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Tropical Storm Watches Upgraded to Warnings in Parts of Florida Panhandle

Sunday morning update:The Tropical Storm Watches previously in effect for the Florida Panhandle from Port St. Joe west to the Alabama border have been upgraded to a Tropical Storm Warning. A Tropical Storm Watch continues for areas farther east to the Ochlockonee River.

Wind gusts up to 50 mph from Tropical Storm Sally are expected to arrive along the Gulf Coast near Port St. Joe and Panama City early Monday morning. Tropical storm force wind gusts are then expected to spread west along the Emerald Coast from Destin to Navarre by early afternoon, then to near Pensacola by early Monday evening. Minor wind damage will be possible from some of the stronger outer rain bands of Tropical Storm Sally, along with an attendant water spout or tornado risk.

Original story published Saturday afternoon: Tropical storm conditions are possible along Florida’s Emerald Coast and near Pensacola from Tropical Storm Sally within the next 48 hours. Sally is forecast to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico Sunday, before making landfall along the central Gulf Coast Monday as a hurricane.

As of 5 pm Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Sally was located 30 miles south-southwest of Naples, Florida and moving west at 7 mph. Maximum sustained winds were reported to be at 40 mph.

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for coastal areas of the Florida Panhandle from the Alabama-Florida border to the Ochlockonee River. A Hurricane Watch and Storm Surge Watch has been issued for areas farther west, including all coastal areas of Alabama, Mississippi and southeast Louisiana.

Heavy rain is expected to continue falling from the Florida Keys to Fort Myers through Saturday night, where an additional 2 to 4 inches is possible through Sunday morning. Tropical storm conditions, including wind gusts up to 50 mph, high seas, heavy rain, and coastal flooding are possible from Florida Big Bend to Pensacola late Sunday night or Monday.

The average track error of a tropical system at 96 hours - which is when it could make landfall - is about 150 miles. The average forecast intensity error at the same time is a wind speed of 15 mph. For this reason, residents of the Florida Panhandle inside or near the watch area are encouraged to stay vigilant and be prepared should the forecast change.

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