James Spann: A touch of fall in the Alabama air

REFRESHING CHANGE: The long-awaited surface front is pushing through south Alabama this afternoon. Drier air continues to flow into the northern part of the state with a partly sunny sky, lower humidity levels and below-average temperatures. Birmingham reported only 78 degrees at 2 p.m.; the record low maximum for July 23 is 78, set in 1938. We will probably creep up toward 80 before the day is over, but this is still more than 10 degrees below average.

Showers and strong storms are over far south Alabama in advance of the front. Those will move offshore this evening.

Tonight will be fair and cooler. Temperatures will drop into the 60- to 65-degree range over the northern half of the state, with upper 50s likely for cooler valleys.

WEDNESDAY THOUGH FRIDAY: Look for mostly sunny days, low humidity levels for summer and fair, pleasant nights. Showers and storms will be confined to coastal areas, and even there they will be pretty widely scattered. Highs will be in the mid 80s Wednesday, followed by upper 80s Thursday and Friday.

THE ALABAMA WEEKEND: Moisture levels will rise, humidity values come up and we will bring back the risk of scattered, mostly afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms. Otherwise, expect partly sunny days with highs between 87 and 90 degrees.

NEXT WEEK: For now we will go with a standard summer forecast through the weekend — partly sunny, hot and humid each day with the risk of a passing afternoon shower or storm in spots. Highs will be mostly in the low 90s, right at seasonal averages for late July.

TROPICS: Tropical Depression Three dissipated this morning off the Florida east coast. The National Hurricane Center is now giving a 20% chance of tropical depression or storm formation across the northern Gulf of Mexico late this week and over the weekend, in the vicinity of the stalled front.

ON THIS DATE IN 1788: A storm called George Washington’s Hurricane originated near Bermuda on July 19 before making landfall in Virginia. It passed directly over the Lower Chesapeake Bay and Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. This track is very similar to the path of the Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane of 1933. At Norfolk, winds increased at 5 p.m. on July 23 with the wind originating from the northeast. At 12:30 a.m., the wind suddenly shifted to the south and “blew a perfect hurricane, tearing down chimneys, fences…” Some corn was also leveled, large trees were uprooted and houses were moved from their foundations.

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