By JAMES SPANN, Alabama News Center
Ingredients are in place for severe thunderstorms across Alabama later today and tonight. Intense storms capable of widespread damaging winds, large hail, and several strong tornadoes are possible with several rounds of storms.
SPC maintains a “moderate risk” (level 4/5) of severe thunderstorms most of Alabama.
Rain is falling this morning over the northern half of the state north of a warm front. Unstable air south of the front will surge northward during the day, and by afternoon severe storms will form to the west over Mississippi. These storms will likely be more classic semi-discrete supercells, and spread eastward into Alabama by late afternoon, and northern Georgia during the evening. Large, curved hodographs and deep, rich boundary layer moisture and intense vertical shear will support long-lived supercells capable of producing significant tornadoes.
TIMING: The overall window for severe thunderstorms in Alabama will come from 1 p.m. until 2 a.m. You won’t experience rain and storms the entire time, but there will be multiple waves. The core threat for north/central Alabama will come 4-10 p.m.
THREATS: In addition to tornadoes, storms will also be capable of producing very large hail, and damaging winds.
GRADIENT WIND: Today will be windy, even away from thunderstorms. A wind advisory is in effect for all of Alabama beginning at noon; south winds will average 15-30 mph, with occasional gusts to 40 mph. THis gradient wind could knock down a few trees.
FLOODING: A flash flood watch is in effect for the northern quarter of Alabama through tonight. Rain amounts of 2 to 4 inches are likely due to the multiple rounds of rain and storms, and flooding is possible. For now the flash flood watch does not include Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, or Anniston.
WILL TODAY BE LIKE APRIL 27, 2011? No. Alabama experienced 62 tornadoes that day, many were strong/violent. Those type events happen once every 40 years on average. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need to prepare for this event. If there is only one tornado in the entire state today, and if that one comes through your neighborhood, then today is YOUR April 27. And, there is a good chance we see more than one tornado over the next 18 hours, a few possibly strong.
ANXIETY: I am well aware that many suffer from storm anxiety. And, this is amplified with the current COVID-19 situation. The last thing we want to do is create another “wall of worry”, but at the same time we have to let you know of the danger potential. Simply be prepared, and we will get through the day together fine. Even on a “moderate risk” day, odds of any one place being hit by a tornado are low. Stay away from the social media pages run by amateurs that are built on hype and fear; they just want your to like and share their content, even if it means scaring you. Find a reliable source from professional meteorologists.
CALL TO ACTION: Be sure you get the warnings; NEVER rely on an outdoor siren. The baseline for getting the warning is a NOAA Weather Radio. Every Alabama home needs one; they work independently of cell networks, and are very reliable. If you need help programming your radio, see this video from ABC 33/40 Meteorologist Taylor Sarallo
On your phone, be sure WEA alerts are active. Go to settings, notifications, and be sure “emergency alerts” are enabled. Download the free ABC 33/40 Weather app as well; it is an excellent way of getting severe weather watches and warnings pushed to your phone.
Determine your safe place. In a site built home, it is a small room (closet, bathroom, closet) on the lowest floor, near the center of the house, and away from windows. You do not have to be underground. In that safe place, have helmets for everyone, along with portable airhorns (if you are injured and need to alert first responders), and hard sole shoes (if you have to walk over a tornado debris field).
If you live in a mobile home, you cannot stay there during a tornado warning polygon. Know the location of the nearest shelter or safe place, and know how to get there quickly. Check with your local county EMA (Emergency Management Agency) concerning shelter locations if you need help.
KNOW HOW TO FIND YOUR HOUSE ON A MAP: After every post, we get hundreds of the “what about” questions right away. People asking specifically about their home town because they have a hard time reading maps. Unfortunately, on days like today we simply don’t have the time or manpower to give individual briefings; the maps we post give a clear explanation. Take some time to brush up on your map skills this morning.
COVID 19: From the National Weather Services offices in Alabama, and the Alabama Department of Public Health:
“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 done at the local or county level. Before you make a decision to go to a community shelter, you should check with your community shelter managers to ensure they are open, and if 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.”
WATCH: When severe weather begins today, my focus will shift to live coverage on ABC 33/40. Remember, local TV is free, over the air. You don’t need cable or satellite. With an inexpensive antenna, you can watch dozens and dozens of free local channels. Our wall to wall coverage is also streamed live on the ABC 33/40 Facebook page, the ABC 33/40 web site, and on the free ABC 33/40 app:
We will have multiple crews in the field; this is an “all hands on deck” day at our place.
Stay tuned for updates throughout the day!
For more weather news and information from James Spann and his team, visit AlabamaWx.com.