James Spann: Occasional tropical showers for Alabama over the weekend

RADAR CHECK: Tropical showers continue to increase across all of Alabama this afternoon as deep moisture is pulled northward on the east side of the circulation of Tropical Storm Barry in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The showers are moving slowly northward, and if you are under one you get heavy rain along with some lightning. We will maintain the chance of showers and thunderstorms across Alabama tonight.

UPDATE ON BARRY: Tropical Storm Barry is now packing sustained winds of 65 mph in the northern Gulf of Mexico and is drifting very slowly to the west/northwest (5 mph). It now is expected to reach category one hurricane strength by the time of landfall early Saturday morning. A Hurricane Warning is in effect from Intracoastal City to Grand Isle, Louisiana, and a storm surge warning is in effect from Intracoastal City to Biloxi and for Lake Pontchartrain.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from the center. The NOAA automated station at the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi River recently reported sustained winds of 55 mph and a wind gust of 66 mph at an elevation of 125 feet. An oil rig southwest of the mouth of the Mississippi River recently reported sustained winds of 76 mph and a wind gust of 87 mph at an elevation of 295 feet.

Barry will slowly move through Louisiana and Arkansas over the weekend. The axis of heaviest rain has been shifted a tad to the west on the latest forecast update from NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center. Amounts of 10-20 inches are possible in a narrow zone over southeast Louisiana; for now that appears most likely a little west of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Those two cities, however, can easily see 6-10 inches of rain over the next 48 hours. Amounts in that same range (6-10 inches) are likely over a decent part of Mississippi.

IN ALABAMA: We will deal with occasional tropical showers and a few thunderstorms over the weekend. The showers are most likely from noon until midnight, but a few late-night and morning showers can’t be ruled out in this pattern. The heaviest rain is likely over the southwest counties of the state, and a flash flood watch is in effect for Choctaw, Washington, Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties.

Average rain amounts for west Alabama will be in the 2- to 4-inch range, with 1 to 2 inches to the east. But, remember, rain distribution will not be even with a tropical system like this.

There is potential for a few isolated, brief tornadoes in the rain bands on the east side of Barry tomorrow and Sunday over Mississippi, and we will need to watch far west Alabama for signs of rotation. But, for now, it looks like the main threat of a tornado or two will be west of our state.

The sun will be out at times Saturday and Sunday, but with an increase in clouds and showers temperatures should hold in the 80s both days.

TRAVEL: I am getting so many questions about driving conditions over the weekend across the Southeast. I possess no special knowledge or skill about future road conditions. All depends on risk tolerance, and that is different for different people. Just pay attention to National Weather Service watches and warnings and keep up with the latest weather information to help you make a good decision.

NEXT WEEK: Scattered to numerous showers and storms remain likely Monday, but the pattern trends back to the routine summer setup by midweek as the remnant circulation of Barry moves away from the region.

ON THIS DATE IN 1996: Hurricane Bertha made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, with maximum winds of 105 mph, but the storm surge dealt the most devastation. The U.S. Virgin Islands, along with North Carolina, were declared federal disaster areas. Surveys indicate that Bertha damaged almost 2,500 homes on St. Thomas and St. John. For many, it was the second hit in the 10 months since Hurricane Marilyn devastated the same area. The primary effects in North Carolina were to the coastal counties and included storm surge flooding and beach erosion, roof damage, piers washed away, fallen trees and damage to crops. More than 5,000 homes were damaged, mostly from storm surge. Storm total rainfall amounts ranged from 5 to 8 inches along a coastal strip from South Carolina to Maine. As many as 12 deaths resulted, with eight in the U.S. and territories.

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