Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Rain and Thunderstorms Return for at Least a Day or Two

Wednesday (High 70, Low 50): Mostly cloudy with numerous periods of rain showers possible throughout the day. Isolated thunderstorms are also possible. 

Thursday (High 72, Low 54): Rain and thunderstorms likely. A few storms could be strong, or even reach severe limits.

Friday (High 76, Low 59): Gradually decreasing clouds throughout the day. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible, mainly in the morning hours. 

Saturday (High 77, Low 52): Partly cloudy with a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms.

Sunday (High 69, Low 50): Partly to mostly sunny with a 20% chance of showers.

Monday - May Day (High 67, Low 43): Sunny.

Tuesday (High 72, Low 42): Sunny.

Thanks to the guys who run the Weather Nerds site for making some great satellite imagery available for when the GOES-East is having issues like this afternoon and evening.

Looks like there was a brief, weak tornado near Bankston in Fayette County on Sunday evening. Nobody got hurt, and it was given a minimal rating of F-0. The tornado was only on the ground for five minutes.

This Thursday is a somber day in weather history, the only "superoutbreak" in our generation, a tornado event that happened in April 2011 and killed well over 200 people in the state of Alabama alone. I remember when people from the older generation talked about the April 1974 outbreak, they said that when it happened again, the death toll might be even worse than back then. And they were right. The population was more, and people had gotten a careless attitude toward severe weather. Plus there were not as many storm shelters as back in 1974 or 1932 when similar outbreaks happened. One particularly sad fact is that out of all those people who died on that day in 2011, only about 30-40 cases did it look like death was unavoidable, like someone really needed to be underground to make it through the storm. The vast majority of those cases (so in more than 200 cases total), people who died were within easy walking distance of something like a bathroom or closet that would have saved their lives. On a personal level, I knew of some people who died, but nobody I knew directly was even injured by any of the storms. But it still broke my spirit and made me feel like giving up on meteorology for a while, because I was unable to get a family member (who sparked my interest in weather) to adequate shelter that summer when we had a lot of severe thunderstorms with damaging straight-line winds. Both her children vetoed my efforts to get her out of a mobile home during severe thunderstorm warnings. I started missing and failing classes when I went back to school. And then dropped out. Regardless of whether it affected you personally though, it was a rough day to watch if you care about weather at all and public safety. It was a nightmare. It's how I imagine healthcare workers must have felt after this coronavirus pandemic that dragged on for two or three years and still is not completely over. I think it was the weather equivalent of something like that all packed into one day, worse than a major hurricane in some ways. I know James Spann wrote a book about it, and so did Kim Cross before him. And I have never finished either one of those books. I've still got bookmarks in them and a vague plan to finish them some day. But good grief, the memories . . . 

One sort of funny note is that a house I'd rented with my brothers got hit that day and had to be bulldozed. Even though the tornado was an F-4, if we had been in the central bedroom closet, we probably would not have had a scratch. But then there were other houses nearby that looked stronger and were completely destroyed, looked like they had been bombed. After all the problems we had at that house and the crazy neighbors (who set the woods on fire one summer among other things), it was sort of comic relief to know that place basically got blown away. I used to go to a public shelter for most severe weather there, thinking the place was not built very strong. So it was also sort of a comfort to know we could have taken shelter in place there and been okay. Glad we had all moved on by then. 

Another good thing that came from it is that a relative of mine who'd been substitute-teaching was offered a full-time teaching job, largely because they saw how well she comforted the kids after that town was hit especially hard and they had to come back to school. If you ever go through a tornado day like that, you'll never forget it. Even a couple of professors I knew who got married later remember that day as significant in their dating each other. And they were not bothered by storms at all. Pretty much thumbed their noses at them. 

There was a guy who retired from the National Weather Service as soon as he possibly could because that event hit him so hard. It did me good to hear that from him years later. It was someone I'd met, whom I would have thought immune to such feelings. I have to say, it was a while before I could enjoy another tornado threat after that day. It's one of those things you have to experience. The stories do not really do it justice. 

Hats off to the Cullman Emergency Management at the time though, because there was no loss of life when the F-4 tornado came right through downtown, even though it hit the First Baptist Church and the courthouse. A lot of people were in the courthouse basement, which was available as a public shelter back then. This was a Wednesday, but I was living in Huntsville and do not know whether anyone was sheltering in the church building. The structures held up very well, and there was no damage to the basements at all. I remember Tim Coleman and Kevin Knupp doing a talk and describing places in Tuscaloosa and Birmingham where the only places a few people survived was the deepest part of their basements, between the actual basement and up under the front steps, because it was the only place that was totally underground. And that day, there were a lot of tornadoes that if you couldn't get underground, survival was a bit of a gamble. I wish I had better ideas on how to improve things by the next time we see a tornado outbreak like that (probably in another 30 years or so), but if our culture keeps on its current directions, I think it will be at least as devastating as 2011 or 1974 or 1932. I don't think any more lives will be saved than in these other events. People in general have become even more stubbornly resistant to common sense and caring about each other than I found people to be in 2011. So unless something were to reverse that trend, I think the body count will be even higher whenever it happens next, whether the bullseye is in the Southeast or somewhere else. I'd love to be wrong . . . 




