James Spann: Alabama at risk of severe storms Thursday night

ACTIVE SPRING WEATHER: High cirrus clouds are over Alabama this afternoon; there’s nothing on radar and temperatures are mostly in the mid to upper 70s. We note showers and storms over northeast Mississippi; some of those could clip the northwest corner of our state tonight, but most places will stay dry overnight.

Temperatures will be mild Thursday and strong south winds will develop by afternoon, averaging 15-25 mph with higher gusts.

SEVERE WEATHER THREAT: A robust spring system will bring the threat of severe storms to Alabama Thursday night. The Storm Prediction Center has defined an enhanced risk (level 3 of 5) for areas west of a line from Cullman to Birmingham to Montgomery to Geneva, and a slight risk (level 25) for the rest of the state.

TIMING: A few storms could reach far west Alabama as early as 4, but the main threat comes Thursday night. Thunderstorms will push out of the region after midnight.

THREATS: Storms will be capable of producing damaging wind and a few tornadoes. Some hail is possible, but that threat is lower. The highest tornado risk is in the enhanced-risk area, where the best combination of shear and instability will be found. But a tornado or two can’t be ruled out in the slight-risk area as well.

RAIN: Rain amounts of around 1 inch are expected, and no flooding issues are anticipated.

Be sure you and your family can hear severe weather warnings Thursday night if needed; NEVER rely on a siren. Have WEA (Wireless Emergency Alerts) enabled on your smartphone (check it under notification settings). In your safe place, have helmets for everyone. And, if you live in a mobile or manufactured home, know the location of the nearest shelter or open business (like a truck stop, restaurant, gas station, etc.) and be ready to get out in a hurry if tornado warnings begin.

FRIDAY: The severe weather threat goes on to the east; Friday in Alabama will be cloudy and much cooler as a deep, cold-core upper low passes overhead. Temperatures will be in the 50s all day, and there will be periods of rain. Some small hail is possible with showers because of the cold air aloft.

EASTER WEEKEND: Any lingering clouds over east Alabama will dissipate by midmorning Saturday; otherwise the weekend will feature a sun-filled sky both days. Early-morning lows will be in the 40s. The high will be in the 65- to 70-degree range Saturday, followed by mid to upper 70s Sunday.

NEXT WEEK: Dry, warm weather is forecast Monday through Wednesday; then showers and storms return Thursday, possibly into Friday. The following weekend (April 27-28) looks dry and pleasant for now.

ON THIS DATE IN 1979: Most major rivers in Alabama were way out of their banks. Record or near-record crests occurred along much of the Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Sucarnoochee Rivers with severe residential and commercial flooding in areas such as Tuscaloosa, Demopolis, Gainesville and Livingston. Thousands of acres of farm land, woodlands and pasture land were flooded, as well as numerous camps and cabins along these rivers. When all the floodwaters had receded, damage was estimated at $75 million with at least 15 deaths in the state.

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