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...Tornado Watch Until 3pm Wednesday for Most of North Florida...Severe Weather Expected Today Across the State...HIGH Wildfire Threat Today in the Peninsula Due to Gusty SW Winds...High Rip Current Risk for Gulf Coast Beaches...

Updated 10:00 A.M. EDT Wednesday

A potent low pressure system is centered over the Ohio Valley this morning, with its cold front extending south through Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. Presently, a cluster of showers and thunderstorms extends from the central Panhandle into the northern Gulf of Mexico. This activity will continue to push east throughout the day into Northeast Florida and the Peninsula. With 2 to 3 inches of rainfall forecast for large portions of Florida, and with locally higher amounts possible, localized flooding of low-lying areas is possible; widespread flash flooding is not anticipated. The Storm Prediction Center has forecast an enhanced risk for severe weather for Northeast Florida and most of Central Florida, with a slight risk for the Big Bend and parts of South Florida and a marginal risk for the remainder of the state. The primary severe threats are damaging straight-line winds and isolated tornadoes, but small hail cannot be ruled out. Currently, a Tornado Watch is in effect for most of the Panhandle, the Big Bend, Northeast Florida, and northern parts of Central Florida until 3pm EDT. No other severe weather watches are in effect in Florida, but more could be issued throughout the day as the severe threat pushes east. The showers and thunderstorms are expected to clear the Panhandle by this evening and Northeast Florida by tomorrow morning. Central and South Florida can expect elevated rain chances to continue through the overnight hours, but the severe weather threat is expected to diminish after this evening.

Southwest winds ahead of the front will approach 20 mph in parts of the Panhandle and 25 mph in parts of the Peninsula. These winds are expected to contribute to areas of coastal flooding, around 1 to 3 feet, along the Big Bend south to the Tampa Bay area. Highs today will range from the upper 70s in parts of the Panhandle to the lower 90s in parts of Southeast Florida. Lows will be in the upper 50s to upper 60s in North Florida and in the lower to upper 70s in Central and South Florida.

Despite the elevated rain chances in parts of those regions today, a ***HIGH*** fire weather threat is forecast for Central and South Florida due to ongoing drought conditions throughout most of those regions, dry soils, and 15-25 mph winds with higher gusts possible. No red flag warnings are in effect today. Also, a low fire weather threat is forecast for North Florida due to 15-20 mph winds.41 counties currently have burn bans in place, comprising nearly two-thirds of the counties in the state.

Breezy southwest winds ahead of the approaching cold front will lead to a high risk for rip currents for all Panhandle beaches and for West Coast beaches from Pinellas County to Lee County. Wave heights are expected to be up to 6 feet at Panhandle beaches and up to 4 feet at West Coast beaches. A moderate risk for rip currents is forecast for Collier County beaches in Southwest Florida and for East Coast beaches from Nassau County to St. Johns County. A low risk for rip currents is expected at all other Florida beaches today. Remember, rip currents can still occur on low risk days!

Weather Images Courtesy of Weather Services International
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