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March 9, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Spring Severe Weather Season is Upon Us…But Wait, We Still Have Snow!

Just when I think spring has arrived early this year another cold front moves through and temperatures drop behind it. This is exactly what happened this past weekend across parts of the Deep South as a low pressure system and a front moved through bringing isolated severe storms and heavy rain to parts of the Southeast. I was actually visiting family and friends in the Birmingham area when pretty much all day Saturday it rained. Once the front moved through, temperatures dropped rather quickly behind it and on Sunday, it was breezy and cool with highs only in the 40’s. This was quite a change for me after leaving Houston in a short sleeve shirt and being spoiled with highs in the 70’s the previous week! Needless to say, temperatures today across parts of the Southeast will be in the 60’s with highs in the 70’s along the coast. But don’t get too used to these warmer temperatures as another front is moving through today into tomorrow bringing showers and thunderstorms to the area with isolated severe storms also possible. Temperatures look to drop again on Thursday behind the front with highs about 10-15 degrees cooler than today across most of the Southeast.

 Severe storms (indicated in red) are playing out today with locally heavy rain (green) expected. Snow (white) is likely across the Midwest/Great Lakes as a strong low pressure system moves across the area. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch 

Here’s a look at the probability for severe storms across the eastern U.S. today and tomorrow. A moderate risk (orange) is expected across southeastern Louisiana into Georgia. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

Not only will this system bring the threat for severe storms across the Southeast, but locally heavy wet snow can be expected at times across parts of the Great Lakes into the Northeast as a strong upper level storm system moves across the area. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

Even though its not feeling like spring is near for parts of the Midwest, Great Lakes and Northeast today, it’s just around the corner (T-minus 11 days, but who’s counting?) and so is Severe Weather Season! Here are a few websites that may be helpful in terms of how to prepare or what to do if severe weather threatens your area.

Severe Thunderstorms (disaster.com)

Severe Weather Preparedness (University of Illinois Extension)

Thunderstorms and Lightning (FEMA)

Tornado Tips (FEMA)

What is Hail? (NOAA)

Floods (FEMA)

So what classifies a thunderstorm as severe? The National Weather Service considers a thunderstorm severe if it produces hail of at least one inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado. Today, thunderstorms are expected to increase in coverage and intensify this afternoon and evening across northern Florida, the remainder of Georgia, the Carolinas and most of Virginia. Isolated strong to severe storms will be likely across this entire area with this system and the main concerns today will be locally heavy rain, damaging wind gusts above 60 mph, large hail and isolated tornadoes.

Current radar as of 12:00 p.m. (central time). Image: ImpactWeather

Already today there have been at least 9 tornado reports (red) along the Gulf Coast and 27 wind reports (blue). Image: SPC

 Flood Watches (dark green) and Flood Warnings (light green) have been issued across the eastern U.S. as heavy rain is expected across the area. Image: NOAA

Flood watches and warnings are currently in effect for a good portion of the eastern U.S. as a strong low pressure system and cold front move across the area. Some of the hardest hit areas recently have been across the Northeast in terms of flooding from heavy rains and melting snow. Not only have they been dealing with floods but also power outages. As of today, utility crews are still trying to restore service to more than 5,000 customers in Albany, NY and the mid-Hudson Valley, where more than 42,000 outages occurred Sunday into Monday as a late-winter storm struck the area. The State of New Jersey has been hit the hardest (at one point more than 60,000 customers were without power) and the governor has declared a state of emergency. Some areas have seen their worst flooding in 60 years and the recent floods have forced many people out of their homes. With the heavy rain expected across some areas today and tomorrow, it could definitely make a bad situation even worse in terms of flooding. The heaviest rain today will be from the Southeast into southern Pennsylvania with 1-3 inches and isolated heavier amounts of 5-7 inches possible. Parts of Mississippi today have already received nearly 7 inches of rain! Tomorrow, the heaviest rain will shift northward from Virginia into New England with rainfall totals of 1-3 inches, isolated heavier amounts 2-5 inches possible. On Friday, excessive rain will be possible across much of New England with accumulations averaging 1-2 inches. The rain will finally come to an end later in the day on Friday as the low pressure system pulls away from the region.

In terms of severe storms, there will be an isolated risk from the eastern Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic region to south Florida tomorrow. The main concerns with any severe thunderstorms that develop will be gusty winds and heavy rain with hail and isolated tornadoes also possible (see below).

Strong to severe storms (red) will be possible on Thursday along the East coast with breezy winds (yellow) also expected. This same storm system approaching the Northeast will bring the risk for snow (white) across eastern Ohio into West Virginia tomorrow. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

The weather looks to improve across the eastern half of the country as we head into the weekend and the low pressure system moves out of the region. However, breezy winds can be expected Friday across the Midwest/Great Lakes and this weekend across the Northeast as a low pressure system departs the area.

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