A big area of thunderstorms has been festering in the far western Caribbean this week. The complex is drifting north and will pass over Cuba on its way toward South Florida on Saturday. It could become a tropical storm in the meantime, in which case it would be named Philippe.
The last year we reached the “P” storm was 2012.
The window of opportunity for this cluster of storms to get its act together is narrow — it can’t be too close to land like it is now, and it has to beat the approaching cold front and associated strong vertical wind shear. But it’s possible, given the extremely warm water ahead of it and the favorable atmospheric environment for the next 48 hours.
The National Hurricane Center is giving it a 60 percent probability of becoming at least a tropical depression by Sunday morning.
Model guidance is split on its development. The skillful European global model keeps it fairly disorganized, and probably not quite a tropical depression, while the U.S. global model and high-resolution hurricane models are all indicating intensification to a tropical storm. They keep the center slightly east of the Florida peninsula, but close enough to bring impacts.
Places in South Florida — particularly the southeast coast — can expect gusty winds and heavy rain throughout the day Saturday, perhaps three inches or more in localized areas. Regardless of whether it becomes a tropical cyclone, one thing is certain: The disturbance will bring heavy rain to Cuba and Florida this weekend, then to the Northeast on Sunday as it interacts and merges with a strong mid-latitude storm. We’ll have more on that last part in a separate forecast Friday.