Two overlapping weather systems are expected to bring severe weather, including the possibility of tornadoes, to Northwest Florida on Saturday. Also, ongoing rain could create flood risks into next week.
FORT WALTON BEACH — A “very unstable environment,” meteorologically speaking, could produce strong thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes across the western Florida Panhandle on Saturday, according to a meteorologist in the National Weather Service office in Mobile.
Meteorologist Brandon Black explained on Thursday that a high-pressure weather system now over the Bahamas and a low-pressure weather system in the mid-Mississippi Valley are creating the instability likely to bring severe weather to Northwest Florida on Saturday.
“We seem to be getting a pretty good overlap of those two (systems) over our area on Saturday, which is leading to the high severe weather potential,” Black explained.
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Weather-wise, Friday is expected to be relatively quiet, Black said, but a line of storms is expected to begin making its way, west to east, across Northwest Florida beginning Saturday. The immediate area should start seeing thunderstorms and possibly a few tornadoes, by Saturday afternoon and into Saturday evening.
On Saturday, Black said, there will be “a pretty nasty squall line moving through, with damaging winds as the primary threat, and potentially, a few tornadoes could be possible throughout the day on Saturday.”
For the immediate area, the severe weather likely will move through between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday, according to Black.
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As a cautionary note, Black said some of the expected severe weather could develop ahead of the main line of storms set to move through the area on Saturday.
And, he added, “if any of those storms do develop, it would increase our tornado threat.”
Saturday’s severe weather threat will give way to wet weather from Sunday into later next week, creating the potential for some flooding after Saturday, Black said.
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Jessica Fieux, a meteorologist in the national Weather Service’s Tallahassee forecast office, said the front is expected to weaken as it moves across the Panhandle, but its effects could still be felt as far west as the Big Bend area.
Fieux cautioned that winds associated with the storm, coming from the south and southeast, will create the danger of rip currents in the Gulf of Mexico, making it unsafe to enter the water. Winds could reach speeds of 65 to 70 mph, Fieux said, right at the edge of tornado strength.
Both Fieux and Black on Thursday were advising people across the Panhandle to be prepared for the potential of severe weather. They advised residents to know in advance where they will be getting their weather information, whether from a cellphone app, a weather radio or other source, and to review preparation plans, including knowing where their “safe place” will be in the event of severe weather.