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Early-season tropical disturbance to unleash flooding downpours in Florida

By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 03, 2019, 3:54:50 AM EDT

noaa satellite tropical disturbance

A satellite image from Wednesday afternoon shows a tropical low sitting over the Bahamas. (NOAA)

A weak tropical low, or disturbance, will take a curved path off the southeastern U.S. coast through Friday with much-needed rain for some and flooding rainfall for others.

While the risk for tropical development is not expected, this is one area of the Atlantic Ocean where early-season development typically takes place.

The official start to the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is still a month away, but AccuWeather meteorologists warned in the annual hurricane outlook, released early last month, that they were concerned about potential early season development off the Southeast coast, the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean. AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said that we would start watching these areas in April and May due to warm water in the region.

"As of late Thursday afternoon, this feature was situated in the middle part of the atmosphere," according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

"In order for it to develop tropical characteristics, it would have to spin down closer to the surface," Sosnowski said.

Despite traveling over the coastal waters, further strengthening into a tropical depression or storm is not expected. However, it will bring a dose of tropical rains to those in its path.

Tropical Low Downpour 5/3/19

Rounds of downpours impacted parts of the Bahamas, including the cities of Freeport and Nassau, and Florida, including Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, on Thursday. Rainfall totals in these locations averaged 0.75 of an inch to 1.50 inches.

Those with outdoor plans should be aware of thunderstorms and heavier bursts of rain in the area and be prepared to find shelter if necessary.

Downpours will focus across the central and eastern portions of Florida into southeastern Georgia and the eastern Carolinas on Friday.

Slow-moving and repeating showers and thunderstorms could lead to flash flooding, especially in urban areas and lower-lying locations.

Download the free AccuWeather app to be alerted of flood watches and warnings for your area.

Some thunderstorms could also contain strong wind gusts, which may further reduce the visibility and make it harder to see during a downpour. This could be especially treacherous for those driving through a thunderstorm.

Despite the hazards of the heavier rain, for many locations across Florida, this rain will be welcome.

Cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach have received half of their normal rainfall during the month of April.

"Florida dries out pretty effectively this time of year," Kottlowski added.

As the sun becomes more powerful in the spring and summer months across the state, more rain is required to keep the ground moist.

The result of not enough rain could be drier brush, and thus an increased fire threat across the region, especially on windier days.

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While rain will continue across parts of the Southeast on Friday, a non-tropical storm advancing from the Midwest to the Atlantic coast will draw this tropical feature farther northeastward.

Interaction with the non-tropical storm is likely to eventually cause the tropical low to fall apart. However, there is a window for subtropical development for a time this weekend and for moisture to survive.

"The tropical moisture could be pulled up into the Carolinas, enhancing the rainfall on Saturday," said Kottlowski.

Generally drier weather is expected across Florida on Saturday, but more rain looks to return on Sunday.

For more updates, continue to check back at and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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