James Spann: A few strong storms for Alabama Friday afternoon

WARM MARCH DAY: Temperatures are mostly in the 78- to 83-degree range across Alabama this afternoon with a mix of sun and clouds. We note a few spotty showers over the western half of the state, but most communities remain dry.

To the west, a big storm system is bringing everything from blizzard conditions to potential for severe storms and tornadoes, but Alabama’s weather will remain quiet tonight with showers few and far between.

FRIDAY: At midday the Storm Prediction Center introduced a low-end, marginal risk (level 1 out of 5) of severe thunderstorms for a pretty good part of Alabama.

Let me say up front that we do NOT expect any tornadoes in Alabama on Friday. Wind profiles will be basically unidirectional, and there is no storm-relative helicity (veering of the wind with attitude in relation to storm motion). But a few storms Friday afternoon and evening could produce gusty winds and hail. The main window for rain will come from about noon to midnight; rain amounts of one-half inch to 1 inch are likely. The high will be in the mid 70s.

THE ALABAMA WEEKEND: Any showers on Saturday should be confined to the far southern part of the state; the sky will feature more clouds than sun over north and central Alabama with a high between 65 and 70 degrees. On Sunday, the front over south Alabama will lift northward as a warm front, and periods of rain are likely statewide with temperatures generally in the 60s. Rain amounts on Sunday should be close to one-half inch.

NEXT WEEK: A few showers are possible Monday and Tuesday, but for now we aren’t expecting anything widespread or heavy. The latter half of the week looks relatively dry with just a small risk of a shower Wednesday through Friday. Temperatures should reach the low 80s Wednesday and Thursday.

FIRST DAY OF SPRING: The vernal equinox comes tonight at 10:49; this is the first official day of spring. It is the earliest that the equinox has occurred nationwide in 124 years. We will have approximately 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness today.

ON THIS DATE IN 2018: An EF-3 tornado tore through Jacksonville, in Calhoun County, heavily damaging the campus of Jacksonville State University. The tornado continued east-southeast and downed many thousands of trees in the Talladega National Forest, areas north of Fruithurst, areas north of Muscadine and to the Georgia state line. The tornado damage path to the Georgia state line was 34.29 miles long. Five other tornadoes touched down across the northern half of Alabama that night, including an EF-2 that moved from near Ashville to Southside.

Large hail produced widespread damage at Cullman; one hailstone there measured 5.38 inches in peak width, weighed 9.8 ounces and had a circumference of 13.75 inches, the largest hailstone on record for the state of Alabama.

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