Sunday, February 11, 2024

A Few Updates

So some things have changed since this morning. 

This is unfortunate. Maybe my cat had the right idea, knocking the weather radio in the floor this morning. But if you can pick up Channel 6 that serves Arab, then I'd do that. 

Definitely have another source, probably Wireless Emergency Alerts on your cell phone. Long-term, might be worth looking into a service like WeatherCall, which has stood the test of time, not quite as long as NOAA Weather Radio, but still, been around and reliable for a long time. 

Any of these systems can fail once in a while. We had issues with weather radio last summer, I remember. 


The Storm Prediction Center has beefed up the severe weather risk a little bit for mainly Southern Mississippi back into Louisiana, with baseball-sized hail and tornadoes possible as well as damaging winds from some supercell thunderstorms. And that risk, at least for the extra-large hail, does clip part of West-Central/Southwest Alabama. 

But back here at the ranch, our severe weather threat tonight into tomorrow remains basically the same, definitely on the lower end tonight, with the more organized threat coming tomorrow, and mainly focused in Northeast Alabama, though Cullman, Winston, Walker, and Blount Counties are also included in the more organized Level 2 out of 5 Slight/basic risk. The areas in green are in the Level 1 out of 5 Marginal risk. These are only general guidelines, but the marginal threat areas are where any severe thunderstorms are expected to remain isolated if they happen. And the basic risk area in yellow is where things could get a little more organized. 

A Flash Flood Watch has been posted that includes Blount and Etowah Counties, also Cleburne County over there at the edge of the state. But in general it is for Birmingham and points South. 

Mississippi has a Severe Thunderstorm Watch for mainly the Central counties. 

And if you go back into Southeast Texas, a Tornado Watch is still in effect there. I think so far the only confirmed reports were of damaging straight-line winds, even though some storms looked tornadic on radar earlier. 

In our neck of the woods, if you get a Severe Thunderstorm Warning tomorrow, I'd be in a sturdy house, not a mobile home, and stay away from any windows or electrical stuff until it passes. Best place to shelter is on the lowest floor near the center of the house, in a smaller space like a bathroom, closet, or hallway. And if it is a Tornado Warning, then you might want to grab something, even a pillow, that will protect your body, mainly your head, from any debris that could fall or go flying in your direction if the storm were to hit you directly. 

This may not end up being that big a deal for most of us in North Alabama, but with the local weather radio transmitter going out at such a bad time, thought it was worth an update. Sometimes it is the more dicey setups you have to watch more, because if something does go severe, it can happen quickly, where people do not have a lot of time to get to a safe place. 

Especially since there is the superbowl going on, if I lived in a mobile home and wasn't close to a storm shelter, I'd see if I could spend the night with somebody who had a sturdy house, just in case anything does get out of hand tonight or tomorrow. 

Right now it looks like the severe weather threat will only last until about Noon or early afternoon, even for Northeast Alabama and adjacent parts of Southern Tennessee. The risk across the TN border is looking minimal anyway. 

As to when it starts, I'm less confident. To be on the safe side, I'll say it could start this evening. But more likely we'll start to see storms forming or heading our way very late tonight, maybe even after midnight, so technically Monday morning. Any time from the wee hours of Monday morning until about Noon or maybe about 2 PM in far Northeast Alabama seems like the main window for severe thunderstorms around here, if we are going to have any. And this is one of those setups where we might get by without any problems. But there are less factors to bust it than the past few times we've had a conditional threat like this. My gut feeling is that somebody in North Alabama will get a stronger storm, even if it only does some minor tree damage somewhere. 

12:11 PM - Correction: Looks like there was a tornado confirmed near Huntsville, Texas earlier. It is hard to sort these things out in real time when it's not local and still trying to think about our local forecast and how it may change over the next several hours . . . or may stay about the same. Plus there is so much to filter through on social media, which is the best place for weather information now. Often our local NWS office (Huntsville) posts things on Twitter that they do not bother to put in the headlines if you go to their actual website. So I still spend a fair amount of time scrolling what is left of Twitter now that it's sort of been renamed X. I still hate how Daryl Herzmann's "iembot" accounts were all taken down. And NWS offices can no longer post automated warnings like they were able to for a while. I really think we are all going to have to scale it back and rely less on social media. The communication gaps are becoming too much, and trying to cater everything to a short attention span is not working out all that well. 

