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Severe storms featuring tornadoes, waterspouts possible along Gulf Coast this weekend

<i>CNN Weather</i><br/>Severe storms expected across the Southeast Saturday.
CNN Weather
Severe storms expected across the Southeast Saturday.

By Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologist

More than 20 million people in the Southeast have the potential for severe storms this weekend, including possible tornadoes, waterspouts, hail and damaging winds.

“Yet another round or two of severe weather and heavy rainfall is expected over the weekend,” the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee said. “Still some uncertainty in placement and timing, but the ceiling for this event may be a bit higher than Thursday’s event.”

In Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, cars were toppled and debris was strewn along roads Saturday night after a tornado touched down. The National Weather Service office in Miami confirmed the twister and said a survey of damage was underway.

The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department tweeted there was damage along a highway in the area and roads were blocked. Video from CNN affiliate WPBF showed cars flipped in a parking lot and tree limbs snapped. No injuries were reported.

Florida had more than 40 severe storm reports Thursday, including six tornado reports. Damage was reported in more than a dozen Florida counties, including Liberty County, where a tornado ripped through the town of Hosford Thursday afternoon. There was an additional tornado report in Palm Beach on Friday.

Saturday, there is a Level 2 of 5 slight risk for severe storms for parts of the Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia, including Tallahassee and Panama City, Florida, and Valdosta, Georgia.

A marginal risk for severe storms spreads from southeastern Louisiana to coastal South Carolina down to central Florida, including New Orleans, Mobile, Tampa, Jacksonville, Orlando and Savannah.

“Two rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms are expected across portions of Florida and southern Georgia this afternoon and overnight tonight with damaging winds, large hail, and a few tornadoes possible,” the Storm Prediction Center said Saturday morning. “More isolated severe storms are possible across parts of Mississippi and Alabama with an attendant damaging wind/hail threat.”

For the Sunshine State, Saturday will mark the third day in a row of severe thunderstorms.

It also means the ground across much of the Southeast is so wet, any additional rainfall could lead to localized flooding.

A slight risk for excessive rainfall, Level 2 of 4, has been issued for portions of Florida and Georgia, where rainfall could exceed 3 inches. A Level 1 marginal risk surrounds the area and stretches from coastal Mississippi over through coastal South Carolina.

Much needed rain for Florida

Parts of northern Florida and southern Georgia could see up to 3 to 6 inches of rain, some of which is welcome with much of the state in drought conditions.

Unfortunately, most of the rain this weekend will be focused across the panhandle including Tallahassee, Pensacola, and Panama City, not the areas needing it most.

More than 65 percent of Florida is under drought conditions according to the latest drought monitor report issued Thursday. Severe drought conditions exist across much of central Florida and include Tampa, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Gainesville, and Naples.

More than 1300 acres have burned across the state of Florida from two separate fires the past few weeks due to dry conditions.

Storms shift east for Sunday

By Sunday, the potential for strong to severe thunderstorms shifts east and south, encompassing more than 25 million people. From Dover, Delaware, down to Savannah, Georgia, as well as central and southern Florida are all at risk of damaging winds, waterspouts, tornadoes and hail.

“The setup could potentially result in hazardous marine and beach conditions during the latter half of the upcoming weekend,” the weather service office in Miami said.

The good news is all the affected areas in the Southeast clear out by Monday with sunnier and drier conditions through at least the middle of the upcoming week.

On the northern side of this system, strong storms are also possible in the Mid-Atlantic where damaging winds and a possible tornado will be the main threats.

“The northern extent of the threat remains uncertain, but modest destabilization appears possible into at least the Delmarva region, where some threat for damaging gusts and possibly a tornado may develop late in the afternoon or evening as the surface low tracks across the area,” the prediction center said.

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