That large, slow-moving storm system that’s been pummeling the Midwest and Southeast is making its presence felt along the Florida Panhandle and south Alabama.
At least 31 deaths are blamed on the system, including three in Alabama. And Don Shepherd at the National Weather Service in Mobile says the areas that were hit Monday night, likely will get more of the same today.
Forecasters say 30 tornadoes were reported overnight in seven states, resulting in at least 17 deaths in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Northwest Florida and south Alabama will catch the southernmost end of that weather system.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma says the weather system will continue moving eastward over the next few days, bringing powerful storms and the potential for tornadoes to parts of the Midwest and Southeast.
Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana are facing the greatest risk today, but a number of storms are also likely for this area.
Forecasters predict a warming of the central Pacific Ocean known as “El Nino” will provide a break for weather-weary Americans this year.
The National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nino watch Thursday. In a typical El Nino year, there’s a stronger flow of wind at the Jet Stream level, and a stronger Jet Stream over the southern U.S.
Jeff Garmon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mobile, says that can increase the potential for severe storms: tornados, severe thunderstorms, squall lines, things of that nature.
Winter precipitation is moving into the Florida Panhandle, the produce of frigid arctic air and Gulf moisture.
Escambia County’s Emergency Operations Center activated at midnight. Emergency Management Chief John Dosh says they’re at level-2, with only key agencies on hand for now.
Throughout the year the Escambia EOC conducts table-top exercises to cover a number of scenarios – hurricanes and other natural and man-made disasters. Dosh says those – and the current winter storm development – are all part of what he calls “consequence management.”