The first few advisories from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued last Thursday on Tropical Storm Matthew had that system forecast to turn northward and be centered in the northwest Caribbean by today. That was the most likely scenario based on available computer model guidance at the time. But the models soon started indicating that Matthew would move more westward over the Yucatan peninsula and another tropical cyclone would develop in the broad area of low pressure remaining over the northwest Caribbean. That is what has happened with the development of Tropical Depression Sixteen.
The above GOES satellite image shows concentrated areas of thunderstorms over the northwest Caribbean associated with recently upgraded Tropical Depression Sixteen currently centered south of the Isle of Youth Cuba. The satellite image also shows a frontal cloud band extending northeastward from the Florida peninsula. The NHC is forecasting the depression to strengthen into a minimal Tropical Storm with the track of the center of the cyclone moving over western Cuba tonight and near southeastern Florida by tomorrow afternoon before merging with the frontal zone on Thursday.
At this time, the tropical cyclone (likely to become Tropical Storm Nicole) is seen primarily as a rainfall event and not a wind event. The heaviest rains are mainly to the east of the center. That means that if the center tracks over the southeast Florida coast, the heaviest rains will be to the east. However, the NHC with input from the National Weather Service’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center and local forecast offices, are still calling for 4 to 8 inches of rain possible over portions of extreme southern Florida and a Flood Watch is in effect.
It is important to remember that there is no good correlation between the intensity of a tropical cyclone and the amount of rainfall. If the heavy rains do come to South Florida, one important thing to remember is to not drive through flooded areas. Even in flat South Florida, we sometimes have loss of life when people drive their cars into canals because they can’t see where the road stops and the canal begins. Remember, “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!”