While Tropical Depression Three appears poised to fizzle out as it spins off the east coast of Florida and moves away from the state, forecasters are monitoring a cold front that could pose a much more serious impact in the northern Gulf of Mexico – and the Tampa Bay area.
Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center are monitoring an area of non-tropical low pressure that could form in the northern gulf in the next two days. If it does, they say it could have a 20 percent chance of developing into a tropical system in the next five days as it moves slowly to the northeast.
If it forms, it would be named Chantal.
“Actually, the bigger the story for the state might be what’s coming at us from the other direction, which is an unusually strong front -- at least by July standards,” said Jeff Huffman, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network.
As that area sinks to the south, forecasters say it will produce a southwesterly flow that will produce increased moisture, and late-night and early-morning showers and thunderstorms off the Tampa Bay coast that will move onshore in the morning and afternoon, and inland in the evening.
The potential tropical system “will likely stall for a few days, producing repeating rounds of thunderstorms with heavy rain, especially across the northern two-thirds of the state,” Huffman said.
The best chances of rain will be on Wednesday and Thursday, forecasters say, with intermittent downpours and the chance of isolated flooding primarily to the north of Tampa Bay.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service say areas from Tampa Bay to the south and east could receive as much as 1 ½ inches of rain through Saturday, with 4 inches possible from Crystal River to the north.