James Spann: Unsettled weather ahead for Alabama thanks to TS Barry

RADAR CHECK: Slow-moving, strong thunderstorms continue to develop across Alabama this afternoon, dumping heavy amounts of rain and producing gusty winds and lots of lightning. We will maintain the chance of showers and storms across the state tonight as moist air continues to feed into the state.

UPDATE ON TROPICAL STORM BARRY: The system in the northern Gulf was upgraded to Tropical Storm Barry this morning. It is a weak tropical storm with sustained winds of 40 mph; it is fighting some northerly shear and dry air around the circulation. But it is still expected to slowly strengthen tonight, moving into the Louisiana coast Friday night or very early Saturday morning. There’s still some chance it could become a minimal hurricane by the time of landfall, but most models keep it at tropical storm strength.

Barry’s circulation will slowly weaken and move northward, close to the Mississippi River, over the weekend.

COASTAL IMPACT: For the area from Fort Morgan to Pensacola Beach, Destin and Panama City Beach, occasional tropical showers are likely through Sunday. The rain won’t be continuous and the sun will be out at times. Dangerous rip currents are likely along that stretch of the coastline, and double red flags are flying (the water is closed, but the beaches are open).

A flash flood watch is in effect for Washington, Mobile and Baldwin counties in Alabama, and Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in Florida, where rain amounts of 3-6 inches are possible. Amounts of 1-4 inches are expected for Destin and Panama City Beach between now and Sunday.

For coastal Mississippi, rain amounts of 6-10 inches are forecast, and parts of southeast Louisiana will see 10-20 inches of rain with a high risk of flooding Friday and Saturday. Serious flooding is possible for New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

The weather will improve along the Gulf Coast next week as Barry weakens and moves away from the region.

INLAND ALABAMA: Look for scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms Friday, and the weekend looks wet, with tropical downpours likely. There will be breaks in the rain, however, and the sun could break out at times Saturday and Sunday. Rain amounts of 2-4 inches are expected for much of the state, with lighter amounts near the Georgia border and southeast Alabama. Inland parts of southwest Alabama could see 3-6 inches of rain between now and Sunday. Heat levels back off with the clouds and rain; many places could hold in the 70s all day Sunday.

The Storm Prediction Center has parts of west and southwest Alabama in a marginal risk (level 1 of 5) Saturday; a low-end tornado threat could develop there as Barry’s remnant circulation moves northward around the Mississippi River.

NEXT WEEK: Deep tropical moisture will linger across Alabama Monday and Tuesday with a good chance of showers and storms both days; then the weather trends drier over the latter half of the week with rising heat levels.

ON THIS DATE IN 1936: From July 5 through July 17, temperatures exceeding 111 degrees in Manitoba and Ontario claimed 1,180 lives (mostly the elderly and infants) during the most prolonged, deadliest heat wave on record. Four hundred of these deaths were caused by people who drowned seeking refuge from the heat. In fact, the heat was so intense that steel rail lines and bridge girders twisted, sidewalks buckled, crops wilted and fruit baked on trees. Some record temperatures include 112 degrees at St. Albans and Emerson, Manitoba; 111 at Brandon, Manitoba, and 108 at Atikokan, Ontario, and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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