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Parts Of The Florida Panhandle At Risk For More Strong Storms


Florida Panhandle is once again in the pathway of a strong cold front which could deliver another round of showers and thunderstorms, some of which could be strong.

The pattern will be similar to the last storm system which moved through Valentine’s Day and through last Monday. A deepening low pressure system in the central Gulf of Mexico Wednesday morning is expected to lift northeast into the Florida Panhandle, dragging a strong cold front behind. Stretching ahead of the low pressure, a warm front will begin to lift northwards across the Florida Peninsula throughout Wednesday, ushering in a warm and moist flow which should push through the whole Peninsula by Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

This northward tracking warm front will aid in the development of scattered showers and thunderstorms throughout the Florida Peninsula Wednesday as warm, moist air, replaces the dry and cool air which kept most of the Sunshine State quiet and clear throughout Tuesday. The Sunshine State is forecast to be squeezed between the warm front, which is forecast to be up into Georgia, and the cold front situated to the west of the Florida Panhandle, Wednesday night. This will place the majority of the State of Florida in the warm sector.

This warm sector sets the stage for the final event of the low pressure system which is the cold front. The low pressure system is expected to continue strengthening and track northeastward across the north central Gulf and into the western Florida Panhandle during the overnight Wednesday and into southern Georgia by Thursday afternoon. Widespread shower activity is forecast to overspread the western Panhandle from the southwest to the northeast beginning late Wednesday afternoon as an influx of moisture and increase in upper level wind shear accompanies the passing low pressure system. Showers and thunderstorms will begin to form, some of which could be strong to severe for western locations of the Panhandle. 

Credit FPREN
Severe risk for Feb. 17.

The Storm Prediction Center Wednesday morning issued a Slight Risk (hazard level 2 out of 5) for western and central parts of the Florida Panhandle from Wednesday afternoon and overnight into Thursday. This includes this cities of Pensacola, Destin, Panama City, and out towards western parts of the Apalachicola region. A Marginal Risk (hazard level 1 out of 5) extends out to towards western parts of the Big Bend, including the city of Tallahassee. The best chance for severe storms is expected to be along coastal areas. Atmospheric instability remains more favorable over the Gulf waters which would keep stronger storms offshore. However, this instability could migrate inland, triggering up a few strong to severe thunderstorms.

The severe weather risk is expected to track eastward by daybreak Thursday and approach central and eastern location in the Florida Panhandle. The Storm Prediction Center shifts the Slight Risk area for Thursday to encompass all of the Apalachicola region and through the Big Bend, including the city of Tallahassee. A Marginal Risk is in effect further east which includes the northern Nature Coast and through the Suwannee River Valley.

The main threats with storms that form Wednesday and into Thursday will be strong, potentially damaging straight-line winds, small hail, and isolated tornadoes embedded in thunderstorms. Additionally, above-average rainfall over the last few weeks have produced overly saturated soils across the Sunshine State. Further rainfall could produce localized flash flooding through the end of the work week as showers and thunderstorms track eastward. 

Credit FPREN
Severe risk for Feb. 18.

The low pressure system is anticipated to be offshore of the Mid-Atlantic Friday morning and gaining latitude. The cold front will steadily elongate and remain over the Florida Peninsula, approaching parts of Central Florida in the morning Friday before pushing into South Florida and out into the Atlantic by the afternoon and evening. Scattered storms will still be possible ahead of the cold front but severe storms will be isolated for most of the Florida Peninsula. Heavy rainfall will be the main concern, especially for parts of South Florida which received heavy amounts of rain Tuesday from the last system that moved through the state.

The tail end of the last system stalled over parts of the Gold Coast Tuesday producing showers and thunderstorms, some of which lasted for several hours. Doppler radar estimated four to six inches of rainfall in and around the Miami area, prompting Flash Flood Warnings and Flood Advisories Tuesday afternoon. Central and South Florida may not be under a highlighted severe risk for this next storm system, but there will still be a chance of isolated strong to severe storms through the end of the work week before high pressure builds in north of the state driving in cooler air and drier conditions to the Sunshine State, which should extend through the weekend.