A tornado watch is in effect until 4 p.m. for northeast, north-central, and west-central Florida, including the Tampa Bay area.
Update 1:20 p.m. The National Weather Service in Ruskin has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for a large portion of the Tampa Bay area until 2:30 p.m.
Those areas include Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, northwestern Manatee County, Hernando County, southeastern Citrus County and Sumter County.
At 1:18 p.m., severe thunderstorms were located along a line extending from 6 miles west of Bushnell to Keystone to 18 miles southwest of Anna Maria, moving northeast at 65 mph.
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge closed due to high winds just after noon.
Update 11:00 AM: The greatest risk to life and property from this event will come from straight-line winds. The Storm Prediction Center says a few isolated tornadoes may develop today. As the line of storms moves eastward through the Big Bend and Peninsula, straight-line winds may be powerful enough to uproot trees and damage some structures.
Most likely arrival times Friday
- Lake City - Noon to 1 pm
- Jacksonville - 1 to 3 pm
- Gainesville - 1 to 2 pm
- Ocala - 1 to 3 pm
- Tampa - 2 to 4 pm
- Orlando - 3 to 5 pm
- Ft. Myers/Naples - 5 to 7 pm
- Melbourne - 5 pm to 7 pm
- Key West, Miami, West Palm, Ft Lauderdale - 9 pm to 11 pm
Forecasters at the Storm Prediction Center have been highlighting the potential hazard for several days, and the approaching storm system has already proven destructive. More than 400 reports of large hail, wind damage or tornadoes were reported Wednesday and Thursday in the central and southern U.S.
Before the storms arrive, The National Weather Service also says south to southeast winds may gust between 30 and 40 mph because of the interactions between the approaching storm system and the strong area of high pressure in the Atlantic Ocean.
The front is expected to clear South Florida Friday night, leaving behind a much cooler, less humid - and more stable - air mass for the weekend.