By Jim Stefkovich, Meteorologist, Alabama Emergency Management Agency
CLANTON – Wednesday 1:00 pm, March 30, 2022
A line of intense thunderstorms will enter northwest Alabama after 5 pm Wednesday, move southeastward and exit southeast sections of the state around 6 am Thursday. Embedded tornadoes within the line may produce EF2 or stronger tornadoes. Since the motion of the storms within the line will be very fast, long-track tornadoes may occur.
The dynamics of this system are such that widespread 60 mph straight-line winds are possible within the line, with pockets of 80 mph winds, mimicking tornado damage. Tornado Watches WILL be issued later this afternoon or evening.
Does “widespread” mean every square inch of the state will have damage? No. Remember, the April 27, 2011 outbreak produced horrific damage, but it affected less than 2% of the total landmass of the state. For the event today and tonight, the line of storms is expected to produce much more than the typical isolated severe weather, and every area of the state has the ”potential” for significant damage.
This is the type of event that NWS Severe Thunderstorm Warnings should be taken just as serious as Tornado Warnings.
Another issue is that very strong southerly winds will continue to increase this afternoon across the state. Until the passage of the line of storms, sustained winds from 15-25 mph with gusts 35-50 mph will occur. A High Wind Warning is in effect for Choctaw, Washington and Mobile counties from 5 -9 pm; and for Marion, Winston, Lamar, Fayette and Pickens counties from 5-10 pm. Some wind gusts in these counties will be 55-60 mph, as well as the higher peaks of northern Alabama.
To put this in perspective, this is the NWS criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning. Downed trees are likely in some areas of the state today, potentially causing power outages before the storms arrive.
Are you at the coast for Spring Break? Life threatening Rip Currents and High Surf of 9 to 12 feet will likely occur today. Minor coastal flooding will be possible along the beaches with moderate coastal flooding of 2 to 3 feet above normally dry ground along Mobile Bay.
If you’re thinking of boating offshore today…just don’t. The gulf waters will be dangerous with southerly winds of 20 to 30 knots with frequent higher gusts. A Gale Warning beginning 10 AM today through 7 AM Thursday with seas of 9 to 12 feet.
Stay tuned to this developing event and keep up-to-date with the latest forecasts from a trusted source.
Make sure you can receive severe weather warnings from at least two methods, one of which is NOT an outdoor siren and that your wireless emergency alert (WEA) is activated on your phone. If you haven’t replaced your NOAA Weather Radio batteries in awhile, this morning is the time to do so.
If you haven’t checked or developed your severe weather action plan, go to www.ready.gov for more information. This should be completed this morning.