Sunday, February 11, 2024

Strong Storms Possible Tonight/Tomorrow, Sunshine and Cool Days Return Tuesday

Today (High 65): Cloudy with periods of rain likely. A few thunderstorms are also possible and could become strong.

Tonight (Low 56): Periods of rain likely. Thunderstorms are also possible, and a few could reach severe limits. 

Tomorrow (High 67): Rain and thunderstorms likely. A few thunderstorms could become severe, mainly from the morning hours through early afternoon. 

Tuesday (High 55, Low 36): Mostly sunny. Seasonably cold. 

Wednesday (High 60, Low 31): Sunny. Seasonably cold in the morning, cool in the afternoon. 

Thursday (High 62, Low 35): Mostly sunny. 

Friday (High 61, Low 41): Partly to mostly cloudy. 

Saturday (High 52, Low 43): Mostly cloudy with a 40% chance of showers. 

Sunday (High 49, Low 33): Mostly sunny. 

At 7:25 AM we are foggy in Cullman. The temperature is 52 degrees. The dewpoint-temperature is also 52, making the relative humidity 100%. The pressure is 29.91 and steady for the moment, but with this quasi-stationary front, barometric pressure has been floating up and down the past day or two. Winds are currently out of the North at 5 miles per hour. And the visibility is all the way down to a quarter of a mile. So people driving up to church, please be mindful of the fog and the other drivers who might not be as mindful. 

We have some rain over about the Northern two-third of Alabama and some light rain stretching up into Northeast Alabama and parts of Eastern Tennessee. Back in East Texas, they have some severe thunderstorms going on even at this early hour. 

Here is a look at the upper atmosphere and the surface without the analysis. I'm reading some old textbooks on meteorology, one at a time of course. And for this forecast, I'm going to focus more on slowing down and looking at the atmosphere right now, as much as I can understand, than relying on the computer models. 

And here is the progression of the front over the past 24 hours. Unfortunately I think the server posted these out of order, looks like in reverse order. I wanted to give everyone a sense of how things are moving though. You can notice that right now, the stationary front is aligned where the rain is happening. Not much rain North of the front. 

Let's start with what is foremost on everybody's mind. If they have been paying attention to the weather lately. 

The severe weather potential is looking like it might get a little more organized for at least parts of North Alabama tomorrow after all. And some of it could start this evening or tonight. The chance of anything severe up across the Tennessee border is still looking minimal. 

The best timing areawide for severe weather happening, where the instability and wind shear come together the best (while a surface Low pressure system is in a favorable position in the region to support severe weather, and we have that frontal boundary as a source of lift), is about 9 AM tomorrow morning. Basically between the wee hours of the morning and about Noon is going to be the window for severe thunderstorm potential around here, North Alabama, though some of it could last into early afternoon for far Northeast Alabama. 

Looking at a forecast sounding (and I didn't show the current local soundings today, that's another thing I need to work on if I'm going to continue these posts - current weather is more important as a baseline than jumping right into model forecasts) at 9 AM tomorrow, the CAPE values get up to over 1,000 j/kg, and the Helicity is over 200 m2s2 up to 3 kilometers, and more than 150 units for the lowest kilometer of the atmosphere. So this would support a few thunderstorms becoming severe and being capable of damaging winds, large hail, or even an isolated tornado. This forecast sounding is along the Cullman/Walker County line. I tend to either pick a site close to home or where the parameters are maximized. And today those happened to be the same. The energy-helicity-index was up to 1.6 along the Walker/Cullman county line. So that's what we're looking at. 

There is some risk for thunderstorms becoming severe this evening and tonight, especially as you get down into Walker and Blount Counties, or far Southern Cullman County, like around Bremen, Brushy Pond, Crane Hill, Colony, Dodge City. 

But the main threat where basically all of North Alabama has some risk is tomorrow through about Noon or maybe an hour or two into the afternoon. The main focus is on Northeast Alabama, but all of us need to be alert in case of any problems. And actually, there is a marginal risk now that includes a fair amount of Southern Middle Tennessee. For tomorrow, Cullman/Walker/Winston Counties are included in the more organized risk area, the Level 2 out of 5 Slight Risk. This is the standard basic risk for organized severe thunderstorms. It includes cities like Cullman, Double Springs, Jasper, Blountsville, Oneonta, Gadsden, Guntersville, Rainsville, Fort Payne, and Scottsboro. Cities like Huntsville, Decatur, Florence, Athens, back to Russellville and Hamilton, are in the Level 1 Marginal Risk. So are Fayetteville and Sewanee up across the Tennessee border. 

Looks like the front may occlude somewhat as it moves through tomorrow. The position of the Low is part of what makes severe thunderstorms a concern. This is not a really big severe weather threat, but any threat is worth respecting. 

