Friday’s storms: more of a ‘chance’ than a ‘threat’

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A strong surge of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico headed north has brought widespread low clouds across the Tennessee Valley Friday. There will be some breaks in the clouds during the afternoon, allowing temperatures to warm into the middle 80s. It will stay quite windy through the afternoon and evening as well; expect sustained winds between 12 and 22 miles per hour with occasionally higher gusts. The stronger winds are in response to a developing storm system over the Southern Plains. The more organized rain and storms will stay to our north and west until late Sunday, though there may be one or two strong storms around Friday and Saturday afternoons.

‘May’ is the key word in the storm threat for today and Saturday.  A thick layer of warm, dry air 6,000 to 8,000 feet above our heads (called a cap) is probably just enough to prevent a lot of storms.  If a storm manages to break through that ‘cap,’ it could get strong quickly producing some high winds and hail.  We’ll keep you posted if that happens, but right now it is a big, big IF.

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NAM forecast skew-t plot for The Shoals Friday afternoon 4/28/17

It's called a 'cap,' and it acts like a lid over the lower part of the atmosphere preventing storms from exploding upward and realizing their full potential.

If a storm manages to break through that 'cap,' it could get strong quickly producing some high winds and hail.  We'll keep you posted if that happens, but right now it is a big, big IF.

Forecast plots like this one give meteorologists heart burn because there's no good way to describe it perfectly.  We like to give as close to a definitive 'yes' or 'no' answer as we can.  That small part of the vertical atmospheric profile is probably enough to shut down the storms Friday in Alabama and Southern Tennessee.  On the other hand, if one storm does form, it will have a lot of energy and wind shear around it to grow powerful.

It's a very low risk situation, but it's not a 'NO RISK' situation.

Breezy, stormy weekend weather: Got Panoply plans? Make sure you have Live Alert 19! It's the official weather app of Panoply, and it may be a big help to you with the gusty winds and chances for some scattered storms on Friday and Saturday.  You can also see specific information on the chance of rain, the wind speed, and get alerts while you're at Panoply! Just be sure you've got it set to "Use Current Location."

Our bigger risk of storms comes in on Sunday; that's one we all need to be mindful of through the next few days.

Widespread heavy rain and storms become very likely Sunday night into early Monday (Image: WHNT News 19)

A dynamic storm system kicks off intense storms in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Tennessee Saturday night; those storms move east through Sunday morning threatening Alabama and Middle Tennessee by lunchtime.

The system moves so slowly that we expect our 'threat' of stormy weather to begin as early as noon and last through Sunday night - potentially even early Monday morning before it all moves out.

This surge of storms may bring "all modes of severe weather."  That's meteorologist-speak for the kitchen sink of weather: strong winds, hail, intense lightning, flash flooding, and tornadoes.  Specific threat information on what is most likely and when it will hit ________ town or county just is not available right now.

Think about it in terms of READY, SET, GO.  We're in the READY phase right now.  We know there is a risk of some storms, so think about what you would do IF a severe storm is headed your way.

Sunday is the SET time.  You've already considered your plan, and if a 'watch' is issued, it's time to get ready to execute that plan.  You are 'set' and ready to go if you need to.

If a warning is issued (tornado or severe thunderstorm), it's time to GO.  That's when you put your plan in action.

Could some factor reduce or totally wipe out the risk of severe storms Sunday?  Yes.  It sure could; however, we don't see a huge limiting factor from this distance.  We will definitely keep you posted, and you should check in with us from time to time through Friday and Saturday as we get a better gauge on the situation for Sunday.

-Jason
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