So anyway, we had a variably cloudy day in Cullman, times we were overcast, other times we had mostly sunshine and only a few clouds in the sky. Winds were also light and variable, most often from North/Northeast. Got some high humidity levels tonight, and the pressure steady at 30.07 inches at the moment. 

That shortwave trough bringing the rain in Arkansas tonight though will affect us into the day tomorrow. Should see a High near 70 tomorrow, Low tonight about 50. Chance of rain tomorrow about 50%. Winds should stay light, and should see a lot more clouds than any peeks of sunshine overall, but not everywhere on the map is getting rain all day long necessarily. But we've all got about a 50/50 shot at periods of rain throughout the day. A few isolated thunderstorms are also possible, the air is unstable enough for that. 



But as we get into Thursday, the Low pressure system will be in a favorable position to bring us a lot more rain, more widespread and heavier showers throughout the day, probably peaking in the afternoon and evening. And it should be breezy, winds picking up from the pressure gradient. And we'll have to watch for a few stronger thunderstorms on Thursday. Should see a High of about 70 again, might warm slightly above that if we get some breaks in the clouds earlier in day before afternoon thunderstorms, but still temperature should cap off in the lower 70's for most of us. The morning Low in the lower 50's thanks to rain-cooled air but also enough moisture to prevent really good radiational cooling overnight.



And for places like Arab, Boaz, Cullman, Double Springs, Hamilton, and points South in Alabama, the Storm Prediction Center does have a minimal 5% risk of isolated thunderstorms becoming severe Thursday afternoon and evening. 

This is a very low severe storm threat, but if you live in a mobile home or other weak structure, it is always a good idea to have a plan to bug out and go stay with someone who can offer better shelter (or use a public shelter if need be) if severe thunderstorms are approaching. 

Friday looks like we catch a break, though the ECMWF does not show nearly as much and as rapid clearing as the GFS model. Scattered rain is possible and maybe a few thunderstorms in the mix, with a High in the 70's and Low well up in the upper 50's. Looks like one of those days most of the rain will probably come during the morning. And most of us will probably see a fair amount of sunshine in the balance. 

The models are now keeping most of the rain to our South on Saturday, either in Central/South Alabama or even down around the Gulf Coast. Since models have not been consistent in this unsettled pattern, I think the reasonable thing to do is trim rain chances down to 30% for Saturday and then to 20% for Sunday. Temperatures for Saturday, High in mid/upper 70's, Low back down to around 50. For Sunday, High dropping to about 70 or even upper 60's as frontal passage should finally happen, Low probably still about 50. 



Then Monday and Tuesday look like clear, sunny skies, and lovely temperatures for most tastes. The mornings are a little nippy, in lower 40's again, but during day, looks like upper 60's for Monday and lower 70's for Tuesday. Great days to get any yardwork done if the weather was keeping you from it before. Really this weekend is probably all right for that with the rain chances gradually tapering down each day. 

If we do see any storms become severe during this forecast period, it will probably be Thursday afternoon or evening. And even that risk is pretty low, especially for North Alabama up into Tennessee, but pretty low for all of Alabama. Remember that for a thunderstorm to be severe, it has to produce winds of 50 knots (58 mph) or greater, or hail an inch in diameter (quarter-sized) or greater. Some people may not remember, it used to be 3/4 inch hail, nickel-sized, that was the criteria for severe. They bumped it up to quarter-sized at some point to cut down on too many severe thunderstorm warnings just for large hail. Because people were not paying attention to them. 

If you get a severe thunderstorm warning, need to stay inside away from windows and electrical stuff until the storm is well past. Ideally you want to be in a sturdier house than a mobile home (especially if you've got trees around) and toward the center, on the lowest floor of the house. 

We may not have any issues out of Thursday's rain and thunderstorms anyway, but always good to be reasonably prepared just in case that one rogue storm that gets out of control were to head in your general direction. It happens every now and then with these lower threats. So any potential is worth showing some respect. 


Average rainfall totals for this forecast period will probably range from 1-1.5 inches, the heavier amounts probably happening in Northeast Alabama up into Tennessee counties for the most part. 

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