James Spann: Light rain possible tonight, severe storms Saturday

PLEASANT AFTERNOON: Temperatures are mostly in the 60s across Alabama this afternoon with a good supply of sunshine. A fast-moving disturbance will bring some clouds into the state tonight and some potential for scattered light rain from about midnight to 6 a.m. Moisture is very limited and many communities probably won’t see enough rain to measure.

MIDWEEK: The weather will be rain-free Tuesday through Thursday. The high will be in the mid 50s Tuesday, followed by 60 degrees Wednesday and upper 60s Thursday. The coldest morning will come early Wednesday, when temperatures will be in the 28- to 34-degree range. Clouds thicken Thursday night as moisture surges northward from the Gulf of Mexico.

FRIDAY: Wet weather returns to the state Friday. The day will be mostly cloudy and very mild, with a high in the 70- to 75-degree range (20 degrees above average for mid-January), and we will forecast periods of rain, with a few thunderstorms possible as well. While no severe weather is expected in Alabama Friday, severe storms are likely west of the state over parts of east Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and southeast Oklahoma.

SEVERE THUNDERSTORM POTENTIAL: A dynamic weather system, featuring a negative-tilt upper trough, deepening surface low and strong wind fields, will bring the risk of strong to severe thunderstorms to Alabama Saturday. The Storm Prediction Center has all of Alabama and Mississippi in a severe weather risk.

No doubt the synoptic scale features favor severe thunderstorms, but we really won’t know much about the small, mesoscale features of this event until we are about 60 hours out. There is no way of knowing the magnitude or timing of the event now, but Saturday looks like a very active weather day. Be sure you have a way of hearing severe weather warnings and an action plan if you are placed in a tornado warning polygon.

Also, we are expecting rain amounts of 2-4 inches over the northern half of the state Friday and Saturday, with 1-2 inches for the southern counties. This could lead to more flash flooding problems since the ground is saturated.

Dry air returns to the state Sunday; we are forecasting a good supply of sunshine with a high in the mid to upper 60s.

NEXT WEEK: Global data hints that some rain could return as early as Monday, followed by another rain event at the end of the week. Temperatures will remain above average; the upper-air pattern won’t let the bitterly cold Arctic air drop southward from the higher latitudes for now.

JANUARY SEVERE WEATHER? Alabama has experienced 139 tornadoes in January from 1950 through 2018, so having severe storms this time of the year is not all that unusual here.

ON THIS DATE IN 1996: The Great Blizzard was a severe nor’easter that paralyzed the East Coast Jan. 6-8. In Washington, D.C., this storm is also known as the “Great Furlough Storm” because it occurred during the 1996 federal government shutdown. Snowfall amounts from this event include 47 inches in Big Meadows, Virginia; 30.7 inches in Philadelphia; 27.8 inches in Newark; 24.6 inches at the Dulles International Airport; 24.2 inches in Trenton; 24 inches in Providence; 22.5 inches in Baltimore; 18.2 inches in Boston; 17.1 inches in D.C., and 9.6 inches in Pittsburgh.

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