Powerful storms, possible tornadoes turn deadly in Tallahassee as South pummeled by fast-moving squall line

The deadly multiday severe weather outbreak impacting millions across the U.S. stretched into Friday morning as an intense squall line of thunderstorms brought damaging wind gusts across the South and multiple Tornado Warnings to the Tallahassee, Florida area.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey told FOX Weather that one person was killed in the storms as a squall line swept across the Florida Panhandle early Friday morning, triggering a variety of severe weather warnings.

“Unfortunately, we have had one confirmed fatality, and we ask everybody to keep their family in your prayers. And, of course, we’re assessing the damage, and we’ll continue to do so,” he said.

According to the FOX Forecast Center, at least four tornadoes were confirmed on radar in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday morning, while thunderstorms produced gusts as high as 84 mph.

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“The reports that I’m receiving is that we had wind gusts between 80 and 100 mph … that’s hurricane strength,” Dailey said. “It was a significant storm that came through, and what is concerning is we haven’t even gotten into the storm season, per se.”

NWS forecasters at the Tallahassee office said they had to take shelter and transfer storm warning authority to neighboring offices.

“Dangerous situation unfolding for Tallahassee right now,” the NWS said as tornado warnings were in effect. “Seek shelter immediately. Multiple circulations and radar-confirmed tornadoes are apparent on radar.”

READ: Hurricane season 2024 could be among most active on record, experts predict

Overall, more than 200,000 customers were without power across the South during the peak of the storms as of early Friday morning, with just over 125,000 of them in Florida.

The City of Tallahassee said early assessments of the electric grid in the wake of the storms have shown severe damage to transmission lines, impacting 11 substations. Restoration will possibly take through the weekend. Mutual aid has been requested, and over 66,000 customers are without service as of 9 a.m. Friday.

The National Weather Service will determine the exact number of tornadoes that occurred later Friday or Saturday.

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“We have calls for service all over the county,” Kevin Peters, director of Leon County Emergency Management, told FOX Weather. “Our county and city responders are responding to 911 calls and making sure people are safe. That’s our first step and our most important step is to make sure people get rescued and are safe.”

The NWS reports numerous reports of damage all across Tallahassee around 7 a.m. ET as the squall line was moving through.

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NWS forecasters at the Tallahassee office said they had to take shelter and transfer storm warning authority to neighboring offices.

“Dangerous situation unfolding for Tallahassee right now,” the NWS said as Tornado Warnings were in effect. “Seek shelter immediately. Multiple circulations and radar-confirmed tornadoes apparent on radar.”

Overall, more than 300,000 customers were without power across the South during the peak of the storms as of early Friday morning, with over 200,000 of them in Florida

The City of Tallahassee said early assessments of the electric grid in the wake of the storms have shown severe damage to transmission lines, impacting 11 substations. Restoration will possibly take through the weekend. Mutual aid has been requested, and over 66,000 customers are without service as of 9 a.m. Friday.

READ: How the fading El Nino pattern will impact hurricane season activity in 2024

Lance Greenfield was in Tallahassee at the time of the Tornado Warning and experienced heavy rain, wind and a massive thunder and lightning show that he said he’s never seen before.

“We just lost power,” he said in a Facebook post. “Thankfully, I just made my second cup of coffee … fingers crossed.”

Florida State University campuses in Tallahassee are closed on Friday due to the impact of the severe weather. Leon County Schools said they were closing due to tornado recovery efforts.

A 71 mph wind gust was reported in Douglasville, Alabama, with a 62 mph gust in Troy, Alabama as the line of storms swept through overnight.

Courtesy: City of Tallahassee

Numerous damage reports came in from central Mississippi, including toppled trees that trapped residents inside their home in the town of Harmony. In Clarksdale, there was significant wind damage to a home, including gusts ripping off a power meter and leaving cars and livestock pens in ruins.

Near Meridian, a tree fell onto a semitruck as it traveled along Interstate 59. So far there are no reports of any injuries from the cluster of storms.

Courtesy: City of Tallahassee

The line of storms will keep pushing east into eastern Georgia and northern Florida into midday Friday. Severe Thunderstorm Watches remain in effect for parts of the Southeast, including much of the Florida Panhandle, until late Friday morning.

Unlike during activity that began this week, the main threats from the storms appear to remain hail and damaging winds rather than tornadoes, through a few tornadoes can’t be ruled out.

NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center still maintains a Level 3 out of 5 severe weather threat Friday for the greater Jacksonville area into northern Florida and southeastern Georgia as the squall line approaches and moves through. Another round of severe weather is possible later Friday into the afternoon and evening in the coastal Carolinas as some lingering atmospheric instability triggers more thunderstorms, putting Wilmington, North Carolina in a Level 2 risk.

Beyond Friday, the frontal boundary is expected to push offshore, which will allow the region to be thunderstorm-free over the weekend.

It will usher in a relative national calm in the weather with minimal severe weather threats in the forecast for the next several days.

Read more at FOXWeather.com.

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