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Tornado warning for Hillsborough County canceled; severe storms and high winds still likely

UPDATE, 12:55 p.m.: The tornado warning for Hillsborough County has been canceled. Severe thunderstorm warnings are still in effect.

A tornado warning was issued for Hillsborough County about 12:30 p.m. Forecasters are seeing severe thunderstorms and winds of 50 mph or more, especially near Rocky Point and Tampa International Airport.

A tornado warning the National Weather Service issued for Pinellas County expired shortly before 12:30 p.m. Thursday. A severe thunderstorm warning extended until 1 p.m., however.

Forecasters predicted wind gusts of up to 50 mph as the storm system moved through. Emergency management officials warned residents to stay off bridges, move inside and stay away from windows. Students at Pinellas schools were moved to safe areas, as well.

Bay News 9's Klystron 9 Radar reported a possible waterspout off the coast of Indian Rocks Beach this morning, as well.

The National Weather Service also issued a tornado watch for 25 counties in central and southern Florida, including Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Manatee counties in the Tampa Bay area. The watch was scheduled to expire at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Tornado watches are issued when severe storms make the formation of tornadoes possible. They don't mean tornadoes have been spotted in the area — only that conditions have created the risk for them.

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A large area of showers and thunderstorms in the Gulf of Mexico will mean a wet morning across the area.

"There's a slight risk of severe thunderstorms for parts of Tampa Bay today," Bay News 9 Meteorologist Juli Marquez said.

Marquez said showers and thunderstorms are moving east ahead of an area of low pressure. They should arrive by late morning and will be particularly strong during the lunchtime hour, Marquez said.

The storms prompted the National Weather Service to issue a hazardous weather outlook that extends all the way to South Florida. Marquez said it mainly warns of the risk of wind, hail, and a slight chance of tornado development while the storms move over our area.

Even if extreme conditions don't develop, a half to one inch of rain should bog down roads today, Marquez said.

After storms move through, a cold front will move through, dropping temperatures from highs in the mid-70s today to the high 60s tomorrow. Friday will likely drop into the 50s, and Saturday morning will dip into the 40s. Beach-goers should be aware of rip current warnings throughout today and Friday.

The rain chance will drop to 20 percent by Friday, though, and after a chilly start Saturday should end clear and warm, with temperatures in the low 70s.

Tornado warning for Hillsborough County canceled; severe storms and high winds still likely 03/06/14 [Last modified: Thursday, March 6, 2014 3:35pm]
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