Tropical Depression Likely to Just Miss South Florida This Weekend

Pesky ol' 96L, the awkwardly named system that still needs to organize a bit more before earning the more dignified moniker of Tropical Storm Cristobal, is soaking the Lesser Antilles this morning and turning toward the northwest.

The latest prediction from forecasters as of 8 a.m.: The storm will become a depression this weekend, steer toward South Florida, but probably miss nailing Miami thanks to a trough of low pressure. The system could still make for a sloppy, wet time in the neighborhood, though.

The system is still pretty disorganized this morning and will likely get torn up further by mountain ranges in Hispaniola when it rolls over the island tonight.

But once it's back over open water, forecasters expect the storm to find enough juice to rebuild into a depression.

"Environmental conditions are expected to be more conducive for development when the disturbance moves near or over the southeastern Bahamas on Saturday," the National Hurricane Center says, "and a tropical depression or tropical storm is likely to form over the weekend or by early next week."

What are the chances it steers a bit west and nails Florida instead? A low-pressure system makes that look unlikely, Dr. Jeff Masters over at Weather Underground writes.

"A trough of low pressure is expected to be over the U.S. East Coast early next week, and the GFS and European models predict that this trough will be strong enough to turn 96L north and then northeast, keeping the storm away from the Southeast U.S. coast," Masters writes.

That doesn't mean Miami should quit watching the storm soon to be named Cristobal, though.

"However, long-range model forecasts of disturbances that haven't formed into a tropical depression yet are unreliable," Masters writes, "and we should not be confident that 96L will miss the mainland U.S. yet."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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