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Strong thunderstorms could bring damaging winds, tornadoes across North Florida in multi-day event

Areas in Polk and Hernando counties are at a marginal risk of severe weather on Thursday.

A dynamic system this week will bring multiple days of potentially damaging winds, tornadoes, and localized flash flooding across North Florida.

Surface observations Wednesday morning showed a slow-moving cold front across the Panhandle, with several areas of low pressure rippling along the frontal boundary. Dew point temperatures ahead of the cold front were in the low 70s south of I-10, a sign of how much moisture has been pulled northward due to southerly winds. Warm and unstable air will act in conjunction with the nearly stationary frontal boundary, allowing for multiple days of strong thunderstorm potential through Saturday.

Strong thunderstorms will be ongoing across North Florida Wednesday night, but another round is expected to develop Thursday as a lobe of low pressure zips along the frontal boundary. The Storm Prediction Center has much of North Florida under a "marginal" risk for severe weather, which is a 1 on a scale of 1 to 5. Severe weather potential increases Friday, with a "slight" risk across much of North Florida and the Panhandle. This designation is a 2 on a scale of 1 to 5, meaning a few more strong and severe storms are expected.

  • Cities in Thursday's marginal risk area: Jacksonville, Orlando, Gainesville, Spring Hill, Lakeland
  • Cities in Friday's marginal risk area: Orlando, Daytona Beach
  • Cities in Friday's slight risk area: Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tallahassee, Panama City, Pensacola

Model guidance indicates two distinct rounds of strong thunderstorms Thursday and Friday. The first round is expected to move across the Panhandle and into North Florida Thursday afternoon. Depending on where the nearly stationary front lies will dictate where the atmosphere will be most unstable. North of the frontal system, cooler air will dampen the overall severe weather threat, while areas south of the front will be unstable and more at risk. Friday's atmospheric setup will be nearly identical to Thursday's, with another wave of low pressure forecast to move along the cold front.

Severe weather through late-week is most likely to produce damaging winds over 60 miles per hour. The upper-level wind profile also supports the potential for a few embedded tornadoes especially along the coast, where land-sea interaction could provide extra spin to the atmosphere. Large hail is also possible, however, warmer winds in the mid- and upper-levels will mostly limit widespread hail potential. On top of the risk of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, multiple rounds of heavy rainfall could lead to localized flash flooding. Through the weekend, a widespread area of 1 to 3 inches of rain are possible across North Florida, with locally higher totals near Tallahassee.

As the spring months approach, severe weather across the Sunshine State becomes more common. It is important to understand what severe weather terminology means and how it impacts preparedness. For instance, a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch is issued when ingredients support the potential for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes. Watches tend to last several hours and typically cover a wide geographic region. A severe thunderstorm or tornado warning is issued only if severe thunderstorms or tornadoes are occurring in a specific geographic location. Warnings cover a much smaller area and typically last less than an hour.

To insure that you and your family stay safe during any weather event, make sure you always have a way to receive severe weather alerts.

Copyright 2022 Storm Center. To see more, visit FloridaStorms.org.

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