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Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for 49 Florida counties after strong storms hammered the Panhandle, leaving a wide swath of damage across the region.

DeSantis finalized the emergency declaration from the state Capitol in Tallahassee as tornado sirens blared throughout the complex. The storm brought reports of at least three tornadoes and winds of up to 70 mph as it moved east.

The executive order signed by DeSantis declaring the emergency includes almost 50 counties that were either hit by the storm or could face damage from more storms that are expected to move over the state throughout the day. The order directs the state to seek federal assistance from the White House and activates the state National Guard. It also allows the state to enter into emergency contracts without the customary bidding process.

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