Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Unsettled Mix of Sun, Clouds, and a Few Storms Through Memorial Day, then Clearing and Milder Temperatures Next Week

Thursday (High 85, Low 67): Partly cloudy. Isolated showers and thunderstorms are possible. 

Friday (High 84, Low 66): Mostly cloudy. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible. 

Saturday (High 86, Low 67): Partly cloudy. Widely scattered showers and thunderstorms are possible. 

Sunday (High 89, Low 68): Partly to mostly sunny with a 20% chance of thunderstorms - possibly strong. 

Memorial Day (High 87, Low 68): Mostly cloudy with a 40% chance of thunderstorms - some could be strong. 

Tuesday (High 80, Low 61): Mostly sunny. 

Wednesday (High 78, Low 56): Sunny. 

Skies were partly to mostly sunny in Cullman today with a southerly breeze at times. The High was 84, and the Low was 66. 

And lookie there, it is 6:20 PM CDT as I write this, and we have some severe thunderstorms across the Tennessee border. My weather radio does not go off for these counties anymore, since I don't live close enough to that transmitter, and with two cats in the house now, it's going to be hard to keep batteries in that thing, or even keep it on the desk and plugged in sometimes. Sometimes I wake up to it in the floor, cord disconnected, batteries in parts unknown. But let's look at these severe thunderstorms up that way. 

They have actually been under a severe thunderstorm watch up there, and these storms may produce large hail and damaging winds. And the storms are moving along too fast for me to cover them in real time. And they've had some flash flooding back up at Tennessee Ridge. 
Only very light rain is falling down on the Alabama side. Most of it is probably just sprinkles. 

We actually have thunderstorms stretching all the way back into Arkansas and Texas today, while much of the Southeast remains under a ridge of high pressure. But along this cold front from about the Great Lakes through the Ohio Valley back through the Mid-South and into Texas, several storms have fired up, and some have been severe. 

Today has been a stormy day for several pockets across the country, mainly out in Texas and Oklahoma, but it's nothing compared to how bad it got in Iowa and much of the Midwest yesterday. One of the tornadoes up there may get the rare E/F-4 or F-5 rating. They have to take their time and really examine the damage to determine that. Only about one tornado out of about 50 get that bad. But you hope you're never in the path of one. Most people do manage to survive, but if you don't have a good basement or a proper storm shelter, that can get dicey, where most people hit directly by it are likely to at least have serious injury, and sometimes people even get killed when they are taking proper shelter in their homes. Not that I'm trying to add to the drama of this year's weather. But seriously, first storm spotter class I ever took, Tim Troutman showed the case of a lady in Northeast Alabama who was hit by an F-4 tornado during the Super Tuesday Outbreak of 2008. She was in her bathtub and did not survive. I remember him saying, "It's really hard to see that, but with winds that powerful, it's going to be very hard to withstand it." I heard that there were some deaths in Iowa from this. I really haven't looked at it in detail, and I'd sort of rather wait until the surveys are done to say too much about it. 

If I see anything on social media later about relief efforts for that area, I'll add it to this post somewhere, in case anybody can donate and wants to. I'm cynical these days, more than in the past, about how some of these organizations may pocket a lot of the money. These are the days of virtue-signalling out the wazoo. I'll try to comb over the people I feel I can trust for such things, who truly do have humanitarian hearts, and it's not all for show. And see what they recommend. If anybody remembers the tornado outbreak here in 2011, we got a lot of help from other parts of the country. And even if all you have is one really bad tornado like that from an event (sounds like they had several, but only one is being considered one of rare violence like that), your area is going to need some help. So if I can find some reliable ways people can help out, I'll pass them along. But I try to use discretion about those things these days. And frankly, sometimes I've just given up on it. Like there's nothing I can do to add or subtract from the outcome. 

But if I see something that looks like it could really help some of the survivors of those storms, I'll add it to this post or a post in the near future. Because even one tornado that ends up rated E/F-3 or stronger is a big deal for a community. And this one was probably at least a 4 on the scale. Any time somebody gets a tornado that bad, there is a lot of cleaning up to do. And people have to pull together to shelter the survivors, make sure they've got enough food as they try to figure out how to carry on with their lives. I don't know the exact death toll, but hopefully it was kept lower by the fact that you can see tornadoes coming for miles in Iowa, and a lot of people do have basements or storm pits. For a tornado like that, I'd rather somebody be in an actual storm shelter, or the deepest part of a basement. You can survive it above ground, especially if you're wearing something like a helmet to protect your head, but a lot of times it's by the skin of your teeth. It's more of a gamble. 

