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Severe Weather Threat for First Friday of 2020

A few strong thunderstorms are possible tonight into Friday in advance of a strong cold front moving through the Gulf coast states.

Humid, unstable air is returning from the Gulf of Mexico northward into the Florida Panhandle Thursday afternoon and is expected to spread into the Big Bend on Friday. Winds high in the atmosphere are expected to be strong enough to cause a few strong thunderstorms. A few pockets of damaging gusts and an isolated tornado or two are possible, but the airmass is not expected to become unstable enough to produce a more widespread outbreak.

Scattered showers or thunderstorms are forecast Thursday night into Friday. The latest projections from high-resolution computer models — which are uniquely suited to predict thunderstorms — indicate the greatest risk for strong thunderstorms is from daybreak Friday in the Pensacola and Destin areas to near Panama City and Marianna during the midday hours, and perhaps reaching Tallahassee and Apalachicola late in the afternoon or early Friday evening.

Heavy rain along and ahead of the front has prompted the National Weather Service to issue Flood Watches from parts of Louisiana to Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and northwest Georgia. 3 to 6 inches of rain is forecast in these areas, where flooding of some rivers and roads is possible. Thunderstorms with strong winds and isolated tornadoes are possible in many of these same areas.

NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center issued a “marginal risk” for flash flooding over the Panhandle and Big Bend tonight into Friday, but the flood threat is expected to be lower than areas to the north and west. 1 to 2 inches of rain are forecast within the marginal risk area.

A surge of colder air is expected behind the front this weekend. Forecasters say temperatures may dip to the mid to upper 30s early Sunday morning, with afternoon highs staying in the 50s.

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