January 26, 2012

Tornado Watch is in Effect for Panhandle and Big Bend Region

A tornado watch is in effect for the Western Panhandle until noon.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see that spread eastward through the day, so staying on top of the weather will be important for the Panhandle today and tonight.

It looks like there’s been patchy fog across the state, but it is lifting and no dense fog advisories are (or were, for that matter) in effect.

SPC’s severe weather outlook for today and tonight. A slight risk for severe weather (left) exists across the Southeast, and in particular for the Panhandle and western Big Bend. There is some chance for tornadoes, especially in the Panhandle (middle), but also a threat for damaging straight-line winds (right). The potential will decrease to the east, as the storms in Florida will begin to weaken through the night.

The primary focus today will be on the prospects for severe weather. SPC has the Panhandle and the western Big Bend (ending roughly at the Region 1/2 border) highlighted in slight risk for severe weather. Instability will be somewhat limited, so we’ll be relying on the line maintaining itself on large scale ascent ahead of the cold front. However, assuming storms hold together, there’s strong moisture and shear, which should produce at threat for at least damaging straight line winds, and potentially even isolated tornadoes. The key feature is the existing squall line, which should move into the Panhandle in the early afternoon.

However, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of isolated supercells developing in advance of the squall line if we can get good heating this afternoon. The line will cross the Panhandle and into the Big Bend through the overnight hours, while likely weakening. While Tallahassee is in the slight risk area, I think the line will have to move quickly for that threat to materialize, as the support for severe weather will move away before the line arrives if it lags.

After that, we should see clearing and cooler, drier air moving in behind this cold front and the secondary front following it. Low RH will become a feature again this weekend. For now, though, it looks like winds will come in below the 15 mph threshold (though gusts may exceed it) and dispersions will decrease with weaker mixing layer flow behind the fronts to also be below its red flag threshold of 75. There should be enough rain moving through (1-2”, perhaps more in localized areas that see stronger storms) to keep ERC values lower, as well. We’ll have to watch the winds and dispersions, though – if higher values of those linger into the late weekend, we could see a red flag warning.

Statewide: A low pressure center over the ArkLaTex region has a warm front across the southeast and a cold front plunging through Central Louisiana. Ahead of that cold front is a squall line moving out of Louisiana and into Mississippi.

It’s supported aloft by a cut-off low over the eastern Texas-Oklahoma border. The lows will move to the northeast towards the Carolinas today, with the low aloft likely weakening as it gets absorbed back into a trough passing to the north. However, this still extends a slight risk of severe weather into the Panhandle and western Big Bend today into tonight.

Southeasterly flow will eventually become southerly today, helping support the thunderstorms with an influx of moisture-rich air off the Gulf. Winds will become southwesterly and switch to northwesterly with the cold frontal passage.

This will begin overnight in the Panhandle, and proceed roughly west to east across the state through tomorrow as the front continues to push through. Winds will also pick up for the next couple of days – this afternoon we are looking at winds in the low to middle teens, but with possible gusts well into the 20s.

While this first front will bring in some cooler air behind it, the real push of cold, dry air will come in behind a secondary cold front attached to an Alberta Clipper poised to move through the state Saturday. We’ll see considerably lower humidity this weekend into early next week, and perhaps even some areas in northern Florida dip to the freezing mark Sunday night.

Sean Luchs,Meteorologist - Florida Forest Service

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