Florida’s Bay County hit by first EF3 tornado since 1970s

Florida's Bay County hit by first EF3 tornado since 1970s

The National Weather Service has confirmed that the tornado that struck Panama City Beach, Florida, on January 9, 2024, was an EF3, marking the first occurrence of such a severe tornado in Bay County in over half a century.

On January 9, 2024, at 05:31 CST, a devastating tornado hit Panama City Beach, specifically in the Lower Grand Lagoon area along Spyglass Drive. The National Weather Service has estimated the tornado’s peak winds at approximately 225 km/h (140 mph), making it an EF3 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. This event is notably the first EF3 tornado to hit Bay County in more than 50 years.

The tornado carved a destructive path of approximately 8.37 km (5.2 miles) and remained on the ground for 8 minutes. The extent of the damage was extensive, with several homes significantly damaged, including one beachfront property that was completely obliterated. This particular instance of complete destruction was key in determining the tornado’s EF3 rating.

panama city florida ef3 tornado - preliminary damage survey results

As the tornado continued its northeastward trajectory, it inflicted heavy damage on homes and businesses along Thomas Drive, including two apartment buildings that were severely impacted. The EF3 rating was further substantiated by the significant structural failure at a large boat storage facility.

After moving across Grand Lagoon and through the Bay Point Golf Club, the tornado caused additional harm to homes before crossing Saint Andrew Bay. The damage pattern in Panama City, post-crossing the bay, was more sporadic and less intense, consistent with an EF1 intensity rating. The tornado eventually dissipated shortly after traversing West 23rd Street.

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1 Public Information Statement – National Weather Service Tallahassee FL – 1248 PM EST Thu Jan 11 2024

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