One of the F-4 tornadoes on April 27, 2011 around here hit a house that I used to rent with my brothers. If we'd been in the central bedroom closet, we would not have had a scratch. Even though they did have to bulldoze that house. It was in Arab. There was a family killed there that day because they couldn't get to their storm pit in time, and only sheltered in a house. And several other houses nearby were completely destroyed. So I think the old-timers were smart to have their storm cellars and basements. In the modern world, we just do the best we can in our modern homes. Usually it's enough. But sometimes it isn't. 

As we get into tomorrow, the severe thunderstorm risk will shift back out to the Mid-South and the Plains. Around here we may see enough moisture for a few showers and thunderstorms, but only about as much as you'd see on a typical summer day. Show stay very isolated. Overall partly cloudy skies, a High of about 85, a Low of about 67 or 68. We had 66 this morning, and the air will be a little more humid overnight tonight. 

Then for Friday, the high pressure ridge relaxes enough to allow a little more rain in here, but I think the NAM may have a better handle on how much than the GFS. I'd keep the rain chance at about 30-40% here, where it was 20% for tomorrow, Thursday. Expecting a High Friday of about 84-86, the Low about 65-67. 

Again on Saturday, between the GFS, the NAM, and the ECMWF, I just don't see the rain being all that widespread. This has more of an unsettled summerlike feel to the pattern. Looks like a High in the mid-80's and Low in mid/upper 60's. And I'm going to cap the rain chance here at 30%. 

Think we'll go with 20% for Thursday, 40% for Friday, and 30% for Saturday. 

And it looks like we can trim the rain/thunderstorm chance for Sunday back to 20%. This front is going to struggle getting past this high pressure ridge, and it's going to take several days before we get a frontal passage. During the day Sunday looks mostly dry. It's Sunday night into Monday we'll have to watch for some stronger storms. Look for a High in the upper 80's and a Low in the upper 60's. 

The cold front will start to move into our region on Monday, Memorial Day. And the surface Low is passing way up in the Great Lakes. So that is not an ideal severe weather setup around here. We may mainly have to watch Sunday night around here. There are many points throughout Sunday and Monday when the combination of unstable air and wind shear look ripe for severe thunderstorms to develop. But whether those coincide with the sources of lift and the times storms are actually forming, is a real toss-up. 

For Monday, during the day, going to bump the rain chance back up to 40%. Expecting a High in the mid-to-upper-80's, Low in the mid-to-upper-60's. And we could have some strong thunderstorms. Some could reach severe limits between Sunday night and at least early Monday. But even during the day Monday, I'm starting to wonder about. It's something to keep an eye on. 

And it does look like we get a frontal passage by Tuesday. The two main global models are in excellent agreement on this, even six days out. So mostly sunny skies should return on Tuesday with a High near 80, a Low near 60. You can't expect too much of a cooldown in late May. But this looks pretty good. 

High pressure will build over the Midwest on Wednesday, a week from today. And then we really will get a shot of the coolest air you can hope for this time of year, a High maybe only in the upper 70's for many of us, near 80 for the warmer spots, and a Low in the upper 50's. 

So there's some good news for you to look forward to. 

And really this isn't a bad spell of weather overall. It is more unsettled until Sunday night into Monday, when that front finally pushes through here. And between now and then, we'll have a mix of sun and clouds with variable rain chances each day. And of course with these temperatures and humidity, we're going to have some thunderstorms. Most of them will not reach severe limits or even get close, will be just general thunderstorms. You can always get an isolated stronger storm in the heat and humidity, even if we were already in the middle of July. But most of the storms are just plain old thunderstorms. 

Our severe weather season in North Alabama (and Southern Middle Tennessee) does run through the end of May technically. And once in a while we do get some organized severe thunderstorms at the tail end of the season like this. 

We'll have to keep an eye on things Sunday, main time window around here is probably late Sunday night into Monday morning. And then we'll see if anything needs to be monitored later during the day Monday. When we're clearer on the timing of that cold front. 

