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Developing nor'easter to impact state with heavy rain and strong winds this weekend

A developing nor’easter will impact most of the state of Florida this weekend. Heavy rainfall and wind gusts in excess of 35 mph are expected across most of the state Saturday through early Sunday.

An area of low pressure is developing over the Gulf of Mexico ahead of a strong mid-level trough that will be digging into the Lower Plains. The low will start quickly tracking eastward today, and during this period it will be supplemented by Gulf moisture and mid-level energy. The system will continue to intensify, and by Saturday models predict that a shield of heavy rain will develop around the eastern half of the deepening low. Winds around the core of the storm could range between 45 and 50 mph while it is positioned over the water.

Forecast data continues to waver on the exact track (and therefore the location of the most intense impacts) of the system. However, residents across the entire Peninsula and the eastern half of the Panhandle should prepare for impactful weather tonight into this weekend.

Before the main storm arrives, winds will continue to be gusty across the Peninsula, especially directly along the Atlantic coast. Wind, marine, and coastal flood alerts are already in effect in these regions.

Early on Saturday, the core of the developing storm should remain centered over the eastern Gulf. Squall lines of heavy rain and a few strong thunderstorms should push onto the peninsula from west to east from the mid-morning onward. In areas where storms train, local flooding will be possible. Conditions could also support isolated severe thunderstorms: Damaging wind gusts and isolated tornadoes will also be possible during the day on Saturday.

Saturday evening through Sunday morning, the storm's center of circulation should track inland. Models are not in consensus on the exact location of the track, but the latest forecasts have positioned the core of the storm between Steinhatchee and Clearwater/St. Pete. In these areas excessive rain rates on the order of over 1 inch an hour are possible Saturday evening though early Sunday. Storm totals will be in the 2-5" range, with local accumulations over 7 inches. As such, forecasters that the Weather Prediction Center have classified all of Florida under a marginal (level 1 out of 4) or slight (level 2 out of 4) risk for flash flooding this weekend.

In addition, there is the potential for strong to severe thunderstorms late Saturday through pre-dawn Sunday over the Florida Peninsula. Therefore, there will be a risk for isolated nocturnal tornadoes. Residents in this region are encouraged to ensure that they have multiple ways of getting Tornado Warning notifications that will wake them up.

Outside of any severe thunderstorm activity, this powerful system will create powerful winds statewide as it passes through. Sustained winds of 20-40 mph are likely with gusts over 50 mph at times. Winds of this magnitude are capable of structural damage, downed trees or tree limbs, and power outages. Of course, plan on taking any necessary precautions with your holiday decorations as well.

The storm should lift northeastward, away from Florida, on Sunday and conditions will improve from southwest to northeast. Behind the low, most of the state will experience a drop in humidity and a drop in temperatures. Skies should turn mostly sunny by Monday, and highs will range from the low 60s over the Panhandle to the low 70s over South Florida.