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Florida faces major flooding from persistent tropical downpours

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Regardless of tropical development, a slow-moving system will threaten Florida with major flooding this week.

Tropical downpours will continue to stream into northern Florida through most of this week, dropping 1-3 inches of rain on some communities daily. In some locations, that amount of rain could pour down in as many hours.

The cumulative total of the rain will exceed 5 inches in many areas across Florida's panhandle and the northwestern peninsula. Localized amounts will even reach or exceed a foot.

Each round of downpours will further heighten the flood risk, exacerbating the flooding from localized issues early in the week to a widespread and major situation by midweek.

Panama City, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Ocala and Tampa are among the communities at risk for significant flooding. The threat stretches northward to Dothan, Alabama, and Albany, Georgia.

Drenching thunderstorms will also develop nearly daily this week across the rest of the Southeast and the central Gulf Coast, leading to localized flash flooding.

The downpours will initially be most concentrated in Florida's northwestern peninsula before becoming more widespread across the panhandle by midweek.

Residents and visitors should prepare for road closures and possible evacuations. Streams and rivers could overflow their banks, inundating neighboring roads and homes and damaging bridges.

Remember to never drive through a flooded road to avoid a potentially deadly situation. The road underneath may be washed away or the current of the water could be strong enough to sweep away a vehicle.

Even where flooding does not occur, the downpours will create hazards for motorists by reducing visibility and heightening the risk of vehicles hydroplaning when traveling at highway speeds. Such hazards will unfold on portions of I-10 and I-75.

As the system raises the risk for flooding, AccuWeather meteorologists will continue to monitor its potential to become a tropical depression or storm over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

"If the [area of low pressure] can move over the northeastern Gulf of Mexico or another surface low forms over the Gulf, it could strengthen into an organized tropical system this week," AccuWeather Meteorologist Mike Doll said.

"The chance of this occurring remains low."

If a tropical depression or storm manages to overcome the odds, it would increase the already elevated surf and rip current danger along the northeastern Gulf of Mexico coast.

The flood threat should ease in Florida toward and during the new weekend. The system may then spread its numerous flooding downpours westward along the Gulf coast to Texas. Another scenario is for the system and/or its moisture to get drawn northward and increase drenching thunderstorms over the Ohio Valley and Northeast.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic basin, a tropical wave is tracking northwestward from Hispaniola.

The environment is not conducive for this wave to develop as it travels through the southwestern Atlantic Ocean, well east of Florida, according to Doll.