James Spann: Cold front arrives in Alabama tonight

James Spann: Some rain, cooler weather headed for Alabama tonight from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

TOO HOT, TOO DRY: Heat waves and droughts go together. Always have, and always will. As we go a long period with no rain, soil moisture is depleted, meaning solar energy is not needed to evaporate soil moisture (which doesn’t exist now). All of that energy can go simply to heating the ground, which in turn heats the air. If this were August, we would be dealing with nasty triple-digit heat.

Birmingham reached 91 degrees yesterday afternoon. This is the latest 90-degree high on record, and beat the old daily record of 88 set in 1938. Other highs included 91 at Tuscaloosa, Muscle Shoals and Montgomery, and 90 at Anniston, Calera, Decatur and Huntsville.

And yesterday was the 31st consecutive day without measurable rain in Birmingham. The Birmingham Water Works has now called a “stage three drought warning” as drought conditions worsen.

COLD FRONT ON THE WAY: This will be the last day with summer-like warmth for a while. We are forecasting a high of 87 today, very close to Birmingham’s record high of 88 for Oct. 20 set in 1941. We have a few showers near the northwest tip of the state at daybreak, but the better chance of showers and storms will come late this afternoon and tonight. The Storm Prediction Center maintains a “marginal” severe weather risk for much of North and West Alabama.

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Hail and gusty winds are possible with the stronger storms, but there is no tornado threat. The main window for rain will come from 4 p.m. through 2 a.m. It certainly won’t rain all 10 hours, but that is just when showers are possible.

Unfortunately, it still looks like rain amounts will be pretty light, and certainly this won’t make a dent in the drought. I am afraid many locations will see less than one-tenth of an inch, and some places might not see enough rain to measure. Fortunate communities could see up to one-half inch.

MUCH COOLER TOMORROW AND OVER THE WEEKEND: Tomorrow will be a sunny and cool day with a high between 67 and 70 degrees. A north wind of 12 to 22 mph will make it feel even cooler.

Temperatures will drop well down in the 40s early Saturday and Sunday morning; colder pockets will visit the 30s. A touch of scattered light frost is possible for the valleys mainly Sunday morning, when the wind will be near calm. The high Saturday will be in the upper 60s, followed by mid 70s Sunday afternoon. Picture-perfect fall weather.

FOOTBALL WEATHER: For high school games tomorrow night, the sky will be mostly clear, and temperatures will be cool, falling through the 50s. You will need a jacket this week.

Alabama will host Texas A&M Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium (2:30 p.m. kickoff). The sky will be sunny; 68 degrees at kickoff, falling into the upper 50s by the final whistle.

Auburn hosts Arkansas at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday evening (5 p.m. kickoff). The sky will be clear, with temperatures falling from near 67 degrees at kickoff into the upper 50s by the end of the game.

RACE WEEKEND AT TALLADEGA: Tomorrow will be breezy and much cooler, with a sunny sky and a high in the mid to upper 60s. Expect a bright, sunny sky Saturday and Sunday with fantastic temperatures; the high Saturday will be close to 68, followed by a high of 75 Sunday. Temperatures will drop to near 40 degrees early Saturday and Sunday morning at the Superspeedway.

NEXT WEEK: Sunny days, fair nights. Highs mostly in the 70s, lows mostly in the 50s. Next hope for rain based on the latest GFS run will come around Sunday, Oct. 30.

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AT THE BEACH: Sunny days, fair nights on the coast from Gulf Shores to Panama City Beach through next week. Highs in the 80s today, and in the 70s tomorrow and over the weekend. See a detailed Gulf Coast forecast here.

TROPICS: Still no sign of any organization in the wave east of the Bahamas. Still some chance this develops in coming days; it will move north and is no threat to the U.S.

WEATHER BRAINS: You can listen to our weekly 90-minute netcast anytime on the web, or on iTunes. This is the show all about weather featuring many familiar voices, including meteorologists at ABC 33/40.

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