Monday, January 23, 2012

AL Tornadoes & A Look Ahead

For the second time in less than a year, tornadic storms ripped through portions of central Alabama late last night and early this morning. While last night's storms didn't rival the magnitude of the April 27, 2011 tornado outbreak, we do know they've resulted in at least 3 fatalities and over 100 injuries.  Below is a look at all of the storm reports from the last 24 hours and a map showing only the tornado reports...

Storm reports for the 24 hour period beginning at 8 p.m. CST, Sunday, Jan. 22 from the Storm Prediction Center.
Tornado reports for the 24-hour period beginning at 8 p.m. CST, Sunday, Jan. 22 from the Storm Prediction Center.

The National Weather Service office in Birmingham will continue damage surveys on Tuesday, but they have already confirmed EF-3 tornado damage in the community of Clay, Alabama, about 20 miles northeast of Birmingham. Maximum winds with that tornado were estimated to be around 150 mph.

The outbreak has many people asking if this is unusual for January. The simple answer is, yes, it's a bit unusual, but certainly not without precedent. The graphic below shows that we are running well above-average on January tornadoes in the U.S., but there are other years since 1950 that have produced more.

Many in the meteorological community are expressing anger this evening at some national media reports stating the storms "struck without warning" last night. In reality, that couldn't be further from the truth. The Storm Prediction Center (and local meteorologists) were pointing towards the severe weather potential several days in advance. Additionally, a tweet recently sent from a NOAA spokesperson lists the average warning 'lead time' during this event as more than 34 minutes. That means, on average, a tornado warning was issued 34 minutes before a tornado struck a given location. That is a remarkable number!

     "@JustinNOAA: Average warning lead times for recent tornado event was 34.4 minutes"

Now, here's a quick look at our weather for the rest of the week:

TUESDAY: We should start out mainly dry, but showers and t-storms return during the afternoon as a warm front moves inland. While t-storms are possible, the severe weather threat appears to be pretty small (although not zero). A few storms could produce locally heavy rains.

WEDNESDAY: Warm, muggy...just a few showers during the day.

WED. NIGHT/THURSDAY: Showers and t-storms return with a cool front. There are some conflicting signals, but some severe weather appears possible as this next storm system takes a track farther south, closer to the Gulf Coast.

FRIDAY: Clouds linger, a few showers. Skies should clear out late or early on Saturday.

WEEKEND: Sunshine returns...a bit cooler.

Tune in to MyNews at 9 on WBXH (Cox Cable 16 in Baton Rouge) and 9News at 10 on WAFB for a more detailed look at your forecast.

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