11 am Wednesday Update: Hurricane Hunter aircraft from NOAA had a difficult time justifying the presence of a tropical storm last night in the northern Caribbean. A closed circulation center was not ascertainable and maximum winds with Chantal were reduced to 45 mph. A second flight this morning concluded that tropical storm force winds were still occurring east of the center, so the 11 am advisory kept the intensity at 45 mph. The system is still moving very quickly to the west at 29 mph and encountering high wind shear (sort of like a strong head wind) on its west side. The fast pace of Chantal to the west has forced the National Hurricane Center to also adjust their forecast track to the left (or west), and it now includes nearly the entire peninsula of Florida. Forecast confidence on the track and strength of Chantal over the coming days is unusually low. This is due in part to the 1) potential interactions with mountainous terrain over Haiti and Cuba, and 2) the faster winds aloft that will be interfering with the cyclone on its entire journey back into the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. It is entirely possible at this point that Chantal, or the remnants thereof, would have more of a direct impact on the peninsula of Florida or even move up the west side of the state this weekend. The verdict on this may not be apparent, however, until the storm crosses the hurdles of both Haiti and Cuba later today and Thursday. At the very least, Floridians can expect an increase in rain coverage and the potential for heavy rain at times as we approach the weekend. Even if Chantal is no longer a tropical cyclone by Friday, its remnant moisture pool will likely work in concert with an upper-level area of low pressure to the west to soak much of the state off and on for days.
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