tornado

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

If you hear screeching winds outside your window, the weather service wants you to expect that for the rest of the night.

Thursday afternoon, the winds were reported to be at 25 mph, gusting 35 to 45 mph until 3 a.m. on Friday, said Andrew Kennedy, a meteorologist at the Jacksonville Weather Service office. There was also a tornado watch until midnight Thursday for northwest Alachua County, said Kirsten Chaney, a meteorologist at the weather office. 

Chaney said a couple of trees fell down today because of the winds and that winds went up to 45 mph at Gainesville Regional Airport. 

Kennedy said the weather service expects a squall line, a strong line of thunderstorms, to move through the Gainesville area Thursday evening with gusts of 50 to 70 mph, which should cause some power outages and some possible property damage.

Chaney said the squall line is caused by the cold front that is right behind the storm, which will start after midnight and will bring the lowest temperature tonight to 53 degrees. He also said Gainesville residents should expect power outages and possible damage from the winds.

“Thunderstorms are expected to hit around 10 p.m.,” Chaney said. 

UF spokesperson Steve Orlando said UF campus’ power has been unaffected and that he will not know how much cleanup costs will be until the weather passes. 

“No power outages on campus so far that we’re aware of,” he wrote in an email. “Much of our electrical infrastructure is underground, so that helps.”

UF student forecaster Nicolette Zangara, 21, said she recommends students take precautionary measures for the rest of the day, such as not parking under a tree and bringing all patio furniture inside. She said to also wear windbreakers and eye protection on campus to prevent being affected by the dust.

Zangara said winds have gusted up to 50 mph on campus in the afternoon and that it is only going to get stronger. She said to be careful later on because winds are expected to increase to 70 mph.

“I’m mainly concerned just about those straight line winds, although isolated tornadoes are possible,” Zangara said. “These winds can do just as much damage as a tornado, coming in that fast.”

She said the UF weather service was notified on Monday about the strong winds, which usually warrant a warning. 

An Alligator reporter saw that traffic lights were out on West University Avenue and 13th Street Thursday afternoon.

Some damage to power lines and tree limbs have been reported in Alachua County, said Art Forgey, a spokesperson for the Alachua County Sheriff’s office. Most power outages are in eastern Gainesville, particularly the downtown area, said Mark Sexton, the county spokesperson.

Gainesville Fire Rescue sent out a press release with some guidelines for people who were going to be outside, such as to treat affected traffic lights like a four-way stop and to go around water-covered roadways. 

Please stay safe and stay off the roads this evening and tonight unless absolutely necessary,” the press release read.

Contact Stephany Matat at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @StephanyMatat.