The watch is in effect until 7 p.m., as the storms head this way.
The possibility of severe weather in Sarasota and Manatee counties has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a tornado watch until 7 p.m. March 20.
A tornado watch means that weather conditions are favorable for the development of a tornado. If conditions worsen later today, some areas may be issued a tornado warning, meaning that severe weather is imminent.
Thunderstorms are expected to start in the state late this morning and spread southward, likely reaching Sarasota County sometime around 2 p.m.
Some storms may be “strong to severe,” with wind gusts up to 60 mph, hail up to 2 inches in diameter and a tornado or two all possible, according to the National Weather Service.
Florida Highway Patrol officials closed the Sunshine Skyway bridge between Pinellas and Manatee counties because of high winds but reopened the span about 30 minutes later.
Strong rip currents on beaches are expected between 2-11 p.m. tonight.
As a result of the weather, Sarasota County Schools canceled all extra-curricular activities and sporting events, and related transportation, after school March 20. Aftercare will continue as scheduled, and at the time of publication there were no changes planned for dismissal.
Also, tonight's Baltimore Orioles spring training baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium has been canceled.
These forecasts come at the same time as voters head to the polls in both Sarasota and Manatee counties, both voting on a supplemental property tax that will grant additional funding to schools. Voters have until 7 p.m. to cast their votes.
This is a developing story and it will be updated as more information becomes available.