Residents in the Florida Panhandle and South Alabama are being advised to stay alert this weekend, as a powerful, organized storm front approaches from the west.
This will be a powerful front, according to Meteorologist Jeff Huffman at the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, and will catch a lot of attention on Friday with the severe weather developing – especially Friday night across Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
The squall line will be capable of producing widespread swaths of wind damage, along with rainfall amounts of 1-3 in.
“And the risk in Pensacola is just as high as it is, say, in New Orleans, over in Jackson, Mississippi or over in Mobile,” says Huffman. “We’re talking about a wind damage that could produce 60-70 mph winds when it moves in.”
While this does not signal the start of the springtime storm season – that’s still considered to be in March, April and May – Huffman does say that this time of year you can get severe weather anywhere in the Deep South, including Florida.
“When a powerful front like this slices into an increasingly warm and humid air mass, you’re going to feel that over the next 24 hours,” Huffman says. “That humidity’s going to increase; that wind coming off the Gulf is going to get quite strong, temperatures will be in the 70s and even the 80s in a few spots. So any time of the year you get this contrast in air mass you could see severe weather like this.”
Perhaps the one saving grace is that the front will move rapidly, and its weather is expected to be short-lived. Huffman calls it a “quick hit” on Saturday afternoon in the Pensacola area, after summer-like, breezy and humid conditions on Saturday morning.
“It’s probably between noon and 4 p.m. when the first cells could develop,” Huffman says. “Any cell you see on radar – maybe on our Florida Storms app – that’s ahead of the squall line is going to be particularly dangerous,” warns Huffman. “That’s where the tornado threat would come in. And when the squall line arrives, in addition to the risk of a tornado, 60-70 mph winds will be possible in those stronger cells.”
After the front moves through, look for a brief respite.
“It will be a rapid clearing Saturday night and a pretty sharp drop in temperature on Sunday,” says Huffman. “Temperatures will probably be below normal for a couple of days following this front; but it won’t last long. The warm air is going to surge back early next week.”
Jeff Huffman at FPREN urges residents to use the Saturday weather to take stock of their preparedness for future storms, and be preemptive this weekend.
“If you have outdoor plans Saturday, make sure you’ve made some alternate plans between that time frame of noon to four – maybe even a little later than that,” he says. “And make sure you have a way of staying informed; get those alerts on your phone via our mobile app, or tune to [WUWF] for an update again as the storm gets closer.”
Escambia County Emergency Management will be evaluating the data with the National Weather Service in Mobile tomorrow. Santa Rosa and Okaloosa are expected to follow suit, to determine whether emergency operations centers need to be activated.