James Spann: Showers, storms arrive in Alabama late today/tonight

James Spann has the Alabama forecast with the latest on Thursday night storms from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

RAIN RETURNS: Clouds will slowly increase across Alabama today ahead of an upper trough. A few showers could reach west Alabama this afternoon, but the bulk of the showers and thunderstorms will come tonight. The Storm Prediction Center maintains a marginal risk (level 1 out of 5) of severe storms for areas west of a line from Tuscumbia to Birmingham to Montgomery to Enterprise; a few storms there could produce small hail and gusty winds.

The overall severe weather risk is fairly low, and rain amounts tonight should be one-half inch to 1 inch for most places.

FRIDAY: Showers and storms remain possible for far south Alabama, but rain will end early in the day over the northern half of the state, and the sky becomes partly sunny by afternoon. The weather will remain mild, with a high in the 70s.

WARM WEEKEND AHEAD: This will be the warmest weekend so far this year for Alabama; we are forecasting highs in the 79- to 83-degree range Saturday and Sunday with a mix of sun and clouds both days. A few widely scattered showers and storms are possible, but a fairly decent part of the weekend will be dry. Showers and storms should become more numerous Sunday night ahead of an upper trough.

NEXT WEEK: Monday looks wet with a good chance of showers and thunderstorms; the air will be unstable and a few strong storms will be possible. Then, on Tuesday, the weather trends drier with just a few lingering showers. Wednesday will be dry and mild; then we will watch a deep surface low northwest of the state. For now, the air looks dry with only a few isolated showers Thursday or Friday.

ON THIS DATE IN 1977: A violent EF-5 tornado tore through the northern part of Birmingham. It began around 3 p.m., 4 miles northwest of Birmingham near U.S. Highway 78, and then traveled northeast for 15 miles at 60 mph, crossing Interstate 65. At its widest point, the tornado was three-quarters of a mile wide. More than 150 homes were damaged, with almost 50 destroyed. Twenty-two people were killed, with more than 130 injured. Daniel Payne College near U.S. 78 sustained heavy damage from this massive tornado, with estimates over $1 million. The college, opened in 1880, closed its doors later in 1977, likely a result of the enormous cost and amount of damage. There were six other tornadoes on this day, including five F2 tornadoes and an F3 tornado across north and central Alabama.

PASSENGER JET DISASTER: The same thunderstorm complex was responsible for the crash of Southern Airways Flight 242 in Georgia; it was a flight from Huntsville to Atlanta. The passenger jet went down after suffering hail damage and losing thrust in both engines. Sixty-three people on the aircraft (including the flight crew) and nine people on the ground died; twenty passengers survived, as well as the two flight attendants. One of the initial survivors succumbed to his injuries several weeks later.

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