Tornadoes, Heavy Rains Pepper Florida as Nestor Makes Landfall

October 19, 2019, 4:31 PM EDT

Above: A tornado spawned by Tropical Storm Nestor damaged this car in Cape Coral, Florida, on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Image credit: Cape Coral Fire Department, via Facebook and weather.com.

Post-Tropical Cyclone Nestor made landfall at 2 pm EDT Saturday near St. Vincent’s Island in the Florida Panhandle just west of Apalachicola. The former tropical storm had been declared post-tropical three hours earlier. Nestor made landfall with top sustained winds estimated at 45 mph, but there were few if any reports of sustained tropical-storm force winds along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Wind gusts reached 61 mph on an instrumented tower maintained by Tyndall Air Force Base. 

Even at its peak, Nestor never behaved much like a classic, symmetrical tropical storm. It consisted mainly of a cluster of showers and thunderstorms (convection) near its center, and a much more impressive band of convection to its east and south that pushed across the Florida Peninsula from late Friday into Saturday afternoon. Rainfall of 3” – 5” was common across the northern Tampa Bay area, and a total of 5.62” was reported through 7 am EDT from a CoCoRaHS station 3 miles west-northwest of Seminole. As of 1 pm EDT, Daytona Beach International Airport had reported 3.96”.

Beneficial rains were spreading on Saturday afternoon across drought-stricken Georgia. The rains were toward the Carolinas and southeast Virginia, where widespread 1”- 3” totals could be racked up from Saturday night through late Sunday.

After moving into the Atlantic, Nestor’s remnants may get pulled into a strong midlatitude storm system heading across New England on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nighttime tornadoes strafe central Florida

Intense thunderstorms on Nestor’s southeast flank moved from the eastern Gulf of Mexico into northern and central Florida on Friday night. Several storms encountered a warm front bisecting the peninsula, which gave the storms added spin. The result was rotating storms that were unusually powerful for Florida.

The most intense, long-lived storm of the night struck between 10 pm and midnight. One tornado with a preliminary EF2 rating carved a nine-mile-long path from just west of Lakeland Linder International Airport to near Kathleen. A semi-trailer truck was knocked atop a sport utility vehicle on Interstate 4 as the tornado passed through, blocking traffic.

About 50 homes were damaged by this tornado, according to weather.com, but no serious injuries were reported.

A distinct hook and debris signature were evident on Doppler radar with this storm, which resembled a Great Plains supercell more than a typical Florida storm. No specific peak-wind value has yet been determined for the Lakeland/Kathleen tornado. The EF2 wind-speed range extends from 111 to 135 mph.

Brief tornadoes also inflicted damage on several homes in the Twelve Oaks Mobile Home Park near Seminole around 9:20 pm EDT Friday (preliminary rating EF0) and on 18 homes in the northwest part of Cape Coral around 6:45 am EDT Saturday (preliminary rating EF1). Another short-lived tornado was reported around 2:50 pm EDT Saturday in rural Indian River County, as Nestor-associated thunderstorms headed toward Florida’s Atlantic coast.

See the weather.com article for more detail on Nestor’s impacts.

Storm surge from Nestor

Nestor’s storm surge was modest but fairly widespread. The surge led to peak water levels of 4.93 feet above mean low low water (MLLW) in Apalachicola, the result of a storm surge that was crescendoing near the Saturday morning high tide. Further southeast along Florida’s Big Bend coast, the highest storm surge arrived closer to low tide, reducing the overall impact. Maximum storm surge values from Nestor on Saturday morning included:

Apalachicola, FL:  3.5’
Cedar Key, FL:  3.6’
Clearwater Beach, FL:  2.6’

This year’s fourth U.S. landfall

Nestor is the fourth named storm to make landfall on the U.S. Gulf or Atlantic coastlines in the 2019 Atlantic season, following Hurricane Barry (July 13, Category 1 at Intracoastal City, Louisiana), Hurricane Dorian (September 6, Category 1 at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina), and  Tropical Storm Imelda (September 17 at Freeport, Texas).

As for U.S. territories, the year’s most spectacular—if unobserved—encounter was with Super Typhoon Hagibis. The northern eyewall of Hagibis passed over unpopulated Anatahan in the Northern Mariana Islands, with top sustained winds estimated at 160 mph by the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The center of Hagibis’ hyper-distinct eye appears to have passed just south of the island, which would prevent the encounter from qualifying as a landfall.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

author image

Bob Henson

WU meteorologist Bob Henson, co-editor of Category 6, is the author of "Meteorology Today" and "The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change." Before joining WU, he was a longtime writer and editor at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO.

bob.henson@weather.com

@bhensonweather

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