James Spann: Rain returns Saturday, mainly for east Alabama

FINE FALL DAY: Temperatures are mostly in the mid 60s across north and central Alabama this afternoon with a good supply of sunshine through high, thin cirrus clouds. The average high for Birmingham on Oct. 17 is 75. Tonight will be clear and very cool, with lows well down in the 40s; colder spots go back in the 30s again.

Friday will be a mostly sunny day for the northern half of Alabama with a high in the low to mid 70s, but clouds invade south Alabama, with rain likely for the Gulf Coast by afternoon as a tropical system approaches.

PTC 16: Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 is in the Gulf of Mexico, headed for the Florida Panhandle. It is expected to become a tropical depression or storm tonight, but it should remain well below hurricane strength because of harsh winds aloft. The National Hurricane Center has issued these advisories:

  • A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Ochlockonee River, Florida, and from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River.
  • A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect east of the Ochlockonee River to Yankeetown, Florida.
  • A Storm Surge Watch is in effect from Indian Pass to Clearwater Beach, Florida.

The system is expected to make landfall before dawn Saturday somewhere around Port St. Joe/Indian Pass/Apalachicola. If it becomes a tropical storm, the name will be Nestor.

THE ALABAMA IMPACT: The heaviest rain with the tropical system will be confined to far southeast Alabama, where amounts to 2 inches are possible around Dothan. Otherwise, the best chance of rain Saturday will be over the eastern half of the state, along and east of I-65. Amounts over east Alabama should be generally one-half inch or less, and the higher rain amounts will be to the east over parts of Georgia and South Carolina.

Some patchy light rain over west Alabama can’t be ruled out, but many communities west of I-65 won’t see any rain at all Saturday. The high Saturday will be in the 60s over east Alabama and close to 70 over the western counties of the state.

Sunday will be dry statewide. The sky will be partly sunny and the high will be in the 75- to 80-degree range.

NEXT WEEK: A cold front will move into the state Monday night and bring the threat of strong to severe thunderstorms. For now, it looks like the main threat will come from damaging straight-line winds late Monday afternoon and Monday night. But we need to get the tropical system out of here before we become too confident on the impact forecast for this system.

The Storm Prediction Center has much of central and south Alabama in a severe weather risk on its outlook for Monday and Monday night.

The middle of the week will be dry and pleasant; then another front will bring a chance of showers and storms by Thursday night and Friday, Oct. 24-25.

FOOTBALL WEATHER: For the high school games Friday night, dry weather is expected over the northern half of Alabama with temperatures in the 60s. But rain is a good possibility for the southern quarter of Alabama as the tropical low approaches.

Auburn travels to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to take on the Razorbacks Saturday (kickoff at 11 a.m. Central). Showers and thunderstorms are possible during the first half of the game. The kickoff temperature will be close to 64 degrees, rising into the upper 60s by the final whistle.

Alabama will host Tennessee Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa (kickoff at 8). It now looks like the bulk of the rain will remain east of Tuscaloosa, and we are forecasting dry conditions. Temperatures will be in the mid to upper 60s. A little light rain is possible during the day, before the game.

UAB hosts Old Dominion Saturday afternoon at Legion Field in Birmingham (kickoff at 3). The sky will be mostly cloudy, and some light rain is possible during the game. The kickoff temperature will be near 70 degrees, falling back into the upper 60s by the final whistle.

Jacksonville State hosts Southeast Missouri State Saturday (3 p.m. kickoff). The sky will be mostly cloudy; rain is possible. Temperatures will fall from near 70 at kickoff into the upper 60s by the fourth quarter.

ON THIS DATE IN 1910: A Category 4 hurricane moved north-northeast, passing just east of the Dry Tortugas. The maximum storm surge observed in Key West was 8 feet, with 15-foot waves at what is now Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

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