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James Spann: Dual threat of flooding, severe storms for Alabama today

James Spann forecasts heavy rain, possible severe storms for Alabama from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

RADAR CHECK: Rain is widespread over north and west Alabama around sunrise; there are a few embedded thunderstorms, but we don’t expect any severe weather this morning. This will be an active day for the state, with the dual threat of flooding and strong to severe thunderstorms.

FLOODING: The main threat of flooding today is over the northern half of the state; a flash flood watch is in effect north of a line from Butler to Marion to Clanton to Anniston. Amounts of 2 inches will be common here, with isolated totals to 3 inches. If you are in a flood-prone area, pay attention to any flash flood warnings that are issued.

SEVERE STORMS: The core threat of severe thunderstorms today will be over the southern half of Alabama, where the air will be somewhat unstable. The Storm Prediction Center continues to define an enhanced risk (level 3 out of 5) of severe thunderstorms for areas south and west of a line from Demopolis to Greenville to Geneva. A slight risk (level 2) extends as far north as Tuscaloosa, Jemison and Opelika. A marginal risk (level 1) runs up to places like Jasper, Birmingham and Anniston, but the chance of severe storms there is low since the air will be cool and stable.

The window for severe storms will open up over southwest Alabama around noon; the severe weather threat ends around midnight across the southeast tip of the state. The highest risk of tornadoes is in the enhanced-risk area across southwest and south-central Alabama this afternoon and this evening. An isolated strong tornado (EF-2 or higher) can’t be ruled out.

BE READY: Be sure you can hear severe weather warnings if they are needed later today and tonight. A NOAA Weather Radio is the baseline for every home and business, and be sure Wireless Emergency Alerts are enabled on your phone. Install the free ABC 33/40 Weather app. Know the safe place in your home (lowest floor, near the center of the house, away from windows), and have helmets for everyone there. If you live in a mobile home, know the location of the nearest shelter or site-built structure that is available and how to get there quickly, and have transportation.

WIND: Pressure gradient winds (not related to thunderstorms) could gust to 30 mph in spots today.

Rain and storms will end from west to east tonight.

THURSDAY THROUGH THE WEEKEND: The weather will be dry and colder. The sky will be mostly sunny Thursday and Friday with highs in the 50s. A disturbance will bring some clouds Saturday; any light rain will be confined to areas near the immediate Gulf Coast. Saturday’s high will be between 47 and 53 degrees. Sunday will be sunny with a high in the 40s over north Alabama and 50s for the southern counties. Temperatures drop into the 20s Sunday morning; for most places this will be the first freeze since Dec. 1.

NEXT WEEK: For now, the week looks dry with highs in the 40s and 50s and lows around freezing each morning. Very cold, Arctic air will likely roll into Alabama late in the week and over the Christmas weekend; this is the type of air mass that could bring subfreezing temperatures to Alabama for around 72 consecutive hours and push lows into the single digits in spots over the northern counties. We will be much more specific about this cold wave in coming days.

ON THIS DATE IN 1952: A trace of snow or sleet occurred at or near Pensacola, Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, Quincy, Carrabelle, Tallahassee, St. Marks, Monticello, Madison, Mayo, Live Oak, Lake City, Glen St. Mary and Hilliard in Florida. Frozen precipitation occurred before noon at most points but happened in the afternoon at Mayo and Lake City and near Hilliard. Temperatures were above freezing, and snow or sleet melted as it fell.

ON THIS DATE IN 1997: A cold-core upper low brought an unexpected band of heavy snow to parts of west-central Alabama. Parts of Choctaw, Sumter, Greene, Hale and Marengo counties experienced more than 6 inches of snow when a cold rain was forecast. In Mississippi, this was one of the heavier snowfalls to occur since 1929. The weight of the snow caused limbs of trees to break, which knocked down power lines.

BEACH FORECAST: Click here to see the AlabamaWx Beach Forecast Center page.

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