James Spann: Michael growing stronger; big cooldown for Alabama late this week

RADAR CHECK: As expected, showers are very isolated across the northern half of Alabama this afternoon; the sky is partly sunny and temperatures are in the 80s. Shower activity is a little more concentrated over the southern half of the state, south of U.S. 80.

The weather won’t change much Tuesday, although high clouds will increase ahead of Hurricane Michael. Showers will remain pretty scattered in nature, and the high will be in the low 80s. On Wednesday, a few periods of rain are likely, but amounts won’t be all that heavy, and it certainly won’t rain all day. The main swath of wind and rain associated with Michael will be well southeast of here; winds for north Alabama Wednesday should be 15 mph or lower, and rain amounts will be under one-half inch for most places.

THE LATEST ON MICHAEL: Michael is a category one hurricane near the Yucatan Channel this afternoon; it is expected to strengthen over the next 24 hours, becoming a major category three hurricane by Tuesday night in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • A hurricane watch is in effect from the Alabama/Florida border to Suwannee River, Florida. Part of this area will be upgraded to a hurricane warning shortly. A storm surge watch is in effect from Navarre Beach to Anna Maria Island, Florida, including Tampa Bay.
  • Landfall is expected somewhere near or perhaps just east of Panama City Beach Wednesday, during the midday or early afternoon. Michael is forecast to be a dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the coast on Wednesday, and life-threatening storm surge is possible along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast regardless of the storm’s exact track or intensity. Residents in the storm surge and hurricane watch areas should follow any advice given by local officials, as storm surge and hurricane warnings will likely be issued later today.

  • Dangerous rip currents are likely on the coast through Thursday; double red flags are flying now at many beaches.
  • Weather conditions will begin to deteriorate on the Florida coast late Tuesday and Tuesday night, and hurricane conditions are likely Wednesday. The most severe impact will be along and east of where the center of the storm makes landfall. For now it looks like the greatest risk of wind damage, storm surge and freshwater flooding will come in places like Mexico Beach, Port Saint Joe, Indian Pass, Apalachicola, St. George Island, Carrabelle and around the “Big Bend” region of Florida.
  • A few tornadoes are possible over parts of north and west Florida and south Georgia late Tuesday night and Wednesday as Michael moves inland.
  • The Alabama Gulf Coast, Pensacola, Navarre Beach, and most likely Destin and Fort Walton Beach will be on the “good” west side of the hurricane with an offshore flow. Wednesday will be windy and wet in these places, but the weather won’t be especially dangerous.
  • Michael will not stall like Florence, but it will still be capable of producing rain amounts of 6-10 inches in spots over north Florida and south Georgia. The heaviest rain in Alabama will come over the southeast corner of the state, around Dothan and Ozark, where 3-5 inches are possible.

  • Sunshine returns to the central Gulf Coast Thursday, and the weather looks delightful Thursday through the weekend with sunny, pleasant days and fair nights — perfect weather for the National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores.
  • Remember, with any tropical system there is always a chance of a forecast change, so keep in touch with the latest forecasts as Michael gets closer to the coast.

FRIDAY AND THE WEEKEND IN ALABAMA: As Michael moves rapidly northeast, it will help to pull much cooler air into the state. Friday and Saturday will be delightful with sunny, pleasant days and clear, cool nights; highs will be in the 70s and lows mostly in the 50s. Cooler pockets will see 40s early Friday and Saturday morning. We will need to mention some risk of showers Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening with a cold front; moisture will be limited and amounts should be fairly light.

RACE WEEKEND AT TALLADEGA: Look for sunny, pleasant days and clear, cool nights Friday and Saturday, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. We can’t totally rule out a shower around the Superspeedway Sunday afternoon, but for now it looks like the better chance will come after the race is complete. The high Sunday will be in the 70s.

NEXT WEEK: Even cooler air follows the Sunday night front; highs drop into the 60s and lows into the 40s for the first half of the week. Colder pockets across north Alabama could visit the 30s Tuesday morning, with some scattered frost possible for the first time this season.

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