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Widespread rain for Florida Friday and Saturday, local flooding and severe cells possible

March 21, 2024

Several rounds of heavy rain and thunderstorms are expected to impact Florida on Friday and Saturday. Isolated severe thunderstorm cells, and localized flash flooding will be possible, especially across parts of South Florida, where storm total rainfall amounts are forecasted to range between three and six inches.

On Thursday morning, a trough of low pressure was positioned over the western Gulf Coast, near Corpus Christie. Scattered shower and thunderstorm activity was already developing in the vicinity of this feature, from San Antonio eastward to Houston and western Louisiana. Throughout the remainder of the day Thursday, this low is forecasted to strengthen as it tracks east northeastward, paralleling the western and central Gulf Coast.

A warm front should develop southeast of the center of low pressure, and this boundary will likely stretch through the Gulf and approach the state of Florida from the west late Thursday evening into early Friday morning. Along and ahead of the front, a complex of heavy rain and thunderstorms is forecasted to develop, and these storms will likely produce periods of heavy rain, gusty winds, and a few strong thunderstorms over the southern two thirds of the peninsula on Friday morning.

Moderate to heavy rain rates are expected to continue through the day Friday and potentially into early Saturday morning across South Florida. Rainfall totals could reach three to six inches across Monroe, Collier, Broward, and Miami Dade counties. Interests in locations like Naples, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and Key West should prepare for localized flash flooding. In addition, the atmosphere will be supportive of severe thunderstorm development, especially over South Florida and along the immediate Gulf Coast of the peninsula. Interests in Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fort Myers, Naples , West Palm Beach, Miami, and the Keys should remain alert as storms could quickly produce brief waterspouts/tornadoes or damaging straight line winds.

While the warm front aids in shower and thunderstorm development over the peninsula, the core of low pressure should track northeastward from the Central Gulf Coast region inland through Alabama and Georgia. The low will drag a cold front through Florida’s Panhandle during the afternoon and evening hours on Friday, and along this boundary we expect a broken line of thunderstorms to develop. As with the storms over the peninsula, the cells along the cold front could produce periods of heavy rain rates, gusty winds, and tornadoes. While rain is expected for most of the day Friday over the southern half of the peninsula, storms likely won’t become widespread over the Panhandle until the afternoon and evening Friday, lasting through early Saturday morning.

In anticipation of Friday’s system, forecasters at the Weather Prediction Center have outlined most of the Panhandle and South Florida under a level one out of four (or “marginal”) risk for flash flooding. The Miami metro area is under a level two out of four risk for flooding (or “slight”). In addition, meteorologists at the Storm Prediction Center have included most of Florida’s Gulf Coast and South Florida under a level one out of five (or “marginal”) risk for severe thunderstorms on Friday.

The cold front from this system should track from the Panhandle through the peninsula during the day Saturday, and another round of strong storms is possible from the I-4 corridor southward. Any additional rainfall could overwhelm the already saturated environment, and localized flooding could become more widespread.

Conditions across the Sunshine State should improve by the latter half of the weekend. By Sunday, skies should be mostly sunny from the Panhandle to the Keys and highs should range from the upper 60s in the north, to the upper 70s in the south.

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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