Tropical Storm Philippe forms, bringing heavy rains and high wind to South Florida

Details to follow

A tropical storm watch was issued for coastal South Florida from Miami-Dade County to the Upper Keys Saturday, as tropical storm Philippe formed from a patch of gusty weather southwest of Cuba.

Heavy rains across parts of the South Florida already began Saturday afternoon from the fringes of the fast-moving storm, which is racing across Cuba at 25 mph. The rains are expected to taper off later in the afternoon, before resuming Saturday night and into Sunday.

A flood watch has been issued for Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties through 4 a.m. Sunday, with two to four inches of rain possible, and six inches in isolated areas.

The worst of the storm will pass closest to South Florida from 9 or 10 p.m. to about 2 a.m., with Miami-Dade expected to experience the highest winds, and Broward and Palm Beach facing the possibility of a few inches of rain.

The storm currently has top wind speeds of 35 mph, but it is expected to reach tropical storm strength, which means winds of 39-73 mph, as it passes or brushes the Florida peninsula late Saturday and early Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 2 p.m. advisory. A tropical storm watch means that these wind speeds are possible. It is a less certain condition than a tropical storm warning, which means these winds are expected.

The forecast track for the storm’s center lies about 35 miles southeast of the Upper Keys and southeastern Miami-Dade County, and the strongest winds will be on the east side of the storm, the side farthest from Florida, the hurricane center said. But the hurricane center said even a slight shift to the west could bring tropical-storm force winds to the Keys or the mainland.

The tropical storm watch applies to coastal Miami-Dade County, which means everything east of Interstate 95 from the Broward County line to downtown, and then east of Dixie Highway through Homestead.

Broward County may see an elevated risk of tornadoes Saturday afternoon, followed by the possibility of heavy rain, thunderstorms and high winds later that night and into Sunday morning. Although Palm Beach County could experience similar effects, the risk there is lower, according to the National Weather Service

To the extent the storm affects mainland South Florida, the worst of it is likely to be in Miami-Dade County, particularly east of I-95, said Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Miami.

The best case for Saturday afternoon in South Florida would be just some isolated heavy rains, without high winds, lightning or tornadoes, he said.

But the storm is expected to move quickly through the region Sunday morning. A strong cold front is following behind it, which could produce lows in the 50s Sunday night.

Gov. Rick Scott met with officials from the Florida Department of Emergency Management and urged state residents to be on alert.

“While this is not currently a developed storm, we know how quickly weather can change and how important it is for every family to be prepared,” the governor said, in a statement issued late Friday afternoon. “Families in South Florida should pay attention to local weather updates and be alert for potentially heavy rain and flooding throughout the weekend.”

By Sun Sentinel

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