Today and tomorrow, the High should be in the mid-60's, could edge into upper 60's tomorrow, Low in mid-50's tonight. Today mainly looks rainy, but by the evening and night hours, have to look out just in case we see some thunderstorms, and if they could reach severe limits. That mainly looks like a concern for the dark hours, which is why everybody needs a NOAA Weather Radio or a phone service like Weathercall. If you don't want to do that, at least enable Wireless Emergency Alerts on your cell phone. But you need something that'll wake you up. Outdoor sirens just don't cut it for that purpose, for most people. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that if any storms are going on while you're driving in to work, think of at least three or four places along your drive that you could pull over and get inside if necessary, can be as simple as a gas station, where you can get inside, away from glass. 

If you get a Severe Thunderstorm Warning (or even more important if you were to get a Tornado Warning), then you need to get into a small central room (or hallway) on the lowest floor of a sturdy house, away from windows. Mobile homes do not provide good shelter in severe weather, are very vulnerable to the winds. In a tornado, they are extremely dangerous, probably even worse than staying in your car. Every now and then, you'll hear a story of somebody surviving a tornado by leaving a mobile home and lying in a low spot on the ground such as a culvert or ditch. Now obviously that is a last resort, and you wouldn't want to use one that was flooded. But if you can help it, don't be in a mobile home if there is a tornado coming. And hopefully you don't have to be in one during severe winds and hail. An awful lot of people live in trailers around here, and people need to work together, have a plan to get over to see somebody with a sturdier house that is properly anchored to the ground. Or to use a public shelter, get there in plenty of time ahead of any severe thunderstorms. 

On Tuesday, High pressure is moving in from the ArkLATex region again. And we will stay sunny Tuesday through Thursday. It will still be breezy on Tuesday, mostly sunny with a High in the mid-50's, Low in the mid-30's. Plenty of sunshine Wednesday, High near 60, Low near 30. Mostly sunny on Thursday with a High in the lower 60's and a Low back up in the mid-30's. 

Another front will drop in here for the weekend. Friday looks to stay dry with only increasing clouds, High near 60, Low back up to about 40 or so. 

Then for Saturday still only going to put a 40% chance of rain in there. Interesting, the cold front drops through here before we get any more precipitation, so the High should only be in the lower 50's and the Low close to 40. 

And then for Sunday, pretty good agreement between the two main global models (GFS and ECMWF) in mostly sunny conditions returning and the air staying seasonably cold, High near 50 and the Low dropping down into the 30's again. 

We may see another couple inches of rain during this forecast period on the Alabama side, for Tennessee counties, probably closer to one inch. 

And since I only gave an abbreviated version of my ideas on severe weather safety here, you might want to review the official government guidelines on safety from severe thunderstorms and tornadoes

This threat tonight and tomorrow is definitely on the low end. But thinking back over the years, I think it's better to err on the side of caution and let everyone know that the risk is there, and just be specific about it. 

A lot of times we luck out with these borderline severe weather threats, like we've lucked out so far with flash flooding from this system (but it's not over until Tuesday morning). But even if only one or two places get hit with a bad storm, they'll be glad they knew something about it in the forecasts before it happened. And as we get more into March and April, we'll have more severe weather threats, some could be a lot more significant than this. Just playing the odds, that's the way it goes many years around here. And then things start to wind down in May. 

In case anyone actually follows the Salem adventures, he finally got to go out on a harness and leash yesterday. When he slipped the harness while heading for a neighbor's house where a dog was barking, he got snatched up and carried back home. He gets wet food on the weekends, and only the best, Sheba brand, so I think I may be spoiling him too much. Instead of appreciating the special weekend treats, he got impatient for today's and knocked a lot of stuff in the floor, including my weather radio, spilling the batteries out. So he may only get half as much special treats today, or may get none at all. He is such an active cat, not quite a year old now. I got him last summer after a bad storm. He actually broke his hip right before Halloween from jumping around the house so much. I am guessing he must have gotten up on the bookshelf in the bedroom and took a flying leap from there. The vet said he landed just right to fracture it. Had to use what credit I had for that surgery. That same fiery spirit gave him a quick recovery though. It made me really happy when I saw him jumping up on the sink and stove to beg for food again, as aggravating as it also is. Yesterday after mourning having to come inside the house again, he brought me that frizzy blue ball that he likes to play fetch with, and also a tie from a box a futon frame came in. The tie is harder to throw, but he goes after it like it is a mouse. I have rarely had such a feisty, playful cat, and I love him dearly, although today he is driving me crazy. Don't think our companionship is always nice and sweet. He bites and claws me sometimes when turning on the charm doesn't get him what he wants. And I fly off the handle, yell and call him things that are not so nice at all. And then if I pick up the guitar, usually scares him, that happened the other night. And every couple songs, I'll have to pet him and reassure him that nothing is going to hurt him. My old cat Binx was even more afraid of the guitar and would hide in the other room. I did not have Elsa Bootsy long enough to really gauge her reactions to things, just knew she kept running off and staying gone a long time, and tearing up the blinds wanting out. Salem usually just sits looking scared and does this weird meow that sounds like he's crying. Which is so opposite of his usual temperament that I have to stop and let him know the noisy string-box is not anything to be scared of. 

