Can it rain on race day?
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The Great American Race is right here on FOX 35, and that means more than 100,000 people are traveling to Daytona International Speedway for the biggest event of the year in motorsports. The 66th running of the 500 is expected to be the greatest ever.
Unfortunately, no race in NASCAR has seen a greater impact from inclement weather in the past few years than Daytona. Three of the last 10 February races have had bad weather conditions, in 2014, 2020 and 2021, including 4 more for the summer race.
In 2009 the race was shortened due to rain. In 2014 and 2021, the race was delayed due to rain and the dryness of the track. In 2012 and 2020 the 500 was postponed due to weather.
What is the weather forecast for the Daytona 500?
We’re still in the El Niño winter, which means more chances for rain, storms and large temperature swings in Florida. We’ve seen that already this winter. In fact, the winter of 2023-2024 so far in Central Florida is winter Cloudiest ever Since 1940.
A front will appear next Monday (February 12) through Tuesday night (February 13) – but it will lose most of its strength before reaching central Florida. A little rain is expected overnight.
A few dry days return for race preparation, qualifying and duels from Tuesday to Friday next week. Cool days with low humidity and mostly sunny weather.
Then all eyes turn to the Gulf. Models for weeks have consistently indicated low pressure developing and tracking either over or near the Florida Peninsula sometime between February 17 and 19. The race is on Sunday the 18th.
Currently, all models show rainfall within that window, and it will likely be heavy. I believe this is true and should happen. Questions remain in this range regarding the timing and location of the rains, storms and winds mentioned.
The GFS model, shown below, takes the majority of the moisture to northern Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. There will still be some rain on Sunday the 18th, but the most optimistic scenario clears the rain late Sunday morning.
The European model, shown below, takes several spells of rain, heavy rain and tropical storms across the state Saturday through most of Sunday.
This scenario would likely result in rain for most of the day on the 18th, which could result in the race being postponed to Monday, or starting too late in the evening, becoming a night race on Sunday.
Here is a probabilistic view of the forecast. The image below is a mix of 50 different European computer model versions.
This is called an “ensemble” – and the average of them all is used when forecasting over longer ranges to get a more realistic and honest view of the likely weather.
This map shows a chance of 0.5 inches of rain (as of today). Or more Only on February 18 (race day) – and the chances were noticed.
Yellow indicates 50% probability. The lighter green has a 40% chance. Both include all of Florida. So, at this point, there is a 40-50% chance of more than 1/2 inch of rain falling that day.
The image below shows the chances of rain of 1 inch or more, as shown above. Only about 20% so far.
So what is the point?
Lots of tropical moisture will likely pass through Florida sometime between Saturday, February 17 and Monday, February 19. It could bring some heavy rain. And perhaps strong thunderstorms as well.
Whether it will all come Saturday night, Sunday or Monday remains uncertain. Let’s hope Saturday or Monday comes so the race can continue as planned.
However, it seems to me more likely that at some point this weekend, we will have to deal with a lot of rain and/or storm chances across Florida. We’ll cross our fingers.