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Damaging winds, tornadoes, hail possible in Panhandle Thursday night

February 15, 2023

Strong storms capable of producing damaging winds and hail are possible Thursday into Friday across the Panhandle ahead of an approaching late-week cold front.

Surface analysis Wednesday depicts an area of low pressure that will push out of the Four Corners region and into the Great Plains through midweek. While the cold air associated with this low pressure area will bring a hefty snowstorm from the Rockies to the Great Lakes, warm and unstable air on the southern side will allow for strong and severe storms to develop. Dew points by Thursday will climb into the upper 60s to near 70-degrees in the Panhandle, helping to provide extra lift for the atmosphere ahead of the approaching cold front. Aside from above-average moisture, temperatures will also be into the upper 70s and lower 80s. The combination of warm and moist air and atmospheric lift ahead of an approaching front will spark the development of thunderstorms.

The Storm Prediction Center has the far western Panhandle under a "slight" risk of severe weather Thursday into Friday, which is a 2 on a scale of 1-to-5. This designation means that while severe storms are not expected to be numerous, a few could bring the risk of severe weather. Storms are forecast to bring a variety of impacts, including large hail, damaging winds, and isolated tornadoes. Locations like Pensacola and Destin will be most at risk of tornadoes, though the atmospheric ingredients for strong tornadoes will mainly be across Alabama and Mississippi.

Models generally depict an overnight Thursday and Friday morning threat of severe weather. Guidance as of publishing indicate storms will push into the Pensacola area Thursday evening. The overnight potential of strong and severe storms means residents are encouraged to have more than one way to receive severe weather alerts. Models are consistent in getting storms out of the Panhandle by Friday afternoon, with a return to northwesterly winds pulling in cold and dry air by the weekend.

Following the late week cold frontal passage, much cooler temperatures will settle into the Panhandle by the weekend. High temperatures may struggle to get out of the 50s Saturday from Pensacola to Tallahassee, with temperatures at night likely dropping into the 30s. The cooldown is expected to be short-lived, with highs rebounding closer to average by early next week.

Sources include nearest National Weather Service office, National Hurricane Center, and the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network (@FloridaStorms).
Sources include nearby emergency management agencies, FEMA, and your local NPR affiliate. 
Sources include the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol and other nearby traffic information.

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