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The 28 March 2014 Florida Panhandle Severe Squall Line and Accompanying Unusual Panama City Beach Surge Event

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Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Capitol Ballroom AB (Madison Concourse Hotel)
Alex J. Lamers, NOAA/NWS Forecast Office, Tallahassee, FL

On the morning of 28 March 2014, thunderstorms organized into a squall line in southern Mississippi and then moved east-southeast through southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle by midday. The squall line matured as it approached the Gulf of Mexico coastline and produced multiple severe wind reports in the western Florida Panhandle, including several measured wind gusts between 50-60 kt. As the squall line passed through the Panama City Beach area, it was immediately preceded by a surge of water from the Gulf of Mexico. The water level at the Panama City Beach tide gauge increased approximately 2.1 ft between successive 6-minute observations, and the surge of water coincided with a minimum in the mean sea level pressure. The water level then fell approximately 3.2 ft in the subsequent 12 minutes, and that corresponded with a pressure rise of 2.5 mb over the same time period. Measured surface winds were out of the east-southeast during the observed fluctuations in the water level and pressure, suggesting that the fluctuations occurred just prior to the arrival of the gust front from the squall line. This presentation will examine the evolution of the squall line, the circumstances surrounding the unusual surge of water at Panama City Beach, and discuss two other unusual surge events that have been observed in the past on other sections of the Florida coastline. Detailed photography obtained from Jim Edds of Panama City Beach will also be examined to more accurately show the time scale of the surge of water, as well as the magnitude of the beach runup and inundation.