One of the meteorologists I've always held in the highest regard has come down with COVID and has a fever with it despite taking all the best precautions. And that happens. It happened to one of my siblings and one of my parents. The other parent thought it was a hoax until getting it, and was the first person I knew to get a vaccine when they came out. I don't judge anyone's decisions about getting vaccines or how many, since the whole thing has been a confusing, unnerving mess over several years, where even doctors argued heatedly about some aspects of it on radio shows and podcasts. The only thing I do judge is when people don't care who else they're hurting. I knew some people who were going out in public while still infected, refusing to even use any kind of covering for their faces, because they were so proud not to be afraid of the virus. That is just plain obnoxious, even if there is just a bad strain of the common cold or some kind of flu going around, much less something that is not well-understood and can be deadly for some people, and even though most people survive it, it is rough to go through for most people. There was a guy at a church a relative works at, who was on a ventilator for more than a full month, and had to be on dialysis a while when recovering. And I can't even imagine that ordeal. So that's my rambling way of saying, I hope this guy gets well soon, and I was always glad to see that he was taking it seriously and had some concern for the common welfare instead of the petty, selfish attitudes I saw from a lot of people over the past few years. 

And while I was "just a yackin" as my great-grandma would have put it, a new Tornado Watch came out for mainly Southern Mississippi. Includes much of Louisiana, but they already know severe weather is going on today. 

This watch mentions that these severe thunderstorms may produce damaging winds up to about 70 mph, could have large hail up to baseball size (2.5 inches in diameter), and of course tornadoes as well. And there is some mention of a couple tornadoes possibly being the kind to produce more significant damage. So would be rated at least E/F-2. That's enough to throw a mobile home across the road. And it's enough to take the roof off a well-built house. Keep that in mind whenever you hear "strong tornado." It doesn't always mean a tornado that will blow entire houses away, because those are relatively rare. But it does need to be taken seriously anyway. And frankly one of my pet peeves is that some people really think that if a tornado ends up with a rating of only E/F0-F1, it isn't dangerous. A "weak" tornado is still a dangerous storm, and about 90% of our tornadoes end up with that rating. Only about 1-2% end up with the highest E/F4-F5 rating. And in the middle there, the E/F2-F3 ones, it still makes sense to take the best precautions you can in your home. And you can't stay in a mobile home if one is coming at you. We have had injuries and even deaths over the years from tornadoes that were given the lowest damage rating of F-0, or now it'd be called E/F-0 since the scale was refined in the  2000's. 

I'm not sure if anybody reads through all my tangents to get to the good stuff, but if you do . . . 

I'm finding that while I get mostly static from the Arab transmitter (Channel 6), my weather radio picks up the Oneonta transmitter (Channel 2) great. The Oneonta transmitter will wake you up with alerts for Blount, Cullman, Walker, Jefferson, St. Clair, and Etowah Counties. 

If you only want alerts for Cullman County, or maybe Cullman and Walker, then you can restrict it by SAME codes. But I just want to make sure people have an alternate source. And the Arab transmitter does not get hardly any reception at my location. 

Some people in Winston County may also rely on the Cullman transmitter, that went down today. 

So if you are in that situation, then you'd want to tune your weather radio to the Winfield transmitter, which covers Winston, Walker, Fayette, Lamar, and Marion Counties. As well as Itawamba, Monroe, and Lowndes Counties back across the Mississippi border. Especially if you live around Haleyville or toward the Western part of the county, then you might be glad it'll let you know when something is all the way back in Mississippi. I believe this is also Channel 6, like the Arab transmitter is on that frequency for further into North Alabama. But if you're in Walker or Winston County, that same channel gets you this transmitter from Winfield in Fayette County. 

It is still a good idea to enable WEA on your phone. As well as having the weather radio on alert with battery backup. 

We might as well get used to this. It'll be March before you know it. 

1:01 PM - And here is another good discussion from Jim Stefkovich from the Alabama EMA.

I see that he shares my concern about some storms going rogue this evening. Sort of hoping it all holds off until tomorrow morning. But have to allow for the possibility of something this evening/tonight. He thinks as early as 3 PM, which, we're almost there. 

1:06 - This HRRR guidance James Spann is calling attention to makes more sense to me though. These setups, you can have to walk a fine line, don't want to downplay a threat, but don't want to make it sound worse than it really is. 

1:12 - This is rich. 

For anybody who's taken the care to read this far, let's take it back to the basics, all right? 

This blog covers North Alabama and Southern Middle Tennessee, when it is active at all. And sometimes it focuses only on Cullman, Walker, and Winston Counties in North Alabama with barely a nod to the rest of the Tennessee Valley. 

So with that in mind, this evening and tonight, our overall severe weather risk is very low. I guess it could get a little more organized for Walker or Blount County and maybe slip Southern Cullman County, but even that I find questionable, with the model trends continuing to show better instability well to our South. If we get anything tonight, it will probably stay isolated, which is why most of us have the Level 1 Marginal Risk. 

Tomorrow, the Tennessee Valley region is sort of split in half diagonally as to who is in that Level 1 Risk and who gets the Slightly more organized Level 2 Risk. Huntsville, Decatur, Hamilton have that lowest marginal threat level. But in Cullman, Jasper, Double Springs, over to places like Oneonta, Gadsden, Guntersville, Arab, Scottsboro, and Fort Payne, we are in that basic risk, Level 2 out of 5. 

