James Spann: Strong/severe storms possible in Alabama this weekend

DRY THROUGH FRIDAY: It is a cold April morning. Our Skywatcher at Black Creek, just northeast of Gadsden, reports 34 degrees; Cullman and Haleyville are at 38. The day will be sunny with a high near 70 degrees this afternoon.

We stay dry tomorrow and Friday. The high tomorrow will be near 80, followed by low 80s Friday. On Friday we will be watching developments to the west; severe storms are possible from east Texas to Missouri ahead of a vigorous storm system.

STORMY WEEKEND IN ALABAMA: Confidence is very high that rain and storms will impact Alabama this weekend, but it is still difficult to resolve details this far out because of model differences. The Storm Prediction Center has introduced a risk of severe storms for most of the state on its outlook for Saturday and Saturday night.

There should be sufficient shear and instability for strong to severe storms; for now it looks like the primary threat will come from strong, potentially damaging straight-line winds. But an isolated tornado or two can’t be ruled out, and hail will be possible as well.

Concerning timing, the American global model (the Global Forecast System) is trending toward the slower European model (ECMWF) solution. And as the event is just getting into range of the North American Mesoscale model (the NAM), it seems to be in better agreement with the slower Euro. For now, we project the highest threat of severe storms in Alabama to be from 4 p.m. Saturday through 9 a.m. Sunday. And, yes, that does mean a decent part of the day Saturday could be dry before the storms arrive, for those planning outdoor events.

We really need to get within a 60-hour window before we can be highly confident in the timing, so this forecast could change as we we get closer to the weekend.

Rain amounts of around 2 inches are likely, and some localized flooding is possible. Much cooler air will flow into the state following the passage of the storms; there’s a good chance we won’t get out of the 50s Sunday with a brisk north wind and lingering clouds.

NEXT WEEK: Much of the week looks dry for now. Monday and Tuesday morning will be cold for mid-April, with potential for lows in the 30s over parts of north and central Alabama; growers will need to monitor conditions for frost potential.

ON THIS DATE IN 2011: Thunderstorms produced damage across western and southern parts of the Birmingham metro area from Bessemer to Mountain Brook; a short-lived EF-1 tornado also touched down in Vestavia Hills. It was the first event during an exceptionally active severe weather month; a number of tornadoes would touch down four days later on April 15 across the state, followed by a generational tornado outbreak on April 27 that killed 252 people.

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