James Spann: Rain returns to Alabama Thursday night

SUNNY APRIL DAY: Temperatures are in the 70s across Alabama this afternoon with a good supply of sunshine. Tonight will be mostly fair with a low close to 50 degrees.

RAIN RETURNS: Clouds will increase Thursday, and showers and storms return to Alabama late in the day and into Thursday night. The Storm Prediction Center maintains a marginal risk (level 1 out of 5) of severe thunderstorms for roughly the western half of the state, but the overall threat seems low with limited instability and weak wind fields.

It looks like most of the rain will fall from about 6 p.m. Thursday through 6 a.m. Friday; amounts of around one-half inch are likely. Heavier storms Thursday evening could produce gusty winds and some small hail.

On Friday, morning clouds should give way to a partly sunny afternoon as drier air enters the state. Highs will remain in the 70s Thursday and Friday.

THE ALABAMA WEEKEND: It will be our warmest weekend so far this year, with afternoon highs in the 78- to 82-degree range. On both days we will have a mix of sun and clouds, and a few scattered showers or thunderstorms are possible. But it looks like a decent part of Saturday and Sunday will be dry; the most widespread rain likely will come Sunday night with the approach of an upper trough. A few strong storms are possible Sunday night, but for now it doesn’t look like a big severe-weather setup.

NEXT WEEK: Rain will end Monday morning, and Tuesday and Wednesday look dry and pleasant with highs in the 70s. The next system could bring another round of showers and thunderstorms to the state by Thursday or Friday.

ON THIS DATE IN 1974: The 1974 Super Outbreak was underway. It was the second-largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period, just behind the 2011 Super Outbreak. It was also the most violent tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 30 F4 or F5 tornadoes confirmed.On April 3-4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario. In the United States, tornadoes struck Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and New York. The outbreak caused roughly $843 million in damage, with more than $600 million in damage occurring in the United States. The outbreak extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles along a combined path length of 2,600 miles. At one point, as many as 15 separate tornadoes were on the ground simultaneously.

In Alabama, at least eight tornadoes, including four extremely intense and long-lived storms, brought death and destruction that night. The communities of Guin and Jasper were hit hard. Eighty-six people were killed, 949 were injured and damages exceeded $50 million. Sixteen counties in the northern part of the state were hit the hardest. It ranks as the third-worst tornado outbreak in Alabama history. It is surpassed by the tornado outbreak of March 21, 1932, when more than 300 people died in a series of tornadoes, as well as the historic outbreak of April 27, 2011, when 252 Alabamians lost their lives.

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