Two weather systems are expected to merge in the Atlantic this weekend, then bring potentially wet and sloppy weather to Florida just in time for Election Day on Tuesday.
The National Hurricane Center warned Friday that the East Coast of Florida could experience heavy rain, rough surf, strong winds and coastal flooding next week. The National Weather Service said rain chances on the eastern side of the state next week could be as high as 80%.
Here in the Tampa Bay area, though, rain chances will be more in the range of 30-50%, the weather service said. And the weather system could result in cloud cover and breezy conditions that will lower near-record high temperatures that the Tampa Bay area experienced this week.
As of Friday evening, the pair of disturbances were in the Caribbean Sea and in the Atlantic Ocean southeast of Bermuda. The two were expected to mush together sometime Saturday.
Models show the merged system drifting to the west and northwest through the weekend, according to Rick Davis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s office in Tampa Bay. The system is expected to remain unorganized and will essentially be a rainmaker next week, Davis said.
“You know, even if it develops, all the models keep it very disorganized and fairly weak, so just a rain event is what we’re expecting at this point,” Davis said.
In its 8 p.m. advisory, the Hurricane Center gave the Caribbean system a 50% chance of strengthening into a tropical system within the next five days.
The system could mean a rainy Election Day, particularly on the state’s east side.
Brad Gomez, a political science professor at Florida State University, is the author of a 2007 study that found rain can have a significant effect on voter turnout.
He and his co-authors analyzed county-level voting data in presidential elections from 1948 until 2000 and found that for every inch of rain above a region’s 30-year rainfall average, turnout falls nearly 1%.
However, Gomez cautioned that his study is specific to presidential elections. Tuesday will bring a midterm election, which may bring a smaller, but more dedicated turnout than a highly publicized presidential race.
It’s also unclear which party may be affected by a potential smaller turnout on Election Day.
”We’re going to have a large percentage of voters who have already voted” by Tuesday, Gomez noted. “The question then becomes, is there a difference between who votes before Election Day and who votes on Election Day? And that might matter.”
While the weather on the state’s east side might be wet, Tampa Bay’s weather might be comfortably cooler because of the weather system’s cloud cover and breezes.
Highs across the Tampa Bay area over the past few days have tied records for some of the hottest temperatures recorded in November. High temperatures are expected to remain in the mid- to high 80s this weekend.
“In the past few days, we’ve seen near-record highs in the upper 80s and lower 90s. With that additional cloud cover, it does look like lower to mid-80s for mid-week,” Davis said.
Elsewhere, the last remaining named storm in the tropics, Tropical Depression Lisa, was still hanging on near Central America on Friday. Lisa raked parts of Central America with heavy rain and strong winds as a weak hurricane, but was expected to be just a “post-tropical remnant” by Saturday night.
Despite all the activity in the tropics, only weeks remain until the official end of hurricane season on Nov. 30.
Times Staff Writers Kirby Wilson and Chris Tisch contributed to this report.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
HOW TO HELP: Where to donate or volunteer to help Hurricane Ian victims.
FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.
HOW RELIABLE ARE HURRICANE MODELS? Hurricane Ian gave us some answers.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
HOME HARDENING: Qualified Florida homeowners could receive up to $10K through program.
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.