Severe Thunderstorms and Likely Tornadoes Cause Damage in Florida

Severe thunderstorms and apparent tornadoes ripped across the Florida Panhandle early on Tuesday, downing power lines and trees and damaging buildings.

Gusty winds left fences damaged and roadways impassable, according to the authorities in Panama City, Fla., where the storm moved through on Tuesday. In some areas, it brought hail about the size of baseballs.

The damage was still being assessed, officials said, but they warned residents that the threat was not yet over. The line of severe storms was expected to move across the Southeast on Tuesday, the National Weather Service said, adding that it could cause more “widespread destructive wind gusts,” with speeds of 75 miles per hour. Power outages were affecting some areas, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office said on Tuesday.

Tornado warnings were in place for portions of Florida, Alabama and Georgia, and meteorologists warned people to take cover indoors away from windows and brace for flying debris.

“It’s going to take a while to clear the whole Southeast U.S.,” said Felecia Bowser, the head meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, adding that the storm was expected to move away from Florida in the evening.

The weather service was investigating reports of structural damage, she said.

Schools in Bay County, which includes Panama City, were closed on Tuesday, the local district said, adding that it was still surveying damage to structures: “We are aware of tornado damage already in our community, and our thoughts and prayers are with all of those impacted.”

The severe weather is part of a weather system affecting much of the eastern third of the U.S. on Tuesday, with heavy rainfall expected from the Florida Panhandle to southern Maine.

Elsewhere, a powerful cold front in the Pacific Northwest was expected to bring heavy snow, while sections of the Northwest braced for blizzard conditions.

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