If only Elon Musk could build a super fan and point it out into the Gulf this weekend, Florida might escape some discomfort heading our way.
We’re talking a heat index of 100 on Thursday — the temperature you’ll really feel — along with possibly strong thunderstorms on Friday and the arrival of Saharan dust into Florida on Saturday or Sunday, according to Barry Baxter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami.
There’s a 70% chance of storms in South Florida on Friday, according to the service in South Florida and higher in other parts of the state. Will the rain tamp down the dust? And the temperatures?
“We’re expecting rainfall on Friday but it looks like the core of the dust won’t be here until the weekend — Saturday, Sunday — so what’s happening is we have a low level trough that’s moving to the Bahamas now that’s going to swing through us tomorrow. And then right behind that the tropics are actually pulling that dust behind it, over us,” Baxter said on Thursday morning.
Thursday afternoon could see isolated to scattered storms around South Florida, but these will likely remain confined across the Lake Okeechobee region and interior portions of South Florida, according to the weather service. The Florida Keys may see storm activity earlier, perhaps Thursday night, on a 60% chance.
On Thursday, the weather service in Key West issued a coastal flood statement for the Lower and Middle Keys, particularly during high tide cycles. Rainfall could be moderate to heavy.
Heat index warnings
— NWS Miami (@NWSMiami) May 19, 2022
Highs will hit around 90 degrees but the heat indices could reach 98 to 102 degrees in South Florida Thursday. Bradenton and the Tampa Bay area will also top 90 degrees but feel much hotter.
Meteorologists suggest caution if you’re doing outdoor activities. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to stay hydrated. Wear light colors.
Friday storms in South Florida could produce heavy rainfall and localized flooding, along with gusty southeasterly winds around 14 mph, and also lightning.
The Keys could also see unsettled weather remain over the weekend into late Sunday night and through Wednesday.
Bradenton will be wet, with an 80% chance of storm coverage Friday into Saturday.
Orlando also faces heavy rainfall Friday of up to one to two inches and three to five inches in the strongest storms and that wet weather is expected to continue into the weekend, the weather service said. Afternoon heat index values are forecast to reach the mid- to upper-90s on Friday.
The slight upshot?
Depending on how much cloud coverage we get Friday, it may not be quite as hot as Thursday’s triple-digit heat index. Temperatures will still climb into the mid- and upper-80s, Baxter says.
“As we get more [cloud] coverage it’s going to keep the temperatures down a little bit. But still, with higher dew points, I still say it’s going to make it feel like around 90 because it’s just so humid.”
As for the Saharan dust, the first trans-Atlantic Saharan dust cloud of 2022 to approach the Gulf Coast states could produce pretty and hazy sunsets but also exacerbate health issues, warns AccuWeather.
The dust has already made its way into the Caribbean.
“Some of the dust is probably going to reach Florida. The biggest impact will be to make the sky appear hazy, but it can also give extra color to sunrises and sunsets,” AccuWeather reported.
“Saharan dust can irritate people’s eyes, ears, noses and throats with fine particles of silica and other minerals that can infiltrate lung tissue, aggravate sensitivities, and reduce visibility,” according to NASA.
Rip current risk
Another issue to pay heed to this weekend is the risk of rip currents could also increase along Atlantic beaches, according to the weather service in Miami.
PBS has produced a documentary, “Rip Current Rescue,” to spotlight safety and survival tips. The documentary, partly filmed on Florida beaches, airs on public television stations and streams through the summer.
After a wet end of the week, a risk of excessive heat returns this weekend across interior and west coast portions of South Florida, according to the weather service in Miami.
Expect a 40% rain chance Saturday and highs in the upper-80s and 20% on Sunday in South Florida. Rain chances tick back up to 40% Tuesday into mid-week in South and Central Florida, as well as Tampa Bay.