James Spann: A few showers for Alabama Friday, possible severe storms Sunday

WARM IS THE WORD: Temperatures are mostly in the 81- to 85-degree range across Alabama this afternoon with a partly sunny sky. Clouds will increase across the state tonight ahead of a cold front.

The front will bring showers to the state on Friday, mainly during the morning. There is little upper support for the front, and moisture will be limited, so rain amounts should be fairly light (less than one-quarter inch for many places). A decent part of the afternoon should be dry with only isolated showers. Otherwise, Friday will be cloudy and not as warm, with a high in the mid 70s.

THE ALABAMA WEEKEND: The front will lift northward Saturday morning as a warm front over north Alabama, and some rain is likely. But by afternoon the front will be over Tennessee, and most communities will be dry, with only isolated showers. With a mix of sun and clouds we project a high in the low 80s Saturday afternoon.

Sunday still looks like a very active weather day as a potent weather system approaches from the west. A deep surface low will move north and west of the state, supported by a vigorous upper trough with strong wind fields. The Storm Prediction Center has most of Alabama at risk of severe weather on Sunday.

We believe the main window for severe thunderstorms will come from roughly 3 a.m. until 3 p.m. Sunday. The initial threat will be over west Alabama, shifting eastward during the day. Storms will be capable of producing large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.

It is important that you place yourself in a position to hear severe weather warnings Sunday, and take some time to review your family action plan. Know where you are going and have helmets, portable air horns and hard-sole shoes for everyone in that safe place. If you live in a manufactured home, identify a shelter or other site-built home or business nearby that is available on weekends and during pre-dawn hours. And every church must have a way of hearing warnings (NOAA Weather Radio is the best bet) and have a plan to get people into a safe place in the event a tornado warning is issued and the church is in in the polygon.

FOOTBALL WEATHER: Both Auburn and Alabama have their spring football games Saturday; Alabama’s scrimmage begins at 1, Auburn’s at 3. For both sites, the weather looks pretty good — mixed sun and clouds with temperatures in the low 80s. We can’t rule out a brief shower in Tuscaloosa; Auburn should be totally dry.

NEXT WEEK: Monday and Tuesday will be dry, with cool mornings and pleasant afternoons (lows in the 40s, highs in the 70s). Showers return Wednesday, and another vigorous storm will bring another threat of strong to severe thunderstorms by Wednesday night and Thursday. It’s way too early to be specific — just something to watch for now.

ON THIS DATE IN 1965: Severe thunderstorms in the Upper Midwest spawned 51 tornadoes killing more than 250 people and causing more than $200 million damage. Indiana, Ohio and Michigan were hardest hit in the “Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak.” Although no F5s were officially reported, at least 22 were rated as F3 or F4. This is the third-deadliest day for tornadoes on record, behind the Super Outbreak of April 3, 1974, and the outbreak that included the Tri-State Tornado of March 18, 1925. Dr. Ted Fujita discovered suction vortices during the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak. It had been believed the reason why tornadoes could hit one house and leave another across the street completely unscathed was because the whole tornado would “jump” from one house to another. However, the actual reason is because most of the destruction is caused by suction vortices: small, intense mini-tornadoes within the main tornado.

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