James Spann: Alabama mostly dry on Friday, wet Saturday

RADAR CHECK: Showers continue across parts of Alabama this afternoon; the sky is cloudy with temperatures mostly in the upper 40s and low 50s. Rain will end from west to east this evening as the wave in the upper atmosphere responsible for the wet weather moves on to the east.

Tonight will be cloudy and we stay above freezing, with lows generally in the 40- to 45-degree range early Friday. Then, during the day, the sky will stay mostly cloudy, but showers should be few and far between. It will be a warmer day, with a high around 60 degrees.

THE WEEKEND ROLLER COASTER: A potent weather system will bring rain and thunderstorms into Alabama Saturday. It won’t rain all day, but it will rain a decent part of the day, and strong storms could be involved. The Storm Prediction Center has defined a marginal risk (level 1 out of 5) of severe thunderstorms for the southern two-thirds of the state.

This is a pretty conditional severe weather threat; there will be very little surface-based instability over north Alabama. It seems like the best chance of severe storms will come over the southern half of the state, where a line of storms could produce strong, gusty winds and an isolated, short-lived tornado or two. All of the state will see a good soaking, however, with rain amounts of 1 to 2 inches likely.

Saturday will be fairly mild with a high the mid 60s; and non-thunderstorm, gradient winds will average 12-22 mph out of the south/southwest.

The rain moves out Saturday night, and much colder air rolls into the state with strong northwest winds of 15-25 mph Sunday. There could be enough lingering moisture for a few snow flurries across north and central Alabama from about midnight Saturday night through midmorning Sunday, but we expect no accumulation or impact.

We also don’t expect any “flash freeze” issues with roads since strong winds and lowering dew points should help dry them quickly, and surface temperatures will be in the low to mid 30s Sunday morning.

Most communities over the northern half of the state won’t get out of the 30s Sunday, and some places across the Tennessee Valley could stay below freezing all day despite a clearing sky and afternoon sunshine. That brisk north wind will make it feel colder.

NEXT WEEK: Monday morning will feature a clear sky, light wind and low temperatures in the 15- to 25-degree range, the coldest so far this season. Then, we warm into the upper 40s Monday afternoon with a good supply of sunshine. Clouds move back into the state Tuesday, and rain is likely Tuesday night and Wednesday ahead of the wave in the upper atmosphere. More cold air rolls into the state next Thursday and Friday. We see no sign for now of any significant snow or ice issues for Alabama for the next seven days.

ON THIS DATE IN 2013: One to 3 inches of snow fell across the northern half of Alabama, with locally higher amounts of 4 to 5 inches also reported. Thundersnow, a very rare occurrance here in the South, was observed with the heaviest snow band as it moved across Tuscaloosa, Walker, Jefferson and St. Clair counties. Road conditions became hazardous in areas where snow fell quickly and heavily. Icy roadways led to numerous traffic accidents in some counties, and travel came to a halt in a few locations.

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