ON THE MAPS: A vigorous storm system is developing west of the state this morning as a cold core upper trough lifts out of the Southwest. A very deep surface low, with a central pressure down to near 970 mb, develops over western Kansas. North and west of that low, blizzard conditions are likely with hurricane-force wind gusts, and south and east of the low severe storms will form. The Storm Prediction Center has an enhanced risk of severe weather defined today along the Mississippi River from north of Memphis down to near Greenville, Mississippi.
Here in Alabama today, we stay dry; the day will feature a mix of sun and clouds with a high in the 70s. The pressure gradient will tighten, and southeast winds will increase to 15-25 mph by afternoon, with gusts to 30 mph at times.
SHOWERS/STORMS RETURN THURSDAY: The surface low moves north to Iowa Thursday, while slowly weakening. The trailing cold front will move in our direction and bring showers and thunderstorms into the state. The main upper air support will be north of Alabama, but the front could bring a few strong to severe storms to the state late in the day and Thursday night.
The SPC has defined a slight risk (level 2 out of 5) of severe thunderstorms west of a line from Huntsville to Dora to Northport, and a marginal risk (level 1 of 5) is as far east as Gadsden, Clanton, Selma and Jackson.
TIMING: Although some rain is possible Thursday morning, the window for the heavier storms over the slight-risk area (north and west Alabama) will come from 3 until 9 p.m. For central Alabama, the strong storms are possible from 5 p.m. until just after midnight.
THREATS: Stronger storms could produce strong, gusty winds and small hail. A brief tornado is possible as well, mainly in the slight-risk area.
GRADIENT WINDS: Away from thunderstorms, the day will be windy because of the tight pressure gradient (much like today). South winds will average 12-25 mph, with gusts to 30 mph at times.
RAIN: Rain amounts of around 1 inch are expected; we are not expecting any flooding.
FRIDAY AND THE WEEKEND: Any lingering rain will end Friday morning, and the sky becomes partly sunny by afternoon as dry air returns. Friday’s high will be in the 60- to 65-degree range.
The weekend will feature cold mornings with lows between 30 and 36 degrees for most communities across north and central Alabama. Colder spots will see a freeze, and frost is likely, especially early Sunday with a calm wind. The sky will be sunny Saturday and Sunday; the high Saturday will be in the upper 50s, followed by low 60s Sunday.
NEXT WEEK: The weather looks cool and dry; lows will be in the 30s on most mornings as the risk of frost continues. Highs will be in the upper 50s Monday and Tuesday, and mostly in the 60s for the rest of the week.
ON THIS DATE IN 1990: Thunderstorms produced severe weather from northwest Texas to Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska during the day and into the night. Severe thunderstorms spawned 59 tornadoes, including 26 strong or violent tornadoes, and there were about 200 reports of large hail or damaging winds. There were 48 tornadoes in Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, and some of the tornadoes in those three states were the strongest on record for so early in the season, and for so far northwest in the United States. The most powerful tornado of the day was one that tore through the central Kansas community of Hesston. The F5 tornado killed two people, injured 60 others and caused $22 million in damage along its 67-mile path.
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