James Spann: Highs near 70 in Alabama tomorrow before Arctic weekend

ONE MORE MILD DAY: Temperatures are mostly in the 60s across Alabama this afternoon; the sky is mostly cloudy and showers are few and far between. Tomorrow will be another mostly cloudy and very mild day; the high will be in the 67- to 70-degree range, and we will mention the chance of a few passing showers. Some thunder is possible tomorrow night as a cold front approaches, but there is no risk of severe storms.

COLD AIR RETURNS FRIDAY: Rain will be widespread across Alabama Friday, and temperatures will fall through the day. We will be in the 50s during the early morning, in the 40s by midday and into the 30s by mid to late afternoon. As colder air invades our state, rain will change over to a “wintry mix” of sleet, freezing rain and snow over the Tennessee Valley of extreme north Alabama.

The change over to sleet, snow and freezing rain begins around Muscle Shoals and the northwest corner of the state by midmorning Friday; the transition line will work steadily eastward during the day.

The greatest chance of accumulating snow will be along and north of the Tennessee River. Places like Florence, Athens and Huntsville could see around 1 inch of snow; heavier totals will be to the north over Tennessee, where a winter storm watch has been issued in a general area west of I-65. Snow amounts over the western half of Tennessee will be in the 1- to 3-inch range.

At this time, no part of Alabama is in a winter storm watch, but a winter weather advisory could be required over the far northern part of the state later. Temperatures will fall below freezing Friday afternoon across the northern counties, and some icy travel is possible. The main impact will be across the far northern tier of counties in Alabama and north into Tennessee and Kentucky.

For those interested in east Tennessee, including Knoxville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, some light snow is possible Friday night and Saturday morning, but amounts should generally be less than 1 inch.

At this point wintry precipitation seems very unlikely for Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Anniston and Gadsden.

FRIGID WEEKEND: The weekend will be dry but very cold — partly sunny Saturday with a high in the upper 30s, then we drop into the upper teens by daybreak Sunday. During the day Sunday the sky will be sunny with a high in the 37- to 40-degree range.

NEXT WEEK: The first half of the week looks cold and dry; a reinforcing shot of cold air arrives Tuesday in the wake of a clipper. We warm up late in the week with some risk of showers around Friday, Jan. 19, or Saturday, Jan. 20.

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