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Storms could produce damaging winds, tornadoes, and hail through Wednesday in Panhandle

Strong storms Tuesday into Wednesday
Meteorologist Justin Ballard
Florida Public Radio Emergency Network
The Panhandle could get storms capable of producing damaging winds and tornadoes through Wednesday.

A powerful system capable of producing damaging winds and tornadoes will move into the Panhandle Tuesday into Wednesday.

Surface analysis Tuesday afternoon depicts a strong low pushing into the Upper Midwest, with strong storms developing in the warm sector across the Deep South. Tornado Watches are in effect across portions of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee through Tuesday evening. The severe weather threat will shift eastward Tuesday night into Wednesday. Increasing severe weather parameters ahead of the line of thunderstorms will provide extra energy to storms that arrive in the Panhandle early Wednesday morning.

Forecast models suggest a few strong storms are possible Tuesday afternoon and evening across the Panhandle, but the main line of thunderstorms will arrive early Wednesday. Damaging winds of 60 miles per hour and tornadoes are possible overnight Tuesday in the Pensacola area. Large hail will also be possible, though this potential is not as significant as the wind or tornado threat. The severe risk pushes east through Wednesday, with strong storms likely arriving in the Tallahassee area by midday Wednesday. Storms are forecast to gradually outrun their source of fuel, leading to a gradual weakening trend in the progressive line of thunderstorms. Despite that, the potential for damaging winds will persist as the broken line of thunderstorms pushes into North Florida through Wednesday afternoon.

The Storm Prediction Center has the far northwestern Panhandle under an "enhanced" risk for severe weather through Wednesday morning. This designation is a 3 on a severe weather scale of 1-to-5 and means that severe storms will be capable of producing a few stronger tornadoes and damaging winds. By Wednesday afternoon, the severe weather risk will shift toward the Big Bend as a "slight" risk per the Storm Prediction Center designation. This is a 2 on a severe weather scale of 1-to-5 and means that storms will be isolated to widely scattered and capable of producing damaging wind and a few brief tornadoes. On top of the risk of severe weather, training thunderstorms could lead to localized flash flooding through Wednesday into the western Panhandle.

There is the potential for watches and warnings to be issued through Wednesday. If a watch is issued, it means that the ingredients for severe weather or tornadoes are present in the atmosphere. Watches are typically issued before the weather turns severe and tend to cover a fairly large geographic area for several hours. A warning on the other hand is issued when severe weather is ongoing for a specific location and is typically on a smaller geographic scale, typically covering only a few counties at a time. As a reminder, the severe weather season in the Sunshine State typically does persist through the winter months. This is especially true along the Gulf Coast where powerful cold fronts can sometimes spark stronger storms.

Following the severe weather risk through midweek, a significant cooldown is expected across the Panhandle and North Florida. Highs by the first full weekend of 2023 will fall into the lower 60s across the northern half of the state, with lows in the lower 40s. The cooldown is brief, as temperatures begin to warm back up into next week.