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Severe thunderstorms, hail, possibly tornadoes forecast for Tampa Bay, Florida

Severe weather is likely for most of Florida today as a powerful storm front threatens to stir up tornadoes, hail and 70 mph winds.

In Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando and Pasco counties, the heaviest thunderstorms are expected to hit between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

"It's a fairly widespread threat for severe weather," said Logan Johnson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

Hails and wind gusts up to 70 mph are expected in West and South Florida, with small craft advisories likely in coastal areas. It will be the second day in a row of severe weather, as storms Wednesday snapped trees in Pasco County and dumped heavy rains throughout the rest of the region.

Meteorologists say the ingredients also are in place today for tornadoes packing winds of more than 150 mph, capable of demolishing some structures and uprooting trees, the weather service said.

Weather experts will be on watch throughout the day, posting tornado watches or warnings, if necessary.

A tornado watch means people should monitor storms as they roll through the area because tornadoes could pop up, Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker said.

A tornado warning will be issued if one is actually seen or detected by radar, and at that point Linker advised people in the warning area to seek shelter.

In a house, the best shelter would be a small, interior room away from windows. In an office, the safest bet is a stairwell.

The threat for severe weather will persist through the day, so people should monitor the weather as it changes, Johnson said.

"People just need to be aware of the potential at this point," Johnson said.

Severe thunderstorms, hail, possibly tornadoes forecast for Tampa Bay, Florida 03/30/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2011 3:01pm]

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