A tornado watch was in effect for Tampa Bay until 8 p.m. Wednesday as severe weather moved into the region from the Gulf of Mexico.
The watch was issued shortly after 11 a.m. and includes Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, said Bay News 9 meteorologist Josh Linker.
The greatest threat for heavy rainfall is in the Tampa Bay region and along the I-4 corridor, said Logan Johnson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. The weather should take a turn for the worse by late afternoon and into the evening.
But the brunt of this week's severe weather is yet to come.
The National Weather Service expects significantly severe weather on Thursday as a cold front moves in. West and south Florida could see wind gusts up to 65 knots and hail at least 2 inches in diameter. Tampa Bay has a high chance for seeing these conditions from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.
"It's a fairly widespread threat for severe weather tomorrow," Johnson said.
Linker said a tornado watch means people should monitor storms as they roll through the area in the afternoon because tornadoes could pop up.
A tornado warning would 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.
"Pay attention to the rest of the afternoon," Linker said. "On a day they might just otherwise ignore the weather, be prepared."