I've probably lost most readers already by those anecdotes. But my human family, the ones that really care anything about me, tend to be in other counties. So I treat that cat like family. The way I wish I'd been able to with more of my "real" family. He also gets nervous if we ever have to go to the closet during severe weather. It doesn't scare him quite as much as it has some other cats, he'll cooperate and go more easily. But he wants reassurance and is clearly eager for the time we get to come out. So I hope that doesn't happen tonight or tomorrow. But it could. I need to declutter my closet area anyway. It already looks like a tornado hit it. 

I did see that I've got a bike helmet in the closet and the one blanket I'm not using this time of year. That's another thing to remember as we get more toward Spring, main severe weather season, is if you've got any kind of helmet like you'd wear for football even, put it on when sheltering from a tornado warning. If you don't have something like that, just use a pillow to cover your head and neck. But a lot of times what saves people's lives during a tornado is if they can avoid debris falling or flying around and causing injury to the head or neck. That's why you get into a site-built house that isn't going to get turned over, or thrown across the road, from a tornado's winds. And you get into the lowest, most central part you can. Put some walls between you and the storm. And down at the ground level, the winds will be lowest. If you're lucky, that's a small strong space like a bathroom, but even in a hallway, the walls are less likely to collapse than in open, larger rooms. Of course stay away from windows, because they can break in a severe thunderstorm, and almost always bust out if hit by a tornado. Being in a small central space down on the ground floor (or if you are lucky, in a basement, even safer) is also your best bet in case a tree falls over on the structure. It still has a lot to go through to get to you and cause injury. A lot of times, trees don't fall all the way through a house, if it's reasonably well-built. And about 9 out of 10 times even in a tornado hitting the house directly, that most interior room on the lowest floor will be left standing, even if the house is seriously damaged or pretty much destroyed. But in case the winds do make it into your safe spot, or something like a tree falls and makes it into that shelter room (or hallway), having something to protect your head can be what saves your life, or helps you the most in avoiding a serious injury. So even if all you have is a pillow, a blanket or two, maybe a small mattress like a futon mattress, try to shield your body from any falling or flying debris, especially your head and your neck. 

And hopefully that is overkill for anything that happens tonight or tomorrow. But sometimes you do have to be careful about these borderline situations that happen before the tornado season kicks into high gear. Some people probably remember the tornado that hit Huntsville in January 2010. Nobody was killed by it, but I seem to recall a few injuries. It was rated E/F-2. And that's strong enough to throw a mobile home across the road. And then we had a really marginal setup, I think also in January, that caused a tornado in Fultondale, that was rated E/F-3 and did kill one person, I think from a tree falling in the house. That isn't going to happen every time, but it is good to be prepared since every once in a while, it does. 

Having said all that, the tornado threat is low with this setup. Even the chance for damaging thunderstorm winds and severe hail is on the lower end. But I would respect the risk, especially since this is coming right after the superbowl. The last thing on most people's minds would be bad weather. So let me be the geek who doesn't watch the ball game, and please have a way to get alerts that will wake you up if necessary. Turning on WEA on a cell phone is simple. That will get you Tornado Warnings, Flash Flood Warnings, Amber Alerts, and Severe Thunderstorm Warnings that carry the Particularly Dangerous Situation tag, where catastrophic damage is possible even though it is "only" damaging straight-line winds or large hail. 

Very few people do not have cell phones now, even homeless people. But if somehow you don't, you can still tune to a good radio station that will cut in for severe weather, go to sleep with that on. The classical/NPR stations (89.3 FM in Huntsville and 90.3 FM in Birmingham) cut in with the same tone used on NOAA Weather Radio. It is very hard to sleep through. 

I'm probably making too much of this low-end threat, but it is coming at an inconvenient time. And in the days leading up to this, it looked like the air would stay too stable for this to really be much of a concern. Now it looks like there will be just enough instability timed with enough wind shear and the lifting mechanism of the surface Low/frontal boundary to where we definitely have to watch for a few pockets of severe storms, even though the threat is nothing overwhelming or really widespread. 

So just use good sense tonight and tomorrow if anything does happen. Most of us will just get beneficial rain and maybe some thunder and lightning, gusty winds. But a few places could see a storm ramp up and become severe. A few places could also have flooding issues in any heavier showers or storms. So we have to respect the risk, even though it is on the lower end. Don't want anybody getting hurt when sheltering from an event like this is simple. 

And as I wind this up about 9:30 AM, it is still foggy in Cullman and 54 degrees, with visibility only up to one and a quarter-mile, 1.25 miles. And I'm glad I'm not a truck driver on days like this. Please take it easy out there. For now it's just fog, but tonight and more tomorrow, have to look out in case any of these storms do get out of hand. 

Almost forgot to mention, I tend to think of radio stations in connection with weather, and one station I like suffered a terrible theft lately and needs some help. If you want to throw a dollar in their bucket or just offer some kind words, there's your link. If you listen to them tonight (which you can only do online for now, until they can replace their AM tower and get back on the regular airwaves), you'll see why I think they deserve some support. Sunday nights feature the show that let me know they existed. 

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