Sunday, January 22, 2012

Severe Weather Threat Increases Today - Including Risk of a Strong Tornado...

An organized threat of severe thunderstorms, including damaging winds and a few strong tornadoes, is taking shape for later today and tonight across portions of the Middle and Lower Mississippi Valley, the Tennessee Valley and the Deep South.  

Severe thunderstorms are likely within the area shaded in yellow on the above image, which includes the cities of Indianapolis, St. Louis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Little Rock, New Orleans, Jackson, Mobile and Chattanooga.

The highest risk of severe weather, including widespread damaging wind gusts and the possibility of a strong tornado or two, is shown within the red shaded area on the same image.  This includes the cities of Evansville, Nashville, Memphis, Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and Tupelo.

A surface cold front will move into the area from the West later today, along with a strong upper-level weather disturbance and band of stronger jet stream winds.  Thunderstorms will form along the Western edge of the severe weather outlook area by late afternoon or early evening and will then increase in coverage and intensity as the system moves and develops Eastward during the later evening and overnight hours.

Damaging wind gusts in excess of 60 mph will be a distinct threat with many of the severe storms later today, especially within the red and lavender shaded areas on the image below.  There is an enhanced risk of wind gusts in excess of 70 mph in and near the black hatched area on the same image:

The stronger winds aloft along with an increasingly unstable low-level airmass will also result in a threat of tornadoes with some of the storms.  This will particularly be the case with any storm that is able to remain isolated or become well organized without the interference of other surrounding activity.  This threat will be the highest within the red shaded and black hatched area on the image below:

Large hail in excess of 1 inch in diameter will be possible with most of the severe storms that form later today and tonight as well.

Folks living all across the above mentioned areas, and particularly in the higher threat areas that were specified, should remain alert later this afternoon and into tonight.  Take the time now to review severe weather safety and preparedness tips and have a plan of action in place should a watch or warning be issued for your area later today or this evening.  

If you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio with an alert feature, now would be a good time to purchase one.  They are available at most large retailers, with RadioShack typically having the largest in-store selection.  Be sure to pick up some extra batteries for both the radio and flashlights in case the power were to fail in your area.

Severe weather that threatens after dark is particularly dangerous.  This is another good reason to make sure that you have a warning and/or information source ready to go before the event takes place.

I am working on a post that will review some of the more popular smartphone warning programs out there, but a simple Google or app store search should point you in the right direction for now.  It is important to keep in mind that this service may not be of value should a critical cellphone tower be knocked out during a severe storm, so it's always a good idea to have a back-up like the NOAA Weather Radio or another trusted local media source.

I'll have additional updates on this situation throughout the day.  

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