Tropical storm forecast to bring 6-12 inches of rain, 40-50 mph winds to Okaloosa County

Northwest Florida Daily News

While the storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast had not solidified into a tropical storm or depression as of early Friday afternoon, the system was forecast to bring heavy rain, a risk of flash flooding and the potential for tornadoes through Saturday night.

Coastal sections of Okaloosa and Walton counties were under tropical storm warning Friday as a storm system dubbed Potential Tropical Cyclone #3 tracked toward a landfall in Southeast Louisiana late Friday or early Saturday. Powerful gusts from the storm were expected to stretch well east of the storm's center, but the forecasts warned the primary local threat would be heavy rain and flooding.

More on the storm:Potential Tropical Cyclone 3 grows stronger; tropical storm force winds arrive on Gulf Coast

"For Okaloosa County, we are expecting 6-8 of rain in a brief period of time which can lead to flash flooding concerns," Patrick Maddox, Okaloosa County's director of public safety wrote in a weather briefing Friday morning. 

Maddox said the system was expected to be a low-end tropical storm at landfall.

"The main impact window is late tonight through tomorrow evening, but banding features could arrive as early as late this afternoon," he wrote. "Storm surge is expected to be in the 1-2 foot range, but minor flooding may be realized in the rivers and creeks."

Maddox noted that although the region could absorb much of that rainfall due to dry soil conditions, "there will be areas which can receive up to 12 inches of rain if thunderstorms train over a given location. Wind gusts of 40-50 mph are possible, but sustained tropical storm force winds are not expected at this time."

Surf heights are forecast to be in the 7- to 11-foot range, and dangerous rip currents will persist through the weekend, Maddox wrote.

"We are already flying double-red flags and this will continue. The tornado threat will be greatest late tonight through tomorrow night — brief spin up, fast moving tornadoes are common in landfalling tropical systems and can occur with little warning. Sandbags have been available since early this morning at 710 Essex Road and 1759 S. Ferdon Blvd./Goodwin Road."

The county Emergency Operations Center is not expected to activate for this event, but will monitor the storm throughout impact and beyond, Maddox wrote. The Public Works Department is ready to respond for blocked roads and downed trees and the Water and Sewer Department has staged bypass pumps in areas that have experienced flooding during recent storm events. A swift water rescue team also has been briefed and is on stand-by.

In a separate advisory, the National Weather Service in Mobile, Alabama, noted that the coast would feel the brunt of the weather but inland areas might see gusty winds up to 30-35 mph.

Potential Tropical Cyclone 3 advisory at 8 a.m. June 18, 2021.

The National Park Service closed the Gulf Islands National Seashore on Friday because of to the approaching storm.

Closed areas include the Fort Pickens Area, Santa Rosa Area, Perdido Key Area and Okaloosa Area in Florida, and the Davis Bayou Area and barrier islands in Mississippi.

The park's staff plans to assess conditions throughout the weekend and re-evaluate all areas Sunday for possible reopening.