Florida, Carolinas coast to face heightened risk of severe weather into Thursday night
By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
December 20, 2018, 6:57:59 PM EST
An East Coast storm threatening to disrupt millions of holiday travelers will bring a heightened risk of severe weather to Florida on Thursday.
Worse than slowing travel or ruining outdoor plans, the severe storms can inflict damage and cause flooding in some communities.
“There is the potential for damaging thunderstorms centered on the Florida Peninsula on Thursday,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.
Strong winds from the storms can knock down trees and power lines, possibly leading to power outages.
People with outdoor holiday decorations, such as inflatables, or smaller furniture and planters will want to make sure they are properly secured or brought inside ahead of the storms.
“The storms may become intense enough to spawn a few tornadoes,” Sosnowski said.
Several reports of wind and possible tornado damage surfaced on Thursday morning. Emergency managers reported roof damage and damage to more the 20 mobile homes in Polka and Pasco counties.
The thunderstorms and gusty winds caused escalating power outages across central Florida. According to PowerOutage.us, over 13,000 people were without power across Florida of 11am EST on Thursday.
Waterspouts will also be a possibility along the western coast of Florida.
People living or traveling in the area from Orlando, Fort Myers and West Palm Beach to Miami will need to keep a close eye on the weather situation into Thursday evening.
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In addition to damaging wind gusts, stronger sustained winds are likely on Thursday and then again on Friday. While these are unlikely to cause widespread damage, strong sustained winds could cause the ready-to-harvest oranges to fall and be damaged.
In addition to the risk of wind damage, the storms will unleash a large amount of water in a short time period, which will enhance the risk of flash flooding.
Motorists may face flooded sections of secondary roadways that force them to turn around and find a safer, alternate route.
Reduced visibility, ponding of water and a heightened risk of hydroplaning will threaten any travelers along stretches of interstates 4, 10, 75 and 95.
The storms can delay or even pause airline travel for a time at the international airports in Tampa, Orlando, West Palm Beach and Miami.
The worst of the storms are forecast to remain out of Tampa for the 8 p.m. EST kickoff of the Gasparilla Bowl between Marshall and South Florida at Raymond James Stadium, though a few lingering showers cannot be ruled out.
Anyone with hopes to tailgate prior to the game should begin making alternate plans for indoors.
"Along with the risk of severe weather over the Florida Peninsula, some storms may become severe over part of eastern North and South Carolina late Thursday to Thursday night," Sosnowski said.
Similarly to western Florida, the wind flow onshore from the Atlantic will help to produce damaging winds and isolated tornadoes in addition to the rounds of heavy, flooding rain.
Although cloudy, showery and windy weather can linger on Friday, the weather will be much calmer for both Florida and the Carolinas to end the week for any necessary storm cleanup.
Sunny, dry conditions will return over the weekend and will likely last into Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
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