Archive for April 9th, 2013

Warm Days; Severe Storms Possible Thursday

| April 9, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

An all new edition of the ABC 33/40 Weather Xtreme video is available in the player on the right sidebar of the blog. You can subscribe to the Weather Xtreme video on iTunes by clicking here.

WARMEST SO FAR THIS YEAR: A few mid-afternoon temperatures around Alabama include 84 at Tuscaloosa, 83 at Birmingham and Anniston, and 82 at Gadsden. We have a mix of sun and clouds, and the pollen levels remain sky high, giving the sky a hazy tint. Nothing on the radar around here.

TO THE WEST: SPC has actually removed the “moderate risk” of severe weather for parts of TX and OK… now we just have the standard “slight risk” from Texas up into the southern part of Iowa for the rest of this afternoon and tonight. Seems the capping inversion will keep a lid on things over OK and TX this evening until colder air aloft arrives tonight, reducing the tornado threat to some degree.

The severe weather risk expands east tomorrow, and runs from the western Gulf Coast up through the Midwest, and over to the New Jersey coast. The highest severe weather probabilities tomorrow are over parts of East Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. A few significant tornadoes are possible in this region tomorrow afternoon, but here in Alabama another warm, dry day is likely with a mix of sun and clouds and a high in the low to mid 80s. South winds will pick up tomorrow afternoon, gusting to over 25 mph at times.

BARONS HOME OPENER: The Birmingham Barons will play their first home game in the new Regions Field in downtown Birmingham tomorrow night. The weather will be warm and windy; about 80 degrees at the first pitch, falling to near 75 by the final inning. Only a 10-20 percent risk of a brief shower during the game.

THE ALABAMA SEVERE WEATHER THREAT THURSDAY: The new batch of computer model data (12z runs) are actually now in pretty good agreement, giving us good clarity for the event. Generally speaking, not much change from what we posted here this morning.

*The main window for severe weather in Alabama will come from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Thursday. The core risk will be during the afternoon hours as a squall line passes through the state.

*Wind fields are a little higher on the morning model runs; 850 mb winds (the low level jet) of 50 knots are showing up, and it won’t take too much to get that down to the surface. The greatest risk will come from strong, perhaps damaging straight line winds along the line of storms. Please remember to heed severe thunderstorm warnings and pay attention to them, and the wording used in those warnings.

*The primary limiting factors are low instability values (surface based CAPE values are generally under 1,000 j/kg), and marginal low level shear. But, please understand that even with these less than impressive values, severe storms are still a pretty good possibility, and we sure can’t rule out an isolated tornado. This is April in Alabama, after all. And, with thunderstorms, expect the unexpected.

*SPC has all of Alabama (all 67 counties) in the standard “slight risk” of severe weather Thursday… the higher severe weather probabilities are generally south and and east of Birmingham…


Take a few minutes to watch the afternoon Weather Xtreme video for all of the maps, graphics, and details.

It is likely that severe weather watches and warnings will be required for parts of the state… please remember that you should NEVER rely on an outdoor warning siren for warnings; a NOAA Weather Radio is the baseline, and it is preferable that you also have a good smart phone app so you can get warnings on the go. We like the apps MyWarn, and iMap WeatherRadio. Both allow you to watch ABC 33/40’s long form severe weather coverage from the app if we go into “wall to wall” coverage.

FRIDAY AND THE WEEKEND: Sunshine returns Friday as dry air blows into the state; the high will drop into the upper 60s. Saturday will be a simply delightful day with sunshine in full supply. We begin the day in the low 40s, but rise quickly to a high around 70 degrees. We should note some of the normally colder spots across North Alabama could see mid 30s early Saturday with a touch of light frost, but most of the state will not have that issue.

Sunday will be partly sunny with a high in the mid to upper 70s as a warming trend begins.

NEXT WEEK: A moist airmass moves up into Alabama from the Gulf… a few scattered showers are possible Monday and Tuesday, but nothing really heavy or organized. These two days will be warm and humid… showers and storms should be more widespread Wednesday as an upper trough approaches from the west.

WEATHER BRAINS: Don’t forget you can listen to our weekly 90 minute netcast anytime on the web, or on iTunes. This is the show all about weather featuring many familiar voices, including our meteorologists here at ABC 33/40. Scroll down for the show notes on this week’s new episode we recorded last night.

