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Storms ravage North Florida; woman killed in Tallahassee: Weather updates

A wave of severe storms from a deadly storm swept across northern Florida on Friday, destroying homes, causing widespread power outages and claiming at least one death.

Local authorities said several possible tornadoes formed along the Florida Panhandle, including in Tallahassee, the state capital. National Weather Service teams have not yet confirmed whether there were any twisters.

In Tallahassee, a woman was killed when a tree fell on a family's home, the Leon County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. Across the city, local K-12 schools, as well as Florida State University and Florida A&M University, remained closed for the day. Several city, county and state offices were also closed.

This week, storms have devastated communities from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast. Between Tuesday and Thursday, 70 tornadoes were confirmed by National Weather Service field offices, including more than a dozen each in Missouri and Ohio.

At least four people were killed in tornadoes and violent storms, and many were injured. Intensive cleanup and recovery work was still underway in the central and eastern United States on Friday.

Houses destroyed, Florida State University facilities damaged

Among the buildings that suffered severe damage in Tallahassee on Friday morning were two key Florida State University venues: Dick Howser Stadium, home of FSU's baseball team, and the tent where the university's historic Flying High circus performs.

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee was also damaged by Friday's storm and has suspended operations of its high-field magnets next week “as a precautionary measure,” FSU spokesman Dennis Schnittker told the Tallahassee Democrat, part of the USA TODAY Network.

The MagLab is home to the world's most powerful magnet. Since it opened in 1994, more than 30,500 physicists, chemists, biologists and engineers from 54 countries have worked in the lab, and 1,700 scientists use it for their research each year. Local legends have long claimed that magnetic resonance controls storms around Florida's capital.

“I can't believe this,” said Kathy Bryant, a Tallahassee resident whose home was crushed by a large pine tree. Several of her neighbors helped her collect her family photos and insulin that was stuck in what was once her kitchen.

“Thank God my baby wasn't here,” she told the Tallahassee Democrat, part of the USA TODAY Network, of her granddaughter, who occasionally stays overnight with her.

The interior of Kathy Bryant's home on Wailes Street near the FAMU campus after the devastating storm on Friday, May 10, 2024.

The interior of Kathy Bryant's home on Wailes Street near the FAMU campus after the devastating storm on Friday, May 10, 2024.

Residents in northwest Florida suffer from storm damage

About 200 miles west of Tallahassee, residents in northwest Florida also reported significant damage and widespread power outages. Santa Rosa County Commissioner James Calkins said he had received reports of 25 to 30 homes damaged by the storm.

In Escambia County, officials said several trees blocked roads, but there were no reports of building damage. Emergency manager Travis Tompkins said there were several “near misses” where trees narrowly missed homes. In one incident, a tree fell in front of a mobile home and emergency crews had to remove it so people could get outside.

Several school districts and parks in northwest Florida also announced closures Friday due to power outages and debris from the storm. All facilities in the sprawling Blackwater River State Forest were closed as forest officials expected cleanup to take several days.

Florida governor declares state of emergency

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for 12 counties on Friday afternoon following the deadly storm. The order states that tornadoes and strong wind gusts have caused significant damage to important infrastructure such as homes, businesses and power lines.

“Following the severe storms that hit North Florida this morning, I have directed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to work with local authorities and do everything possible to return our residents’ lives to normal as quickly as possible,” DeSantis continued on Friday morning. “Thank you to the first responders and utility workers working to restore power and roads.”

About 70,000 electricity customers in Tallahassee reported power outages, according to the city. The storm brought wind speeds of between 80 and 100 miles per hour, city officials said. The National Weather Service is currently assessing the paths of three possible tornadoes.

Millions of people in the southeast threatened by storms

Nearly two million people in northern Florida and southern Georgia are at increased risk of severe weather, with Jacksonville and Valdosta the cities most at risk, the Storm Prediction Center said. A larger area from eastern Mississippi to the Carolinas is at low to slight risk of being affected by the severe weather conditions.

Across the Florida Panhandle, more than 150,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday, according to a USA TODAY tracker. Tens of thousands of power customers in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina reported outages.

School districts in Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and other southeastern states either delayed the start of classes or closed schools all day, citing bad weather and, in Tennessee's case, ongoing reconstruction efforts.

Rain in the Northeast and Plains regions could disrupt Mother's Day plans

Although a beautiful Mother's Day weekend is forecast for much of the country, rain expected in the Northeast and Plains regions could disrupt some outdoor plans.

AccuWeather meteorologists say rain showers will move across parts of the Mid-Atlantic region and New England on Saturday and Sunday. There is still a looming threat of rain across the central Appalachians and the Mid-Atlantic on Mother's Day, though the wet weather will likely ease during the afternoon.

A surface front over the southwestern U.S. will bring intermittent rain showers and thunderstorms across the central and southern Plains and the Four Corners region through Saturday, the National Weather Service said. Some stronger storms are possible in parts of West Texas through Sunday evening.

The system is expected to gradually move eastward from Saturday night into Sunday, increasing the chance of rain in the central and southern plains, the weather service said. A largely dry weekend is expected on the west coast and in the southeast – with the exception of southern Florida.

Contributors: Jeff Burlew, William Hatfield, Ana Goñi-Lessan, Tallahassee Democrat; Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Severe storm forecast: 1 storm-related death reported in Tallahassee

Anna Harden

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