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James Spann: Nice Monday for Alabama; severe storms possible Tuesday

James Spann forecasts a nice start for the Alabama work week from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

BIG WARM-UP TODAY: Some spots are in the 30s early this morning over east Alabama, but we warm up nicely today. Temperatures will reach the mid 70s this afternoon with a good supply of sunshine. To the west a dynamic storm system will bring the threat of severe storms to the eastern half of Texas and some of the adjacent states later today and tonight.

THE ALABAMA SEVERE WEATHER THREAT: Strong to severe storms will likely push into west Alabama Tuesday afternoon, then move eastward Tuesday night. The Storm Prediction Center has defined an enhanced risk (level 3 out of 5) of severe thunderstorms in the broad area from Tuscaloosa to Mobile, a slight risk as far east as Hamilton, Birmingham, Montgomery and Luverne, and a marginal risk (level 1 of 5) over to Huntsville, Anniston and Ozark.

Dynamics will be impressive with this system, but the thermodynamics remain in question to some degree. The overall pattern is certainly favorable for severe thunderstorms, especially over the western half of the state.

TIMING: Storms could enter west Alabama as early as 2 p.m. Tuesday; the risk begins for the I-65 corridor (places like Birmingham) around 6 p.m., and then over the eastern third of the state after 11 p.m.

THREATS: All modes of severe weather will be possible, including large hail, damaging wind and a few tornadoes. The highest tornado threat is across the enhanced risk area over west and southwest Alabama, where a strong tornado (EF-2 or higher) will be possible.

WIND: Gradient winds (not related to thunderstorms) could gust as high as 35-40 mph across the state Tuesday afternoon and night. A wind advisory will be needed.

RAIN: Amounts of 2-3 inches are likely over the western half of the state, with 1-2 inches for the eastern counties. A flash flood watch will likely be required for parts of west Alabama.

PREPARE: Be sure you have a reliable way of hearing severe weather warnings (never a siren); a NOAA Weather Radio is the baseline. On your phone, be sure emergency alerts are enabled, and have the free ABC 33/40 weather app installed. Know the safe place in your home, and in that safe place have helmets for everyone. If you live in a mobile home, know where you are going (community shelter, business, etc.) and have transportation.

REMEMBER: Don’t be anxious or worried; events like this are very common in Alabama during our tornado season, especially March and April. Have a way of hearing warnings, have a plan and you will be fine. Odds of any one spot being hit by a tornado are low, but we all have to be ready.

WEDNESDAY: Strong to severe storms could linger into Wednesday morning over southeast Alabama, where the SPC has a slight risk (level 2 of 5) defined. The main concern will be strong winds, although an isolated tornado can’t be ruled out. For the rest of the state, clouds will linger through much of the day with a high between 67 and 70 degrees.THURSDAY THROUGH THE WEEKEND: Thursday and Friday will be dry with partly sunny days and a cooling trend; the high will be in the mid 60s Thursday, followed by low 60s Friday. Over the weekend, we expect lots of sunshine with highs in the mid 60s Saturday and Sunday. Mornings will be chilly; in fact, many spots could see frost early Sunday with temperatures in the 30s and light wind. Some of the colder spots could see a light freeze early Sunday across north and central Alabama.

NEXT WEEK: Much of next week looks dry with temperatures returning to the 70s; some rain will likely return toward the end of the week.

ON THIS DATE IN 1932: A generational tornado outbreak occurred in Alabama. At least two dozen tornadoes touched down, but we don’t know the exact number. Official Weather Bureau tabulations said 268 people were killed in Alabama with 1,874 injured, but those numbers are most likely too low.

It was around 3:30 in the afternoon on that fateful Monday when the first tornadoes came pounding to the ground in the Demopolis, Linden and Faunsdale areas of west and central Alabama. Death came to 36 people in Marengo County; 136 were injured and 180 homes were destroyed. Then came the disaster at Tuscaloosa and Northport, where 38 people died in Northport and 250 were injured. Druid City Hospital in Tuscaloosa was quickly filled to capacity. The University of Alabama gymnasium was pressed into service as an emergency additional hospital.

One hour later, still more disaster. A path of destruction 20 miles long was cut across Cullman County. It left 23 dead and 300 injured. The Fairview community was hardest hit. The tragic day continued to unfold. Tornadoes struck in Alabama from 3:30 in the afternoon to at least 7 in the evening. A broad area received severe damage, generally from Demopolis on the southwest to Scottsboro, Stevenson and Paint Rock in northeast Alabama and also eastward to Chilton, Coosa and Clay counties.

Chilton County in central Alabama was hit extremely hard, with 58 people killed. The Union Grove community near Jemison was laid to waste. Doctors and nurses from Montgomery and Birmingham worked all night by lantern and flashlight to relieve the widespread suffering. In Clay County, one of the tornadoes remained on the ground for 30 miles, cutting a path 400 yards wide. Alabama Gov. B.M. Miller immediately issued a proclamation calling on all Alabama residents to rise to the occasion and help those in distress. Then he traveled the state for days in his T-Model Ford trying to visit all of the damaged areas to offer help and encouragement.

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