CONNECT: You can find me on all of the major social networks…

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I really had a wonderful time today seeing all of the kindergarten and first grade students at Cullman City Primary School…. be looking for them on the Pepsi KIDCAM today at 5:00 on ABC 33/40 News! The next Weather Xtreme video will be posted here by 7:00 a.m. tomorrow…

Fifteen Years Ago, Part 2

| April 9, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

The next morning the sun was shining but there was a stillness in the air. Something had happened and people were not the only ones affected. It was like all of nature was grieving.

We decided to head to the school. The school had always been a base of operations for the community and we figured it would be the best place to start. The damage reports had gotten worse throughout the night. Significant damage had been reported to the school and throughout the county. Heading towards Oak Grove, we crossed the path of a much smaller and weaker tornado than the one that had been reported. It was the same tornado, but obviously this was not the same monster that had developed just a few short miles from here. The damage at this part of the path was at the time consistent with F1-F2 damage. Significant at first sight, but compared to what we would see, there was no comparison.

As we approached Oak Grove, the road was blocked by local law enforcement.“No one is allowed in,” he said. Reluctantly we returned home. To our surprise our power was back on. A first, as we are usually one of the last houses to get our power back on. A friend of ours that worked for the power company stopped by and said power had been rerouted. There was nothing to hook power lines to in a large portion of the county and it could be several weeks before our power could be restored if we had to wait for the new poles to be reset in the storm’s path.

I bolted into the living room and turned the news on. Aerial helicopter footage of affected areas in the Rock Creek community was the first image to appear on the screen. I was astounded at what I saw. There were miles and miles of complete devastation; a truly horrific scene. That was not what I encountered on our morning journey.

Shortly thereafter, came the official word to head to the school. My mom worked at the school and they had asked all staff to report. I held my breath as we loaded back up into the truck.

Approaching the school, the first sign of damage was to the trees. So many of them were missing. The community is called Oak Grove for a reason. The towering oaks that greeted you in the center of the community had now been shredded like a head of cabbage for a bag of cole slaw. The expanse and scope of the destruction at the school made my stomach sink. For a few minutes I thought I was going to see my breakfast again. I had never seen anything like this, nor want to see again.

Stepping out at the school, there was a crunch underneath my feet as I stepped on a pile of shattered glass. It was obvious more than glass had been shattered that night. Twisted steel looked like silly string and there were piles of rubble everywhere. Words could never begin to describe the scene. Complete and total destruction of a building and community that for so many people had been a safe haven from the problems of the outside world. A close knit community had been unwound. Every sense of security was gone, and the heart of the community had now been exposed. The same story echoed through numerous communities across the western sections of the county that day. People had dazed and confused looks on their faces and enough tears were shed that day to fill the Warrior River.

So many questions with so few answers.

Where were we going to go to school?

Where else did the storm impact?

Were there any fatalities?

Was everyone associated with the school accounted for?

And the most poignant one- What if the storm would’ve hit during school hours?

Picking up the pieces at the school that morning, we heard more and more stories of the destruction across the county. The tornado roared through, ripping apart lives and homes, discriminating against no one. Disheartening were the stories of lives lost, but encouragement and hope came from the stories of survival.

One such story happened at the school that night. A group of cheerleaders had been practicing in the gym. As the tornado dismantled the school complex, like most of the buildings there, the gym collapsed. The cheerleaders were caught between the beams of the collapsed roof, in a space just big enough for them, and miraculously they all survived.

The teacher that asked me the question the day before about expecting more activity; he had been in his home which was directly in the path of the storm in the Rock Creek community. We learned that he was in the ICU at one of the local hospitals and he would stay there for several weeks.

Leaving the school we set out towards Hueytown to check on my grandparents. The community of Rock Creek was in our path that day, just like it had been in the tornado’s the night before. It was here that the full strength of the tornado had been unleashed and the damage was even more significant. It was obvious that this had been no common tornado, this had been a monster. Once in the community, nothing looked as it had. Traveling a road I had traveled thousands of times, I found myself lost, disoriented and confused. I could not recognize where I was. There was no recognizable sign of anything that had been. The only clear direction I could make out was up. How would the affected areas ever seem to be normal again? The answer to that question proved to be time.

