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James Spann: Alabama stays dry through Tuesday; severe storms possible Wednesday night

James Spann forecasts a beautiful beginning for the Alabama work week from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

NICE WARM-UP TODAY: With a good supply of sunshine, we project a high around 70 degrees this afternoon across Alabama, right at seasonal averages for late March. We reach the low 80s Tuesday with a partly sunny sky as the warming trend continues. Wednesday will be a warm, windy day with a high in the low to mid 80s, followed by a band of strong to severe thunderstorms late in the day into Wednesday night.

The Storm Prediction Center has defined an enhanced risk (level 3 of 5) for much of west Alabama with this event, for areas west of a line from Haleyville to Birmingham to Jackson. A slight risk (level 2 of 5) is for areas as far east as Huntsville, Montgomery and Andalusia, and the eastern counties are in a marginal risk (level 1 of 5).

This will be another system with very impressive wind fields and kinematic energy, but the thermodynamics are a bit iffy with limited instability, similar to the system we experienced last week. Most likely the storms will come through in linear fashion.

TIMING: The line of severe storms will likely enter west Alabama late in the afternoon, in the 5-6 time frame, then sweep eastward Wednesday night. Storms could linger after midnight over the eastern counties, but they will be weakening at that time. The main window for the I-65 corridor will be from 7 p.m. to midnight.

THREATS: The main concern will come from damaging winds with the line of storms. Winds could exceed 60 mph in spots, and we can’t rule out a couple of tornadoes within the line as well, with the higher severe-weather probabilities over the western half of the state. Some hail is possible but is not expected to be widespread.

GRADIENT WIND: Non-thunderstorm winds could gust to 40-45 mph at times Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night before the storm arrives. Higher gusts will be on the ridges.

FLOODING: Rain amounts of 1-2 inches are likely, and with the saturated soil conditions some flooding problems could develop. We don’t expect the 5- to 6-inch totals like we had last week with the storms over east Alabama.

Events like this are common in Alabama during March and April. Have two reliable ways of learning severe weather warnings (NOAA Weather Radio and emergency alerts on your phone), and a plan of action if you are in the polygon. In your safe place have helmets for everyone, and if you live in a mobile home, know the nearest shelter location and how to get there quickly.

REST OF THE WEEK AND THE WEEKEND: Look for a clearing sky Thursday with a high around 70. We expect the dry weather to continue on Friday and over the weekend with mostly sunny, pleasant days and clear, cool nights. Highs will be between 68 and 72 degrees, with lows mostly in the 40s. Colder spots could see 30s early Friday morning.

NEXT WEEK: Dry weather continues Monday and Tuesday; global models suggest the next round of rain and storms will come Wednesday, April 6.ON THIS DATE IN 1920: Twenty people were killed by a tornado, estimated at F4 strength, that moved through Elmore, Tallapoosa and Chambers counties in east Alabama. The greatest destruction was in Tallapoosa County in the vicinity of Susanna, Agricola and Red Ridge. The tornado was on the ground for more than 65 miles.

ON THIS DATE IN 1963: A decision was handed down in the case of Whitney Bartie vs. the United States of America. Bartie sued the U.S. Weather Bureau for negligence in failing to provide a warning about Hurricane Audrey in 1957. Bartie’s wife and five children were killed after the 12-foot storm surge struck Cameron Parish, Louisiana, on the morning of June 27, 1957. It was ruled that the evidence presented did not establish negligence on the part of the Weather Bureau.

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