Weather service: conditions will start going ‘downhill’ on Monday

Take down your patio umbrellas. Tropical Storm Laura is expected to arrive in or near the Florida Keys on Monday.

“The forecast track has it coming through the Straits of Florida or across South Florida on  Monday,” said Andy Haner, a forecaster for the National Weather Service Office in Key West. “Of course, the Keys are in the middle, so there’s a high possibility it will be in our neck of the woods.”

Tropical Depression 14 is expected to impact the Gulf Coast on the same day, Monday. Currently, NOAA is forecasting that both will have achieved hurricane intensity by landfall.

“What’s the real difference between 70 mph and 75 mph?” Haner observed. “Sometimes we get a little hung up on these thresholds between tropical storm and hurricane. I think it’s safe to say we should prepare for a good blow on Monday.”

Monroe County declared a State of Local Emergency on Friday, Aug. 21 at noon. Both the Emergency Operations Center at the Marathon Government Center, and the hotline (800-955-5504) will be activated tomorrow. 

County staff will be reaching out to the special needs population who need shelter or transportation. This includes people with limited mobility, those dependent on oxygen, or have moderate dementia or cognitive impairment. Monroe County government offices will be closed on Monday, Aug. 24. Airports will continue with normal operations until Sunday when protective measures may be enacted. Hospitals plan to remain open but may reschedule elective procedures.

Monroe County has also issued a mandatory evacuation of all liveaboard vessels, mobile homes, recreational vehicles, travel trailers, and campers. General population shelters will be discussed Saturday morning to open on Sunday at 3 p.m. for those who live in vulnerable homes or aboard boats. More information will be forthcoming regarding sheltering. Recreational vehicles must be removed from Monroe County by noon on Sunday, Aug. 23.

Visitors staying or planning on staying in Keys hotels should be aware of hazardous weather conditions and consider altering their plans to not be in the Florida Keys starting at noon on Sunday, Aug. 23 until after the threat of Laura is clear.

The Monroe County School District will probably make a decision on Saturday morning whether or not to cancel virtual school on Monday, Aug. 24.

Tropical Storm Laura is a fast-moving storm, traveling about 21 mph. 

“Typically storms move at about 10 to 15 mph,” Haner said. “The general rule of thumb is that faster moving storms have more trouble intensifying. However we need to pay attention for the next couple of days to see how close the center of the storm tracks to the Greater Antilles (Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and Cuba). If it tracks closer or over those islands, it will be less intense. If it tracks north of those islands, we will be dealing with a more intense storm. I have to emphasize, though, that the intensity forecast is the most uncertain part of the forecast.”

Haner said wind speeds over the weekend are likely to be 15 to 20 mph with choppy seas.

“Conditions are going to go downhill on Monday morning, reaching their peak on Monday afternoon or evening, and improving after that,” he said. 

Residents are advised to continuously check trusted weather information at the National Hurricane Center,,, or at the Keys Weekly, As of Aug. 21, the storm had a wind speed of 46 mph and was tracking northwest. The center was located about 1,400 miles southeast of Key West.

“Residents should continue to monitor the storm and be prepared for category one hurricane winds and strong squalls,” said Shannon Wiener, Monroe County Emergency Management Director. “Please secure all boats and outside items over the weekend for this event.”

Other storm details:

  • The City of Key West will suspend bus service on Sunday and Monday, Aug. 23-24.
  • The City of Key West will be closing the Grinnell Street Park N Ride and the parking lot at Angela and Simonton streets at the end of the day today, Friday, Aug. 21. 
  • The Key West Cemetery will be closed Saturday, Sunday and Monday, (Aug. 22-24).
  • All playgrounds will be closed on Monday, Aug. 24.

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Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.