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Storms could bring damaging winds, tornado risk to Panhandle through early Friday

February 16, 2023

A powerful spring-like system is bringing heavy snow to the Midwest and the risk of tornadoes and wind to the Southeast Thursday into Friday.

Surface analysis Thursday depicts an area of low pressure draped across the Ohio River Valley, with an attendant cold front sweeping across the Deep South. While the cold air associated with this low pressure area will bring heavy snow into the Great Lakes, warm and unstable air on the southern side has allowed for strong and severe storms to develop across Mississippi and Tennessee. Dew points in the upper 60s and lower 70s across the Panhandle Thursday afternoon, which will set the stage for the potential of strong storms. The combination of warm and moist air and atmospheric lift ahead of the 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 damaging winds, isolated tornadoes, and even large hail. Locations like Pensacola and Destin will be most at risk for tornadoes, though the atmospheric ingredients for strong tornadoes will mainly be across Alabama and Mississippi where tornado watches are already in place through Thursday evening.

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Meteorologist Justin Ballard

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Florida Public Radio Emergency Network

Tornado watches remain in effect across portions of Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee through Thursday evening.

Timing of strong and severe thunderstorms in the Panhandle will generally occur during the overnight hours Thursday into Friday. The risk of severe weather enters the far western Panhandle between 8 PM and midnight Friday. 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.

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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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