Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rina could bring weekend rain, wind to South Florida; not much to Manatee County

By Daniel Chang
McClatchy Newspapers

MIAMI — Hurricane Rina awoke Wednesday in ragged shape, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest advisory, with the storm’s eye wall losing definition and forecasters suggesting the storm will weaken significantly in the coming days.

In fact, said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami-Dade, “the storm may have already peaked. We’ve got a (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Hurricane Hunter aircraft in the area right now trying to confirm that.”

But while forecasts call for Rina to shear apart by Sunday under southwesterly winds and a cold front descending from the Midwest, the storm’s future track is much less certain and South Florida remains in the dreaded “cone of uncertainty” — an area stretching about 250 miles in each direction from the storm’s center — for the coming Halloween weekend.

In Key West, where the popular Fantasy Fest celebration is scheduled to culminate this weekend in costumed parades, music and merriment, the forecast calls for stormy weather.

“Folks in extreme South Florida and particularly through the Keys should be prepared for a wet and wind-swept weekend,” Feltgen said. “It’s too early to tell exactly what impacts exactly would be felt, but it’s certainly a distinct possibility there could be tropical storm conditions.”

As for Manatee, Rina’s current track would bring just an increased chance of rain Friday and Saturday, with winds near the coast of about 15 mph to 20 mph, according to Jennifer McNatt, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

— Herald Night Metro Editor Brent Conklin contributed to this report.

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