Later, as many wounds began to heal, the weatherman in me began to ask willing victims questions about that evening. Many chose not to discuss it, and I completely understood that. But some, knowing the weather nut I am were happy to share their experience with me. The teacher said that he remembered watching the news and stepped outside and just noticed the constant unending lightning; something he had never seen before. He then proceeded to the hallway of his home. Seconds later he found himself airborne in the center of the twister. He remembered landing on his refrigerator door, not his refrigerator and the next memory was waking up at the hospital. I made sure to remind him of what I said earlier in that day…”the day ain’t over with yet.” He just laughed. He made a full recovery from the storm and went back to teaching, with a slightly different outlook on life.

It would take months and years before any normalcy returned to the areas impacted by the storm that night, and if you ask some, normalcy has never returned. Driving through the community today, time has helped heal many wounds from that night. The tornado’s path can still be seen, homes have been built and rebuilt in the area and life seems to go on. The landscape as well as many lives still carry scars from that night. Scars never completely heal and serve as a reminder, not of how much we were hurt in the past, but how much we have healed from the past, how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

In no way could I ever do justice to all the victims and survivors of this horrendous event in this simple post. April’s Fury, as this event would later be called, took the lives of 32 people in Jefferson County and 2 in St Clair County. It forever changed the lives and landscape of communities across Central Alabama.

Warmest So Far This Year; Storms Thursday

| April 9, 2013 @ 6:15 am

An all new edition of the ABC 33/40 Weather Xtreme video is available in the player on the right sidebar of the blog. You can subscribe to the Weather Xtreme video on iTunes by clicking here.

HEADED FOR THE 80s: A few spots did reach the 80 degree mark yesterday, but we expect just about everybody around here to rise into the low 80s today; about 10 degrees above average, but below the record high for April 9, 87 set in 1965. Although moisture levels are on the rise, we don’t expect any showers of any real significance today with a mix of sun and clouds.

TO THE WEST: SPC has parts of North Texas and Oklahoma under a “moderate risk” of severe weather… roughly from Wichita Falls to Oklahoma City; surrounding that there is a “slight risk” as far north as Iowa. A few significant tornadoes will be possible in that moderate risk area later today and early tonight, but all of this action remains well to the west of Alabama.

TOMORROW: The GFS is printing a high of 85 degrees tomorrow… within three degrees of the record high for April 10. Winds will increase out of the south, but a capping inversion should keep most of Alabama dry. To the west, SPC has a severe weather risk all the way from the western Gulf Coast up to near Indianapolis, and a 45 percent severe weather probability enhancement over East Arkansas and Southeast Missouri. Once again, a few significant tornadoes will be possible in this region, west of Alabama.

THURSDAY’S SEVERE WEATHER THREAT IN ALABAMA: Generally speaking, not much overall change in our thinking…

*The primary window for severe weather in Alabama will come from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Thursday. We could see a few storms before 9:00 a.m. but the main severe weather comes later.

*Projected shear profiles are not impressive; this will greatly limit the tornado threat. While the chance of a tornado is not zero, we believe tornadoes will be very isolated in nature. Forecast soundings look pretty unidirectional, and bulk shear values in the lower levels are fairly low for an event like this.

*The primary risk will come from strong, perhaps damaging straight line winds along a QLCS (quasi linear convective system, or squall line) that will blow through Alabama. The RPM really hints the line will pass through during the afternoon and evening hours, when instability will be a little higher, but the projected instability values are not really impressive for an April event (surface based CAPE values under 750 j/kg) with clouds expected much of the day, and surface temperatures in the low 70s.

*SPC has most all of Alabama in the standard “slight risk” of severe weather Thursday; higher severe weather probabilities (30 percent) are generally south and east of Birmingham. But understand, it doesn’t make much sense to ask about any one specific place since the entire state will be impacted.


*The line will pass through rather slowly, and we are now expecting rain amounts of around two inches in many areas. This could lead to a few flash flooding issues, especially in low and flood-prone areas.

Just a reminder… please take severe thunderstorm warnings seriously Thursday; damaging straight line winds can produce damage just like a tornado in some cases. See the Weather Xtreme video for the maps, details, and graphics concerning the Thursday severe weather threat.

