Update 3:30 AM ET: A new Tornado Watch has been issued for the eastern half of the Florida Panhandle, Florida’s Big Bend region and most of northeast Florida. The watch includes the cities of Panama City, Tallahassee, Lake City and Jacksonville until 11 am or when the risk subsides.
Earlier post: The risk of a few tornadoes in the Florida Panhandle is increasing overnight, and the National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Watch until 6 am CDT from Panama City to Mariana, and all points west.
More than two dozen tornadoes have already been reported from the approaching storm system, claiming at least six lives and causing catastrophic damage in portions of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Reliable forecast models show these storms will spread across the border into the Pensacola region around midnight, then along the Emerald Coast in the early morning hours Monday. Damaging winds and embedded tornadoes are anticipated within the line of thunderstorms as it traverses the entire Florida Panhandle overnight.
The Pensacola area is most likely to see the storms between 12and 2 AM. The time of arrival for the Destin, Fort Walton, and Crestview areas is between 1 and 4 AM.
A second surge of wind energy in the lower part of the atmosphere is forecast to surge into the Panama City, Marianna, and Tallahassee areas overnight. This is likely to lead to the intensification of storms as they approach these areas. Present estimates show the storms arriving near Panama City and Marianna between 3 and 6 AM. The Tallahassee and Apalachicola areas should expect the storms to arrive between 5 and 9 AM. The Storm Prediction Center is forecasting the potential of a few tornadoes and damaging winds near these areas as the storms move through.
Forecasters and Emergency Operation officials recommend residents have multiple ways of receiving warnings, including via cell phone, radio, and television. Residents should be prepared to seek shelter in the lowest level of their home, in an interior room, and away from windows. Those who rely on public storm shelters as a refuge should check to see if they are available because of the COVID-19 pandemic.