A trough of low pressure moving through the Florida Straits could organize over the northwestern Bahamas later Friday or Saturday and become the first named storm of the 2020 hurricane season, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
Tropical storm force wind gusts are possible in the Florida Keys, southeast Florida and the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday, forecasters said. Gale warnings have also been issued for the region.
Hurricane season starts June 1, but forecasters at the hurricane center said the system, which was already bringing heavy rain and wind across South Florida Friday morning, has an 80% chance of developing into a subtropical or tropical storm. If it develops, the storm would be named Arthur.
It's not uncommon to have a named storm before the official start of hurricane season. However, pre-season storm formation does not serve as a signal to what the upcoming season may bring. The last five seasons have all featured named systems before the official start.
Subtropical storms are not as defined as tropical storms, with its strongest winds located some distance from it's loosely formed center. They are also not a strong as tropical storms. It's not uncommon to have a named storm before the official start of hurricane season.
Later in the weekend and early next week the system is forecast to move generally northeastward over the western Atlantic.
The forecast led Florida emergency management officials to close 14 state-run COVID-19 test sites on Friday. The sites in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Brevard counties will reopen on Monday.
Helen Aguirre Ferré, the communications director for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, said on Twitter that it's the right move. “With possible wind gusts of 40 mph, it is best for public safety to reopen on Monday. It’s also common sense," she tweeted Thursday night.
State officials have said Florida is currently testing 16,000 to 24,000 people a day for the coronavirus.
Closing the testing sites for the entire weekend will give officials time to break down and set up tables, tents and other equipment at each location, Jason Mahon, communications director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, told the Miami Herald.
Even though the anticipated weather is expected to move through the area by later in the weekend, Mahon noted that the sites would remain closed Sunday “to allow staff to set up the sites after the conditions have passed.”