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Sunshine Skyway Closed; Powerful Squall Line To Bring Storms, Strong Winds Overnight

Feb 6, 2020

The Tampa Bay region should brace for damaging winds and possible isolated tornadoes overnight as a strong squall line moves south into the area.

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge was closed Thursday as of 3 p.m. as maximum sustained winds surpassed 40 mph, and the Florida State Fair -- which opened on Thursday -- announced it will close early, at 5 p.m.

In addition, strong winds caused a large oak tree to fall on a mobile home on U.S. 41 in Pasco County, trapping an elderly woman inside, according to Pasco County Fire Rescue. She was freed and taken by Bayflite to an area hospital for treatment.

The high winds caused more than 1,000 residents Duke Energy residents to lose power, with other regions expected to experience similar outages.

And portions of I-10 were closed in Madison County, east of Tallahassee, Thursday afternoon when strong winds blew dust from nearby fields onto the roadway, reducing visibility.

The region will be under a gale warning until Friday at 1 a.m., and a small craft advisory will be in effect until Friday at 10 a.m. as the cold front moves east. The National Weather Service said earlier Thursday it could produce wind gusts of at least 39 mph in some parts of the area.

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Coastal areas also will be under a coastal flood advisory until Friday at 1 a.m. with the anticipation of heavy thunderstorms causing minor flooding.

Credit NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

The Alafia River is under a flood warning as heavy rain, coupled with high tide tonight, could briefly bring the river above flood stage.

Meteorologists with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network say areas in the Florida Panhandle could see the impacts by late Thursday morning.

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Tampa Bay will experience the worst impacts between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.

“Strong winds through much of the atmosphere and warm, unstable air ahead of a cold front will fuel this line of thunderstorms, FPREN meteorologist Ray Hawthorne said. “I’m most concerned about straight-line winds, but a few brief tornadoes are possible from strong wind shear within the line.”

Forecast models suggested the inclement weather would arrive in several bursts. Occasional bouts of showers and thunderstorms are expected through Thursday night as warm and humid air streams northward from the Gulf of Mexico. Isolated tornadoes and damaging wind gusts are possible with these first few stormy waves.

The cold front will take hold once the line moves through. A brief shot of cooler weather is forecast on Friday before temperatures return to normal over the weekend with sunny skies, forecasters said.

Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network was used in this report.