Eric: Complex weekend setup

Updated: Jan. 20, 2017 at 10:09 AM CST
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A complicated setup will evolve as we head into the weekend, offering multiple opportunities for strong to severe thunderstorms. Fortunately, we have an uneventful Friday to enjoy before the weather starts to turn sour...

TODAY: While there could be a brief passing shower or two at any point, there is zero concern for severe weather today. In fact, a few breaks of sunshine will allow for pleasant afternoon temperatures to climb into the upper 70s and approach 80 in a few spots. Not bad! While no severe weather will occur in Alabama Friday, it's important you make sure you have your weather radios ready to go before going to sleep tonight. By daybreak Saturday, strong to severe thunderstorms will be back in play.

SATURDAY MORNING: As a low level jet kicks in, thunderstorms will develop and spread from southwest to northeast after 3am Saturday morning. Some of these storms will be strong to severe, spreading into east Alabama through Noon. High resolution guidance suggests isolated cells will precede a more organized line of thunderstorms racing eastward after daybreak. Heavy rain and frequent lightning is likely for many, with stronger cores being capable of a hail/wind/tornado threat.

Confidence in this morning wave is fairly high. Like any event, we'll hope most of these storms stay just below severe levels. But the ingredients certainly support at least some severe threat with this morning wave.

Models start to diverge on possible solutions AFTER this first wave. There is some suggestion that as wave 1 exits, our atmosphere will have a chance to recover and re-energize. Sunshine tomorrow afternoon is not our friend. Additional impulses will allow scattered thunderstorms to redevelop from time to time Saturday afternoon into Saturday night. Should the atmosphere recover, those storms would be large hail producers with a continued wind/tornado threat. This entire scenario beyond the morning storms is highly conditional, and it's likely we won't have a full feel for which direction we take until after wave 1 reveals it's hand. If the morning wave sticks around longer or additional storms develop along the coast, instability will remain low and greatly limit any additional severe weather threat. It's all or nothing with confidence remaining low at this time.

Some threat could spill over into early Sunday, but the progression of this system will allow any leftover stronger storms to move eastward by the second half of Sunday.

CALL TO ACTION: Regardless of how these individual waves play out, the overarching theme will be one of weather awareness from predawn Saturday through early Sunday. You will need to have multiple reliable ways of hearing weather warnings in place before you go to bed tonight, and perhaps through Saturday night too. As is the case with any severe weather setup, we can forecast the broad picture to know the potential for severe weather. But some events produce very little, others produce more significant problems. Those differences come from smaller scale features that materialize as an event gets underway. This one, in particular, will be highly affected by these small scale features. There's a chance tomorrow morning's wave ends up being the worst of it. That would be great. But there remains some concern some of us may have an extended period punctuated by several rounds of severe weather potential.

Chief Meteorologist Josh Johnson will have additional coverage on television later this afternoon and this evening. I encourage you to stay up to date on our latest thinking on this highly changeable forecast. As always, updates will be continuous on our WSFA Weather app, & our social media pages as well.

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