Long Duration, Dangerous Severe Weather into Thursday Morning

By Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist, Alabama Emergency Management Agency

CLANTON –Wednesday 4:15 pm March 17, 2021

Unfortunately, the forecast remains on track.  A number of confirmed tornadoes have already occurred over the western half of the state, and supercells will continue to spread both eastward and northward through 8 pm, followed by an intense line of storms later tonight.

A typical question that gets asked is if the afternoon storms in western and northern Alabama, as well as the loss in daytime heating, will help diminish the intensity of the next round of storms tonight.  In this case – no.  The final round will have the most upper energy support and easily overcome any brief stabilization of the atmosphere across the state.  

As such, the current activity and final round have been combined into one timing graphic above.  A broken line of intense, severe thunderstorms will reach western AL between 7-10 pm tonight, the I65 corridor between 12 am – 3 am and exit the southeast sections of the state between 6 am – 9 am Thursday.  Long-tracked tornadoes, widespread straight-line winds of 70+ mph and large hail will all remain in play.

You should have already reviewed your action plan and now prepared for severe weather.  You need to take action for both NWS severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings equally for this event.

When a warning is issued, if you can safely get to a sturdy building, then do so immediately.

  • Go to a safe room, basement, or storm cellar.
  • If you are in a building with no basement, then get to a small interior room on the lowest level.
  • Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You’re safer in a low, flat location.
  • Watch out for flying debris that can cause injury or death. Use your arms to protect your head and neck. You need helmets for everyone, including adults, as many injuries and deaths in severe weather occur as a result of blunt force trauma to the head.
  • If you live in a mobile/manufactured home, do not stay in it when a warning is issued for your area, instead opting for a more secure shelter.  To find out if community shelters exist for your area, contact your county Emergency Management Agency to determine where they are located and when they are open.

What is critical is for you to have at least two methods to receive severe weather information 24 hours a day, which does NOT include an outdoor warning siren.  You should make sure whatever method you use can wake you up with an alarm, like a weather radio programmed for the county you live in.  Nighttime tornadoes are likely.

Know what county you live in as well as all surrounding counties to give yourself a severe weather “buffer” as storms approach your location.

Finally, for additional information on what to do during and after a storm hits your area, go to https://www.ready.gov/tornadoes

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