James Spann: Strong storms possible for Alabama Saturday, then much colder

James Spann forecasts a quiet day for Alabama before an active weather weekend from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

WARMER TODAY, CLOUDS LINGER: Clouds and fog cover Alabama this morning with temperatures in the 40s and 50s; we rise into the low 60s this afternoon as a warming trend begins. The sky will stay mostly cloudy, but we expect few, if any, showers.

SEVERE STORMS SATURDAY? We have a conditional severe weather threat across Alabama Saturday as a vigorous weather system approaches. The Storm Prediction Center has a slight risk (level 2 of 5) defined in the broad zone from Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Gadsden down to Mobile, with a marginal risk (level 1 of 5) as far north as Huntsville.

The primary limiting factor is the lack of surface-based instability — a classic case of strong dynamics and weak thermodynamics.

TIMING: The main window for strong to severe storms for west Alabama is from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m; central Alabama, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.; and east Alabama, from 1 until 6 p.m.

THREATS: Stronger storms could produce strong, potentially damaging winds, and an isolated, short-lived tornado is possible.

RAIN AMOUNTS: Most communities will see 1 to 2 inches of rain Saturday; while major flooding issues are not expected, there could be a few localized problems.

Hopefully there will be little to no surface instability, and we get away with just a line of gusty showers. But, if instability values are a little higher than forecast, no doubt severe storms could become an issue Saturday. So be sure and pay attention to watches and warnings if they are issued.

Otherwise, Saturday will be mild and windy, with a high well up in the 60s. Away from thunderstorms, pressure gradient winds out of the south will average 12-22 mph with higher gusts.

SATURDAY NIGHT/SUNDAY: The storms move out of the state Saturday evening, and much colder air follows. As temperatures drop, we expect snow flurries across north and central Alabama Saturday night and early Sunday morning. No accumulation or impact is forecast, however.

We don’t expect any major road icing issues Sunday morning as strong north winds of 10-20 mph and lowering dew points will help to evaporate most standing moisture.

During the day Sunday, the sky will clear with sunshine by afternoon, but the day will be windy and cold, with temperatures holding in the 30s.

LUNAR ECLIPSE: The sky will be clear for the total lunar eclipse Sunday night; it begins at 8:36 p.m. and peaks at 11:12 p.m. Bundle up, however, as temperatures will be below freezing.

NEXT WEEK: Monday morning will feature a low in the 15- to 25-degree range with a clear sky and light wind. The day Monday will be sunny with a high in the upper 40s. Clouds return Tuesday, and rain is likely Wednesday into Thursday morning. There is some evidence there could be a brief change to snow or flurries on the back side of this system, but typically in cases like this there isn’t too much impact. It is simply too early to call or be specific.

ON THIS DATE IN 1973: The first tornado death of the year was registered north of Corey, Louisiana, during the afternoon. Although a girl was killed when a tenant farm was destroyed, a baby received only minor injuries when it was carried 300 to 400 yards by the tornado.

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