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Tornado Watch for most of the Panhandle until Noon

Tornado Watch until Noon
Tornado Watch until Noon

Update as of 6:10 AM ET / 5:10 AM CT:

The Storm Prediction Center has issued a Tornado Watch from roughly Marianna to Panama City and westward until noon today. A line of thunderstorms is beginning to organize over Mississippi and is moving east around 50 mph. If the current motion holds, the line would be on track to arrive in:

Pensacola 7-9 AM

Panama City 11 AM - 2 PM

Tallahassee 3-6 PM

A few showers and storms are expected ahead of the main line, and could also pose a risk of gusty winds and isolated tornadoes. However, most of the straight-line wind damage reports are expected to come from the squall line as it arrives.

Original Post on Thursday Evening:

Waves of downpours and strong thunderstorms may pose a risk of multiple hazards to the Panhandle and Big Bend areas through Thursday.

Gusty thunderstorms were developing early Wednesday afternoon along a warm front in Escambia, Santa Rosa, and Okaloosa counties ahead of the strong system. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center issued a “slight risk” (a level 2 risk) for the potential of isolated tornadoes and damaging wind gusts for Pensacola, Fort Walton, and Destin. An “enhanced risk” (level 3 out of 5) was issued for Panama City, Marianna, Tallahassee, Apalachicola, and surrounding areas for Thursday afternoon, where the greatest risk of strong thunderstorms is expected.

Occasional rain and storms Wednesday night may also enhance the threat of flooding. The National Weather Service posted Flash Flood Watches for much of the Panhandle, where 3 to 5 inches of rain are expected through Thursday evening. The agency said localized amounts greater than 5 inches are possible in a short period time, which could initiate the flooding.

Forecast models suggested the inclement weather would arrive in several bursts. Occasional bouts of showers and thunderstorms are expected through Wednesday night as warm and humid air streams northward from the Gulf of Mexico. Isolated tornadoes and damaging wind gusts are possible with these first few stormy waves.

A separate, squall line of thunderstorms is expected to form Thursday morning along a cold front, sweeping through the Panhandle during the day. The line is more likely to contain damaging straight-line winds, but isolated tornadoes may also spin up within the line. Here are the estimated times of arrival of the line:

Pensacola 6-9 AM

Panama City 11 AM - 2 PM

Tallahassee 3-6 PM

Even after the leading edge of the line moves through, additional rain is likely to fall Thursday evening before completely ending around midnight. A brief shot of cooler weather is forecast on Friday before temperatures return to normal over the weekend with sunny skies.

Meteorologists at the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network strongly encourage those in the path of these storms to have multiple ways to receive weather alerts Wednesday night into Thursday, should quick protective action be required.

Copyright 2020 WUFT 89.1

Ray Hawthorne
Megan Borowski