James Spann: Strong to severe storms for Alabama this evening

QUIET AFTERNOON: The big band of rain and storms that produced some flash flooding over the Tennessee Valley of north Alabama this morning has moved north of the state, and most of Alabama is dry this afternoon, with just a few isolated showers over the northeast counties. Temperatures are in the upper 70s and low 80s, and we await a cold front coming in tonight that will trigger strong to severe thunderstorms.

The Storm Prediction Center has defined an enhanced risk (level 3 out of 5) of severe thunderstorms for far north Alabama — places like Muscle Shoals, Athens, Decatur, Huntsville and Scottsboro. We have a slight risk (level 2 of 5) down to Reform, Birmingham and Jacksonville, and a marginal risk (level 1 of 5) as far south as Demopolis, Dadeville and Lafayette.

The highest tornado threat will come early tonight over the Tennessee Valley in the enhanced-risk area, although we can’t rule out an isolated tornado in the slight-risk zone as well. Heavier storms will also be capable of producing hail and strong straight-line winds.

Be sure you have a good way of hearing warnings if they are needed. If you typically go to a community shelter, check with the county Emergency Management Agency to be sure it will be open. We are living in different times and you might need to adjust your normal severe weather plan when it comes to sheltering. But remember, you must protect yourself from a tornado FIRST if you are in a polygon, then do the best you can when it comes to social distancing.

There is a flash flood watch in effect through tonight for the Tennessee Valley region of north Alabama (Muscle Shoals to Huntsville to Scottsboro), where additional rain amounts of around 2 inches are likely.

REST OF THE WEEK: The sky becomes mostly sunny Wednesday as dry air returns; the high will be in the mid 70s. We are expecting the warmest weather so far this year Thursday and Friday; the sky will be sunny both days with highs up in the mid 80s.

THE ALABAMA WEEKEND: Saturday will be warm with highs in the 80s; clouds will increase by afternoon, and a cold front will push a band of rain and storms into the state Saturday night. For now it looks like a linear-type convective event with the main threat coming from strong straight-line winds, but it is really too early to be specific about the threat. The SPC has north and west Alabama in a severe weather risk for Saturday and Saturday night.

Sunday will feature a clearing sky with a high in the low 70s.

NEXT WEEK: A fast-moving weather system will bring the threat of a few showers Monday. The rest of the week looks dry with seasonal temperatures.

ON THIS DATE IN 1975: “The Governor’s Tornado” hopscotched a 13-mile path across western Atlanta during the early morning, causing considerable damage to the Governor’s mansion. Hundreds of expensive homes, businesses and apartment complexes were damaged. Total losses were estimated at $56 million. Three people lost their lives, and the F3 tornado injured another 152.

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