Florida is the expected landing spot for the premiere storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season this weekend, but local meteorologists say Tampa Bay residents shouldn’t worry too much.
That’s because the system, which forecasters on Friday said has a 90 percent chance of strengthening into Tropical Storm Alex, is relatively weak and will do little more than raise rain chances between Friday evening and Sunday, said Austen Flannery of the National Weather Service’s Ruskin office.
The National Hurricane Center on Friday morning issued tropical storm warnings that stretched from the Florida Keys north along the coast to Longboat Key, just south of the Tampa Bay area, and inland Manatee and Polk counties. A warning was also issued for southeast Florida, portions of Cuba and the northwestern Bahamas.
Forecasters said parts of South Florida could experience 4-8 inches of rain and a storm surge of up to 3 feet.
The center said the system was likely to reach tropical storm strength by Friday evening as it organized just east of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It was then expected to travel across the Gulf of Mexico before crossing the central and southern parts of the Florida peninsula Saturday.
As of 6 a.m. Friday, the system was 420 miles south-southwest of Fort Myers and was traveling northeast at 6 mph. Maximum sustained winds were at 40 mph with higher gusts.
If this forecast holds, Flannery said, spoiled boating and outdoor plans are likely the worst of the storm’s impacts on Tampa Bay.
“There’s always a chance for deviation but the reality is, this is just a weak system,” Flannery said. “And the further north it goes, the more obstacles it faces.”
Flannery says he expects a small craft advisory to be issued for Tampa Bay and surrounding waters this weekend. Isolated incidents of flooding could occur, he said, but aren’t expected to be widespread in Tampa Bay.
While it’s possible the storm’s track could shift north to make landfall within Tampa Bay or closer to it, Flannery says the shift wouldn’t change much for this weekend’s outlook locally. At the worst, he said, the region would have longer periods of rain and slightly higher chances of flooding.
“It won’t bring a big difference in impacts depending on where it goes,” Flannery said.
The weather service says the highest chance of rain will come Saturday, where it’s been pegged at 70 percent for Tampa Bay with a chance of thunderstorms. The chance of rain Friday night will be 60 percent, while Sunday morning has a 40 percent chance. Highs will be in the upper 80s and lows will be in the mid-70s each day.
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2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.
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Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change
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