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Damaging winds and isolated tornadoes possible in Panhandle, North Florida Friday into early Saturda

March 16, 2023

Strong storms with damaging wind and isolated tornadoes are forecast to move into the Panhandle and North Florida Friday as a cold front slides through the region.

A ridge of high pressure will keep weather tranquil over the Sunshine State through Thursday. To the west, an area of low pressure is forecast to bring severe weather to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex Thursday afternoon and evening. The severe weather risk in the Southern Plains will be aided by a dry line, that provides extra lift in the atmosphere that allows for severe storms to flourish. While the dry line will stay well to the west of Florida, the low pressure and associated cold front will press into the Lower Mississippi River Valley through Friday. The cold front will push a line of strong and potentially severe thunderstorms to the Panhandle and North Florida Friday evening into the predawn hours Saturday.

Models are generally in agreement that storms will arrive in the western Panhandle after noon Friday. Based on the latest information as of publishing, the line of stronger thunderstorms is forecast to move into the Pensacola area by around sunset Friday. As the broken line of thunderstorms presses east, locations like Panama City and Tallahassee will see storms arrive likely late Friday evening into early Saturday morning. The storm chances will continue through Saturday across much of the Panhandle, but it does appear that instability will lead to a decreased risk of severe weather.

The Storm Prediction Center's Severe Thunderstorm Outlook for Friday suggests that the risk of severe thunderstorms will be highest west of Tallahassee. In this area, a "slight" risk of severe weather is in place covering Pensacola, Destin, and Panama City. This designation is a 2 on a severe weather scale of 1-to-5, and simply means that a strong and severe storms will be scattered. East of Tallahassee, a "marginal" risk exists along the Big Bend and Nature Coast. This is a 1 on the severe weather scale of 1-to-5 and means that isolated severe storms are possible.

Models are in agreement that severe thunderstorms will not likely be widespread or numerous, but the strongest storms will be capable of producing winds of up to 60 miles per hour. Lines of thunderstorms are also known for bringing a few quick spin-up tornadoes, and that risk will be present as this line presses through the Panhandle. Aside from the risk of damaging winds and tornadoes, rounds of heavy rain could lead to localized flash flooding.

Flash flood risk

Meteorologist Justin Ballard

/

Weather Prediction Center

Flash flooding will be possible with storms that move across the Panhandle Friday into Saturday.

Since the risk of strong thunderstorms will move in while many are asleep, residents are encouraged to go to bed Friday night with multiple ways to get severe weather alerts. A weather radio is an excellent resource to have, but there are other ways to get weather alerts. Emergency alert system notifications can be sent directly to cell phones if location-tracking is enabled, which is especially useful during tornado warnings.

Over the next 24 to 36 hours, watches and warnings may be issued and it's important to know the difference. A watch means that atmospheric ingredients are in place to produce severe weather. Watches are typically issued several hours ahead of any severe storms and cover a wide geographical area. Warnings are issued when severe weather is occurring and signal to residents that it's time to seek shelter. Warnings generally do not last more than an hour and cover a much smaller geographic area.

Following the risk of severe weather Friday, much cooler conditions will arrive in the Panhandle for the weekend. Highs will drop into the 50s and lower 60s as northwesterly winds help to dry out the atmosphere. Rain chances across the Peninsula will persist through much of the weekend as the cold front stalls across Central Florida.

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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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Partners of the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network include: Florida's Division of Emergency Management, WDNA (Miami), WFIT (Melbourne), WMFE (Orlando), WFSU (Tallahassee), WGCU (Fort Myers), WJCT (Jacksonville), WKGC (Panama City), WLRN (Miami), WMNF (Tampa-Sarasota), WQCS (Fort Pierce), WUFT (Gainesville-Ocala), WUSF (Tampa), WUWF (Pensacola) and Florida Public Media.

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