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Florida Keys News
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Cold front to put chill on Keys
Wet, windy weather prompts tornado warnings, flooding

The wet and gusty weather that pounded the dawn Friday is dragging cold weather our way, a National Weather Service spokesman in Key West said Friday.

The wind was authored by the city's location in a sandwich of extremely cold air to the north and warm tropical air to the south, according to meteorologist Alan Albanese at the weather service's White Street office. Differences between high and low temperatures create wind as low pressure rushes in to replace high pressure systems, he said.

Not only that, but the jet stream -- at an altitude of 30,000 to 40,000 feet -- has dipped south and is pulling cold air this way.

"The conveyor belt of strong winds could drop cold air like an anvil on the Keys by Sunday morning, when temps could slump to the high 50s and low 60s for a chilly beginning of Christmas week," Albanese said. "It will take time for the temps to respond, but by Sunday morning it will be much cooler and could fall into the 50s."

The forecast calls for temperatures of 65 degrees in the Upper Keys and 70 degrees in the Lower Keys this morning, warming to 70 or 75 by the afternoon in Key West. The Keys will see steadily falling temperatures thereafter. By Sunday morning, temperatures could fall to 50 or 55 in the Upper Keys and 60 in the Lower Keys.

The cold is expected to last until Monday or Tuesday and will begin to warm Wednesday, he said.

"Monday morning will be the coolest," Albanese said. "In the meantime, watch for more rain that will be rocking the Keys throughout Friday night and Saturday morning."

The clash between the two pressure systems over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday prompted the weather service to issue a tornado warning for the Florida Keys that lasted until early afternoon.

Commuters on bicycles, scooters and the lucky in enclosed vehicles headed to work in what some forecasters called a winter cyclone, meteorologist Chip Casper said.

"It sure looked like a cyclone, though, to people on the ground," he said, adding that gusts hit 52 mph at Sand Key Light and 48 mph at Boca Chica Naval Air Station Friday morning. "There's a mid-winter cyclone over the northeast Gulf of Mexico and it's moving north-northeast. It's on its way to providing a big winter storm for the Eastern Seaboard."

A patio umbrella that blew up into electrical lines near Fifth Street and 11th Avenue on Stock Island was blamed for a 30-minute power outage that affected 1,200 Keys Energy Services customers there about 2:45 p.m.

Then there was the torrential rain, which dumped 3.28 inches into the slow-draining Keys stormwater system by 4 p.m. Friday, creating wave-filled lakes as cars and bicycles tried to cross intersections and negotiate poorly drained streets.

Friday's rainfall exceeded the rainfall during Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the service said. Wilma dropped 2.02 inches on Oct. 23-24, the National Weather Service said.

jguerra@keysnews.com

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