In all these places, the most likely hazards are for thunderstorms to produce winds up to 60 miles per hour and hail roughly the size of quarters. An isolated tornado or two could happen in the region, but the risk is minimal. 

Just because a risk is minimal doesn't mean it should be ignored though. 

Hope that makes sense of the barrage of information that's out there. 

4:16 PM - Well it seems that some fool decided to go into one of those megabucks churches and start shooting. I started to comment on that, but there is nothing I could say that everybody doesn't already know. 

As far as the severe weather, it has stayed well to our South and West. And they've had some flash flooding issues down around Montgomery. 

We still have a marginal threat for some isolated stronger storms tonight, but more so tomorrow, we'll have to watch for a few storms trying to reach severe limits. 

It is way too cool up in North Alabama to be worried about severe thunderstorms right now. 

Situations like this basically come down to "wait and see." You have to watch radar and satellite trends and how local conditions change. Remember that this front is quasistationary. A lot of tomorrow's weather even depends on where the warm front parks before the cold front catches up to it. Things will get moving tomorrow, and the whole thing should be well out of here by Tuesday morning. 

Can't totally rule out something overnight, but it's not going to happen while we're still only 59 degrees up this way. 

More of a severe potential tomorrow, through about Noon or so. And even that is sort of on the low-end. 

4:35 PM - We do have some thunderstorms moving through Northwest Alabama though. They are elevated, not severe, but are still producing rain, thunder, lightning, gusty winds at times, and it looks like maybe some small hail. But warnings are only issued for storms believed to be a direct threat to life and property. Obviously you still need to stay inside and observe common sense precautions against lightning. 

But these storms are staying under severe limits. 

4:41 - A tornado watch is being considered, but it would be for areas South of Birmingham, along and South of the warm front. It is not expected to impact North Alabama. If we get anything severe overnight, it should be several hours from now, most likely after midnight. And it may hold off until during the day tomorrow for North Alabama. 

5:29 PM - As the storms push into Cullman County, still not severe, and not even strong enough that they've issued any kind of Special Weather Statement. Looks like a fair amount of lightning though. Running computer on battery power just to be on the safe side. Our dewpoints in the region are down in the 50's right now. 

5:40 - The reality of these storms is as advertised on radar, just rain, lightning and thunder, and a little bit of gusty winds. As far as I can tell, not even small hail going on here. 

And boy . . . that graphic sure messed up. May try again with Radarscope, which I can only get to work on the phone, not the computer. 

But even if some places do get small hail, that doesn't make the storms severe. Hail has to get up to quarter size, an inch in diameter. It used to be penny sized, 3/4 inch in diameter, but meteorologists got tired of having to issue warnings for storms where the hail got up to that size, but that was the only thing making them severe. They bumped up the criteria at some point about ten or so years ago to cut down on too many severe thunderstorm warnings. As far as I know, the criteria for severe wind has always stayed the same, 58 miles per hour. Which seems like an arbitrary number, but it was 50 knots. And most people who haven't been on any ships or in the military or in meteorology don't think in terms of knots for wind speeds. 

Here we go with a decent radar view. And all of these storms are staying below severe limits in a stable atmosphere. We do need the rain, and storms are good for balancing out the atmosphere. 

Just watched a local weather forecast and agree with the forecaster that if we do see any severe weather tonight, probably near or South of Birmingham, not up in North Alabama. Nonetheless, I will defer to whatever outlook the SPC issues at 7 PM. And the National Weather Service in Huntsville is taking a cautious approach, they tweeted out that some storms tonight could become marginally severe. I guess it's always better safe than sorry, but I'm glad the atmosphere has been so cool and stable up this way. 

And we'll see about tomorrow. Even the CAM or mesoscale model guidance really isn't making it look all that threatening for North Alabama tomorrow. But if we see any organized severe thunderstorms at all in North AL, think that will happen tomorrow. If we saw anything tonight, it'd be isolated, and I really doubt even that is going to happen. 

Still would encourage everyone to have a NOAA weather radio on alert with battery backup and make sure the alerts are turned on, WEA on cell phone. And if you really like to keep up with it, you might consider WeatherCall long-term. I've never subscribed to any of those phone services, but that is the one I would use these days. I think Weather Decision Technologies cut out their weather radio product, which is too bad, was a good one. 

The news on that shooting is a bit more mixed. If anyone can spare a prayer or meditation that has nothing to do with the ball game tonight, maybe keep in mind that person who was critically injured, who never asked to be caught in any of the crossfire. 

7:26 PM - And the new SPC outlook really doesn't change much. I'm surprised they kept the marginal risk that far North, but still, if we see anything severe later tonight, it'll be isolated. Tomorrow is when we have a chance for thunderstorms trying to get organized and go severe. And that's probably over by 1-2 PM. 

Going to make a new post. 

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