James Spann: Strong storms for Alabama Saturday

PLEASANT AFTERNOON: Temperatures are in the 57- to 60-degree range over much of north and central Alabama this afternoon, and we note a few thin spots in the overcast. To the south, Montgomery and Demopolis report a pleasant 65 degrees at mid-afternoon. There’s nothing on radar, and we will be dry through the evening despite a mostly cloudy sky.

ACTIVE SATURDAY: A potent weather system will push showers and strong storms into Alabama Saturday. The Storm Prediction Center has defined a slight risk of severe storms (level 2 of 5) for the broad zone from Fayette and Tuscaloosa south to Florala, Gulf Shores and Mobile. A marginal risk (level 1of 5) covers much of the rest of the state.

This is a conditional severe weather threat; there will be very little surface-based instability over the northern half of the state, where dynamic support is the best.

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. The main threat of severe storms is in the slight risk area across west and southwest Alabama.

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.

WINDS: It will be a windy day. Even away from thunderstorms, gradient winds out of the south will average 12-22 mph with higher gusts.

COLD AIR RUSHES IN SATURDAY NIGHT: Rain will end from west to east Saturday evening, followed by strong north winds and some very cold air that is now lurking over the northern states. During the initial rush of cold air, a few light snow flurries are possible across the northern half of the state from about midnight Saturday night through 7 a.m. Sunday, but we expect no accumulation or impact.

We also expect no big issues with icy road conditions Sunday morning; the strong north wind along with lowering dew points should evaporate most of the moisture before temperatures reach the low 30s.

During the day Sunday the sky will clear, with sunshine returning by afternoon, but the day will be windy and cold, with a high in the 36- to 40-degree range.

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 be clear and cold with a nearly calm wind; we project lows in the 15- to 25-degree range over the northern half of the state. The day will be sunny and Monday’s high will be close to 50 degrees. Clouds move in Tuesday, and we expect periods of rain Wednesday, Wednesday night and into part of the day Thursday. The latest thermal profiles from global model output suggest this will be all liquid, with no snow or ice issues for Alabama. After the rain another shot of very cold air arrives Thursday night and Friday.

The pattern continues to favor cold air over the eastern half of the nation through the end of January.

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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