WONDERFUL WINTER DAY: We are enjoying another bright, sunny afternoon across Alabama with temperatures mostly in the 58- to 64-degree range at mid-afternoon. The average high at Birmingham on Jan. 8 is 53. Tonight will be clear; most locations drop into the mid 30s by daybreak. Colder spots will see another freeze. On Thursday, we will enjoy one more dry day; with a partly sunny sky we project a high in the mid 60s. Clouds thicken Thursday night.
FRIDAY: The day will be mostly cloudy and mild; the high will be in the 68- to 72-degree range. Showers will likely begin by afternoon, with rain becoming more widespread Friday night. A few thunderstorms are possible, but the severe weather threat will be well to the west of Alabama, over parts of east Texas, southeast Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
SEVERE WEATHER THREAT FOR ALABAMA SATURDAY: A dynamic weather system with strong wind fields will interact with a moist, unstable air mass, setting the stage for severe thunderstorm potential across all of Alabama. Model data suggests the low-level jet (5,000 feet off the ground) will be in the 50- to 80-knot range, with very high storm relative helicity values (veering of the wind with height in relation to storm motion). The Storm Prediction Center has all of Alabama in a severe weather risk, and much of the state is in a 30% circle, the equivalent to an enhanced risk (level 3 of 5).
TIMING: This looks like a daytime threat; the core risk of severe storms in Alabama will come from around 8 a.m. through 6 p.m. Saturday. We will be much more specific Thursday.
THREATS: Thunderstorms Saturday will be capable of producing hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.
RAIN: Rain amounts Friday and Saturday will be in the 2- to 4-inch range for much of the state, and with the ground relatively saturated, flash flooding will become a concern by Saturday.
CALL TO ACTION: Everyone will need a good, reliable way of getting severe weather warnings Saturday if they are needed. Be sure wireless emergency alerts are enabled on your phone, and download the free ABC 33/40 weather app as well. Have a NOAA Weather Radio in your home and business. Never rely on an outdoor siren.
Identify the safe place in your home. In a site-built home, it is a small room on the lowest floor, near the center of the home and away from windows. Be sure everybody in the family knows where that safe place is, and in that room you need helmets for everyone in your family. We also recommend having a portable air horn for everyone, as well as hard-soled shoes. If you live in a mobile home, you cannot stay there if you are in a tornado warning polygon. Know the location of the nearest shelter or site-built structure that is available.
Is a tornado threat in January unusual? Not really. Alabama has experienced 139 tornadoes during the month of January since 1950. Tornadoes can happen during any month in our state, but the most active period is between November and May.
Do I need to cancel my event Saturday? I’m getting many questions about both indoor and outdoor events. All of them involve a different set of circumstances, and there is no way we can make that decision. On Thursday we will be within 60 hours of the event, and we can provide a more detailed look at the magnitude and the timing.
Sunday will be dry with a mix of sun and clouds; the high will be in the low 60s.
NEXT WEEK: The chance of rain returns to the state by Monday afternoon as a warm front moves northward, and it now looks like we will have periods of rain Tuesday and Wednesday. For now we don’t expect any severe storms, but flooding concerns will continue as the rain chances remain high. And temperatures will stay mild, with highs mostly in the 60s.
ON THIS DATE IN 1973: As much as 4 inches of ice coated most of northern Georgia, leaving 300,000 people without electricity for as much as a week. Damage was estimated at $25 million. Much of Alabama narrowly escaped this event with mainly a heavy, cold rain, although some icing was reported from Fayette to Scottsboro and along the eastern side of the state to near Talladega. Significant icing was reported around Muscle Shoals.
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