saturday.

At 8 pm Thursday, Potential Tropical Cyclone One was located about 80 miles north-northwest of Cozumel, Mexico, and about 500 miles southwest of Fort Myers. It was moving north at 5 mph with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and higher tastes.

“A turn toward the northeast is expected on Friday, and a faster motion toward the northeast is expected Friday night and Saturday,” the hurricane center said. “On the forecast track, the system should move across the southeastern Gulf of Mexico through Friday night, and then move across the southern and central portions of the Florida Peninsula on Saturday.”

The storm, which is the remnants of the Pacific Ocean’s Hurricane Agatha, is expected to become a tropical depression on Friday, turning toward the northeast picking up speed Friday evening and into Saturday. Should that occur, Tropical Storm Alex will be the first named system of the Atlantic season.

The NHC is predicting tropical force-level winds to begin in the Orlando area beginning Saturday morning around 8 am with the storm moving out of the area by Sunday evening.

Tropical storm watches extend inland and include Osceola, Polk and Brevard counties in Central Florida.

The current Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:

  • West coast of Florida south of the Middle of Longboat Key
  • East coast of Florida south of the Volusia/Brevard County Line
  • Florida Keys including the Dry Tortugas
  • Lake Okeechobee
  • Florida Bay
  • Cuban provinces of Matanzas, Mayabeque, Havana, Artemisa, Pinar del Rio, and the Isle of Youth.

A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible somewhere within the watch area within 48 hours.

On Monday, Agatha — the first storm of the Pacific hurricane season, which started May 15 — took form as Category 2 hurricane and made landfall in Puerto Angel, Mexico. The storm dissipated Tuesday over the rough Mexican terrain, but not before killing at least 11 people with another 33 missing, according to the governor of the southern state of Oaxaca.

The National Hurricane Center's projection on when tropical-storm-force winds could arrive over Central Florida this weekend, from what is expected to be Tropical Storm Alex.

Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season, ripping off roofs and washing out roads before fading Tuesday in southern Mexico.

Oaxaca state Gov. Alejandro Murat told MVS Noticias on Tuesday that eight people were listed as missing in either mudslides or flooding.

Meanwhile, the surface trough 200 miles northeast of the central Bahamas has diminished, the NHC said in its 8 am update.

Last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its hurricane season predictions, stating a 65% chance of experiencing an above-average 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, beginning June 1 and running until Nov. 30.

Orlando Sentinel staff writers Lisa Maria Garza, Richard Tribou and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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