FRIDAY AND THE WEEKEND: The sky becomes mostly sunny on Friday as drier air returns to Alabama, and the day will be cooler with a high in the upper 70s. Saturday will be a delightful day; we begin the day in the 40s, and the high will be in the low to mid 70s with sunshine in full supply. Sunday will be partly sunny with a high in the upper 70s.

The GFS continues to show showers returning to Alabama early next week… in fact both Monday and Tuesday look warm, humid, and showery with a high around 80 degrees. Again, see the Weather Xtreme video for the details and graphics.

WEATHER BRAINS: Don’t forget you can listen to our weekly 90 minute netcast anytime on the web, or on iTunes. This is the show all about weather featuring many familiar voices, including our meteorologists here at ABC 33/40. Scroll down for the show notes on this week’s new episode we recorded last night.

CONNECT: You can find me on all of the major social networks…

Google Plus

I will be doing a weather program today at Cullman Primary School… look for the next Weather Xtreme video here by 4:00 this afternoon. Enjoy the day…

WeatherBrains 376: Twitter Tweeters Weather

| April 9, 2013 @ 5:10 am

WeatherBrains Episode 376 is now online (April 8, 2013). If you are crazy about weather, this is THE netcast audio program for you!

author Lee SandlinLee Sandlin is a journalist and essayist who was born in Wildwood, Illinois, and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He briefly attended the University of Chicago and Roosevelt University before leaving school to travel and write. He lives in Chicago.

He has written feature journalism, historical studies, and music reviews on opera and classical works — mostly for the Chicago Reader, where he was also for many years the TV critic. More recently, he has become a frequent contributor to the Wall Street Journal.

His essay “Losing the War,” first appeared in 1997, subtitled “World War II has faded into movies, anecdotes, and archives that nobody cares about anymore. Are we finally losing the war?” It has been on university reading lists and praised in blogs of both anti-war activists and neocon crusaders. A segment was adapted for broadcast by the public radio show “This American Life” and anthologized by its host, Ira Glass, in a 2007 collection, “The New Kings of Nonfiction.”

“Saving His Life,” his biography of his father-in-law, a Russian emigre who grew up in China, was recently published in a limited edition by Sherwin Beach Press. The Distancers (2004) chronicles the American Midwest of several generations, as reflected in the history of a single house. His most recent work is “Wicked River,” a narrative history of the Mississippi River in the 19th century. An exhaustive survey of his other interests can be found on the Enthusiasms page.

Other discussions in this weekly podcast include topics like:

  • Extremes: 99 at Laredo, TX, and 13 at Cut Bank, MT
  • Severe thunderstorm watch in Central US
  • Severe weather possible Tuesday from San Antonio to north of Kansas City
  • Then the system moves eastward
  • Snow coverage down to about 15 percent
  • Storm system also going to produce serious snow across Upper Midwest
  • and more!
  • Our email bag officer is continuing to handle the incoming messages from our listeners and is happy to see more email messages.

    From The Weather Center:

    WeatherBrains 101: So Superstorm Sandy created quite a stir for a number of reasons. One of those factors concerned the dropping of hurricane warnings since Sandy went non-tropical as she was headed toward shore. Well, the controversy may not be over, but there are some changes being made that may keep that sort of thing from happening again.

    TWIWH: Bill Murray looks back at the week of April 8th.

    Listener SurveyListener Surveys: Okay, we continue to drive this topic into the ground, but we really do like to hear from you. Many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to fill out the Listener Survey. The survey takes just a minute or two to complete and provides us with an opportunity to learn where you are and hear your thoughts and comments on the show. Click here to take the survey.

    Web Sites from Episode 376:

    Release on Hurricane Definition Changes

    Storm Kings on Amazon

    Lee Sandlin’s web site

    Picks of the Week:

    Nate Johnson – Houston Chronicle article about Dated Storm Protection

    Bill Murray – Gets the Fog Horn!!

    Brian Peters – Joplin Tornado NWS Service Assessment

    Kevin Selle – Digital Meteorologist article

    James Spann – Feedly – a Better Reader

    The WeatherBrains crew includes your host, James Spann, plus other notable geeks like Nate Johnson, Bill Murray, Kevin Selle, and Brian Peters. They bring together a wealth of weather knowledge and experience for another fascinating netcast about weather. graphic