If you still have the option, you should book your Independence Day vacation plans for the Atlantic side of the Sunshine State, where the sun will actually be shining a whole lot more. A tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico promises to deliver heavy rain, gusty winds, high seas, and even a few waterspouts to area beaches in the panhandle and along the Big Bend and Nature Coast through Friday. The National Hurricane Center only gives this area of low pressure a “low chance” of tropical cyclone development, but nonetheless it will have an impact on holiday beach-goers and 4th of July festivities.
Rain amounts from 1-3″ are expected across parts of the Nature Coast. Levy, Dixie, Lafayette and Citrus counties have all been placed under a Flash Flood Watch, while at sea a Small Craft Advisory has been posted for all waters along the Nature Coast. As the low moves ashore over the next 48 hours, strong thunderstorms with wind gusts up to 50 mph, heavy rain and high seas are expected. Higher rainfall totals of up to 5 inches will likely fall in the panhandle, especially near Panama City and Tallahassee, where flooding is an even greater concern through Friday. Seas of 6 to 8 feet will be possible from Pensacola to Apalachicola Thursday night as the low pressure center comes ashore.
Inland north Florida won’t be exempt from some unsettled weather either. Brief bouts of heavy rain and a few strong storms are also expected for areas along and west of the I-75 corridor Thursday afternoon, with the heaviest rains augmented by the Atlantic sea breeze between 3 and 8 PM.