The rain in Pensacola Tuesday night was, as some local residents put it, “biblical”. And historical data shared by the National Weather Service in Mobile, AL verifies that the rainfall rate of over 5 inches per hour recorded at the Pensacola airport Tuesday evening was at least a 1 in 200 year event. The severe flash flooding in the panhandle was a result of more than 20 inches of rain falling in less than 24 hours, a top ten event for Pensacola since records have been kept. A slow-moving complex of storms moving over the same areas along a stalled front was the primary reason for the deluge.
As that same storm system moves east, the risk for flooding and strong thunderstorms follows it. However, a repeat performance of these rainfall amounts is highly unlikely further east. Nonetheless, showers and thunderstorms following the same path in some areas could cause localized flooding near small creeks and streams or low-lying areas. The locations most susceptible to flooding are the same areas that have already received heavy rainfall at times this past winter and spring. This includes parts ot the panhandle near Tallahassee and in the Suwannee River Valley.
No official advisories have been issued for a widespread event, but recent model data continues to suggest rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are possible in the aforementioned areas through early Saturday. Most of this rainfall will occur Thursday and Thursday night with a disturbance moving along the front. Another area of potential heavy rain and flooding is near the Nature Coast and across portions of central Florida on Friday and Friday night as the front continues to sag south. In these areas, localized rainfall amounts of 2 to 4 inches are also possible, which could cause localized flooding at times. By Saturday, the front will begin accelerating to the south and east, taking the heavy rain threat with it to south Florida. The risk for flooding south of I-4, though, is much lower due to the faster movement of the system.
In addition to the heavy rain and potential flooding, there is very low risk for minor wind damage and hail with some of the stronger storms as they move across the peninsula Thursday and Friday. Just like the flooding threat, the severe weather risk is significantly lower than it was a few days ago as the storm was producing fatal tornadoes across the Mid-South. Nonetheless, a few isolated reports of severe weather will remain possible with the front until it clears the state late Saturday.