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Gulf Coast Bracing for Weekend Storms

Florida Storms

The calendar says December and not March – but the new month is also expected to come in like a lion this weekend. Residents along the Gulf Coast need to be alert.

After a cold snap the last few days to remind northwest Floridians that winter is almost upon us, the next few days will be reminiscent of early spring – so beware.

“There’s a real powerful storm system dropping down into the Plains States, and we’re going to definitely feel the effects of that all the way south on the Gulf Coast,” says meteorologist Jeffery Medlin at the National Weather Service in Mobile. “We’re looking at a system that’s coming at us from the southwest in a very fast-moving Jet Stream.”

Winds will pick up this afternoon and evening, with the potential for showers and possibly severe thundershowers overnight into Saturday morning which could pack heavy rain, damaging winds and isolated tornadoes before shifting eastward around midday tomorrow.

“There’s quite a bit of a change if you’re a little further west of Pensacola; 2-3 inches [of rain] is what we’re looking at,” said Medlin. “Isolated totals – where several storms move over the same location in a short period of time – could be double that. Mostly falling in a six-hour period or less.”

Winds – especially along the coast – are expected to gust at around the 30 mph mark, and possibly higher.

“It won’t take much to mix the higher-momentum air down out of some of the thunderstorms we get later on, to have some isolated wind gusts to 60 mph; which is typically what we see,” Medlin said.

A few days of cold weather, then a few days of warmer, spring-like conditions. Medlin says the Gulf Coast has always been a “tale of two stories.”

“If your winds are offshore, it’s a very continental type of air mass,” Medlin says. “But the one moment the winds go to the south -- that’s when the warm reservoir of air resides – we live unfortunately in a battle zone. So it’s not atypical to have this type [of changing weather] this time of year.”

Credit NOAA/National Weather Service

On the other side of this front, Medlin says if you’re a fan of cooler weather, your time is expected to return early next week.

“Around mid- to late Monday afternoon at this point,” says Medlin. “But even after this wave of severe weather passes, we could have some locally heavy showers and thunderstorms – not of the severe variety – between when this leaves Saturday evening and Monday with the passage of the front.”

Residents in the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama are advised to stay up to date on the weather situation this weekend, through local media, social media and a weather radio.

“These storms we’re going to have contain rotation; sometimes that rotation can develop into a short-lived tornado in five minutes or less,” Medlin says. “If you get a warning, not only should you have a way to receive one, but also have a plan for what to do to take action.”

The approaching storms have led to some schedule changes. Saturday’s Gulf Breeze Christmas Parade has been cancelled, as has Milton's final Main Street Market for 2018. The World AIDS Day testing event has been moved to Talbot Chapel AME Zion Church on North Reus Street, from one to six p.m. on Saturday.