Scattered storms over the next few days may pack a bigger punch for more communities in the Tennessee Valley. The Storm Prediction Center outlines a threat of some ‘severe’ storms for a large part of Tennessee and Alabama on Thursday and Friday.
What’s happening? A cold front moving in from the north Thursday brings greater coverage of stormy weather to Tennessee; some spotty (but locally-strong) storms are possible in North Alabama Thursday afternoon and evening. Any storms that develop could produce strong wind gusts over 50 miles per hour, torrential rainfall (1″ or more in less than an hour), and dangerous lightning. Storms will be more widespread in North and Central Alabama on Friday: especially in the afternoon and evening when the same kind of conditions (wind, rain, lightning) develop in the strongest storms.
When can you expect it? Timing storms on Thursday is next-to-impossible. They’ll develop in seemingly random places in Alabama, get strong for 30-45 minutes, and collapse. This is summertime thunderstorm chaos at it’s best.
Friday’s storms look more organized near the cold front and will be easier to time, but we are still just a little too far away to see nitty-gritty detail down to the hour and minute when a storm would hit a particular place. As it stands at lunchtime Wednesday, Friday’s storms likely develop near US 64 in Southern Middle Tennessee around lunchtime and move south-southeast at around 30 miles per hour.
That would put heavy storms around US 72 from Florence to Athens to Huntsville to Scottsboro around 1-2pm. They would then shift south toward Russellville, Hartselle, Arab, Guntersville and Fort Payne between 2pm and 5pm. Storms should be moving south of US 278 (Hamilton, Cullman, Holly Pond, Snead, Gadsden, Spring Garden) by 6-7pm.
This timeline will be adjusted, so while we have an estimate now, that estimate will get a little better on Thursday and especially Friday morning.
How do you prepare? This is not a spring-like severe weather threat. Most of the wind with these storms will be under 50 miles per hour, but a few storms could overachieve and produce something more significant. On this date in 2010, one particular storm overachieved enough to produce 70-80mph winds in Limestone County in a damaging microburst: NWS Huntsville storm survey from 7/26/2010.
The main ideas here: don’t leave garbage cans and patio furniture in a position to be tossed in the wind. If a strong storm is getting close (and you get that message from Live Alert 19 or Saf-T-Net), go inside and ride out the storm. Don’t make yourself a target for lightning or for anything that a strong breeze could pick up and toss.
Severe storms are possible, but these storms are not likely to bring widespread damage or tornadoes. They’re likely to be mean storms, so take them seriously, use common sense, and you’ll be just fine.