Severe Thunderstorms Devastate Florida Panhandle and Southern States
On Tuesday, severe thunderstorms, powerful winds, and apparent tornadoes tore through the Florida Panhandle, causing widespread destruction. The storms also swept through Georgia, Alabama, and other Southern states, leaving behind downed power lines, damaged buildings, and fallen trees.
The authorities in Panama City, Florida reported damaged fences and impassable roadways due to gusty winds. In some areas, hail the size of baseballs was observed. Tragically, one person was killed in Clayton County, Georgia when a tree fell on a car’s windshield.
In response to the severe weather, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida declared a state of emergency for 49 counties, ensuring that no unmet needs would be left unaddressed. He urged residents to heed the warnings of local officials.
Continued Threat Across the Southeast
The National Weather Service predicted that the line of severe storms would continue moving across the Southeast on Tuesday. They warned of the potential for more destructive wind gusts, with speeds of up to 75 miles per hour. Power outages were already affecting some areas.
Tornado Warnings and Safety Measures
Tornado warnings were in effect for portions of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. Meteorologists advised people to seek shelter indoors away from windows and prepare for flying debris. By early afternoon, the tornado threat had shifted from North Florida to south-central Georgia, according to the National Weather Service in Tallahassee. While there were reports of downed trees and damage, no tornadoes had been confirmed in Tallahassee.
Felecia Bowser, the head meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, cautioned that it would take time to clear the entire Southeast U.S. region. The Weather Service was actively investigating reports of structural damage.
Damage and Disruption in Bay County
Bay County, Florida experienced significant damage from the storms. The sheriff’s office urged residents to avoid traveling on the roads while emergency personnel assessed the situation and searched for potential trapped individuals. An apartment complex was extensively damaged, and power lines were hanging low along Highway 2301. The roads were obstructed by downed trees, debris, and water.
Schools in Bay County, including Panama City, were closed on Tuesday as officials assessed the damage to structures. The severe weather also impacted southern Alabama, where a line of severe thunderstorms was moving through in the morning.
Impact on Georgia
Georgia’s emergency management officials warned residents to prepare for the storms, with the highest risk of tornadoes in Southwest Georgia. By noon on Tuesday, over 73,000 customers in central and southwestern counties were without power.
In response to the severe weather, 27 out of Georgia’s 159 counties closed schools. The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency stated that it was still too early to assess any damage to infrastructure.
Widespread Weather System
The severe weather affecting the Florida Panhandle and Southern states is part of a larger weather system impacting the eastern third of the United States. Heavy rainfall is expected from the Florida Panhandle to Southern Maine. Additionally, the Pacific Northwest is bracing for heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions in certain areas.
Read More of this Story at www.nytimes.com – 2024-01-09 18:59:44
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