James Spann: Potentially dangerous severe weather setup for Alabama Sunday

James Spann forecasts two quiet days for Alabama before strong storms on Easter from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

QUIET THROUGH SATURDAY: A cooler air mass will drop into Alabama today; look for sunshine in full force with a high between 60 and 65. The average high for Birmingham on April 10 is 73. Tonight will be clear; we project a low early Saturday in the 36- to 44-degree range. Colder pockets across north and central Alabama could see a touch of light frost. During the day Saturday, the sky will remain mostly sunny with a high in the low 70s. Clouds will increase Saturday night.

SEVERE STORMS ON EASTER: A potentially dangerous weather setup is ahead for the Deep South Sunday afternoon and Sunday night. A storm system with very strong wind fields will advance into the region, interacting with an unstable air mass. As the air mass heats and destabilizes during the afternoon, long-track supercells may evolve out of the morning convection to the west and track northeastward into portions of Mississippi and Alabama, with a corresponding risk of strong tornadoes, large hail and damaging wind gusts. Some upscale growth is possible with time, which would result in a corresponding widespread damaging wind risk, given extremely strong wind fields.

The Storm Prediction Center has defined a moderate risk (level 4 of 5) for roughly the western half of the state, with an enhanced risk (level 3 of 5) for the rest of the state.

TIMING: The broad window for severe storms will come from 1 p.m. through 1 a.m. Scattered supercells will likely form by mid to late afternoon Sunday, followed by an organized line of storms Sunday night.

THREATS: All modes of severe weather will be possible, including large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes. Based on the forecast dynamic and thermodynamic fields, a few strong-to-violent, long-track tornadoes will be possible. Also, with the organized line of storms Sunday night, widespread damaging wind is very possible.

RAIN: Rain amounts should be around 1 inch for most places, and flooding is not expected.

CALL TO ACTION: I am very cognizant that we are in a time when most people in Alabama and the nation are suffering from high anxiety because of the ongoing pandemic. The last thing we want to do is to create more anxiety, but at the same time we have to present the weather situation so you can be prepared. There is no need to be overly worried or anxious about the weather Sunday, but you do need to get ready.

You must have a reliable way of hearing warnings — never an outdoor siren. The baseline is a NOAA Weather Radio; be sure you have one in your home, properly programmed and with fresh batteries. On your phone be sure Wireless Emergency Alerts are enabled in your settings (under notifications). And get the free ABC 33/40 Weather app, which does an excellent job of pushing warnings to you if you are in the polygon.

Know your safe place and have helmets for everyone ready. Also, we suggest portable air horns and hard-soled shoes. If you live in a mobile home, know where you are going and a quick way to get there.

COVID-19: The decision to seek shelter in a community storm shelter is certainly made more difficult by the consideration for COVID-19, and each individual will need to make an educated decision on where and when to shelter from a tornado.

At this time, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is recommending that your first priority should be to protect yourself from a potential tornado. If a warning is issued for your area, you are more likely to be affected by the tornado than the virus.

However, the decisions to open any community shelters are made at the local or county level. Before you decide to go to a community shelter, you should check with your community shelter managers to ensure they are open and find out whether there are any local COVID-19 considerations. Certainly, wherever you choose to shelter from a tornado, you should use as many precautions as possible to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 as best as you can. If you rely on public community shelters, now may be the time to explore other options that might keep you safer from severe weather and possibly limit your exposure to COVID-19.

The best way to prepare for this potential scenario is to keep up with the latest weather forecast as well as the latest recommendations regarding COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ADPH and local authorities.

NEXT WEEK: The week will be generally dry with below-average temperatures; there’s a good chance we’ll see one or two mornings with potential for frost or a freeze. Growers will need to keep a close eye on temperature forecasts.

ON THIS DATE IN 1979: This day was known as “Terrible Tuesday” to the residents of Wichita Falls, Texas, as a tornado rated F4 on the Fujita scale ripped through the city, killing 43 people and causing $300 million in damage. Another tornado struck Vernon, Texas, killing 11 people.

WEATHER BRAINS: You can listen to our weekly 90-minute show any time on your favorite podcast app. This is the show all about weather featuring many familiar voices, including the meteorologists at ABC 33/40.

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For more weather news and information from James Spann and his team, visit AlabamaWx.

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