This looks like a setup for both supercell thunderstorms and a squall line. A lot of times these things start with supercells and then those cells form a line, or sometimes a secondary line. A lot of events have more than one squall line of severe thunderstorms. 

Around here, I think the main threats will be large hail and damaging winds. But especially in that 30% area in Western Tennessee and Kentucky, clipping the Eastern corners of Arkansas and Missouri, where they meet, I'd also look out for a tornado threat, even if it ends up being on the lower end. It's tough to speculate this far in advance. But in or near that 30% area, there probably will be at least some tornado threat. As you get farther down this way into the Southern Counties of Tennessee and into North Alabama, I think the tornado threat will be a lot less, and may be just about nil for some of us, especially on the Alabama side. That's my personal opinion. But this is four days out still, let's just withhold trying to guess too much beyond what we can really know, and monitor the trends between now and Sunday. At least in and near that 30% corridor, as the SPC noted in their discussion, all modes of severe weather will be possible. 

But my gut feeling is that most of us under this basic 15% risk for severe thunderstorms Sunday through 7 AM Monday (when this outlook is technically valid for) are going to be dealing with more of a threat for damaging straight-line winds and some large hail. We may see a tornado threat, but just based on the messiness of this setup, I think it will be on the lower end if we do have a tornado threat. 

But I hesitate to say such things since we are just about to the end of our main severe weather season. Especially with it being a holiday weekend, the last thing I want to do is give people a false sense of security, that some readers might read and become complacent. And I remember how Alan Moller, one of the best early storm chasers and SKYWARN teachers, also a great employee at the National Weather Service, I forget specifically which office, but somewhere out in the Plains, always said, "When it comes to thunderstorms, you have to expect the unexpected."

So it would be a good idea to have a reliable way to get warnings (either on your cell phone or with a weather radio - weather radio is better if you can) Sunday through Monday. And if you were to get a Severe Thunderstorm Warning or a Tornado Warning, then you'd need to get into a small central room or hallway on the lowest floor of a sturdy house or other strong building. It's better not to try to shelter in a mobile home, and actually, if you know a tornado is coming, I'd get out of a mobile home at all costs, even if the best you have is getting into an unflooded ditch or culvert, or other low spot on the ground. Hopefully you can get into a sturdy structure, like maybe a gas station or something nearby. 

Some people these days like to shelter in a car, like it's a little better than a mobile home, but I am not a big fan of that. If you really think it's safer, it's up to you. The official government guidelines now allow for either one, a vehicle or a low spot like a ditch or culvert. But if I knew a tornado was coming for sure, I'd go with the ditch as my last resort instead of a car. And cover my head the best I could. 

Now if it was a severe thunderstorm with damaging straight-line winds and hail, then I might use a car for shelter, but would try to park it well away from any trees or other things that could fall on it. But I'd still see if I could get to a sturdy building in enough time. 

And I'll be brutally honest: I've ridden out severe thunderstorm warnings in a mobile home before. I've been in situations where I couldn't make better plans, and where the people around me didn't take a severe thunderstorm warning seriously. In one case, the storm came up so suddenly in the summer I was spending with my grandpa and great-grandmother, that there was no way to get us out of there. Hailstones were already blowing at the sliding glass door. We had two big tree limbs come down in the front yard. But we were okay. 

But if you can keep up with the weather during the holiday weekend and make better plans, I'd rather you be as safe as you can. I guess it's sort of a like a doctor or nurse probably gets bummed out when they see somebody die from a sickness that they waited too long to get seen about. Or even if somebody gets injured from a falling tree or a busted window or something, you know, you'd rather not see that in the damage reports. So I do remind people to keep up with the weather and use good sense, especially if things look borderline around a holiday. I wouldn't want you to cancel all your plans, but wherever you are, just have a plan for getting to a reasonably safe place. I think that will be enough for this event. That event they had in Iowa yesterday was one of the higher-end events. 

We could see up to about two inches of average rainfall for this forecast period. For higher amounts, you'd probably have to go into Northern Tennessee or Kentucky. But in the same breath, these unsettled patterns can be really random. You can even have isolated instances of flash flooding once in a while, and a few miles up the road, they may stay totally dry that day, just kinda' hot and muggy. We're nearly into summer. This may be the last cold front that passes through Mobile in a while. 

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