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Severe weather risk on Thursday

Spring Storm Day ahead demands prudence and heightened awareness
Stormy skies and storm damage
Stormy skies and storm damage
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 9:04 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -The spring storm season is set to begin on Thursday across the region with the likelihood of multiple warnings to come from our three National Weather Service offices (Charleston, WV, Wilmington, OH and Jackson, KY). Since the ingredients for heavy weather are forecasted to be present during the school day, bus drivers, school principals and parents will need to keep an eye on the clock and another on the sky as the afternoon school bell approaches.

Here’s the set-up:

Wednesday afternoon and evening a rash of severe storms including twisters hopscotched across a four- state area centered around Alabama. Preliminary reports show considerable damage. No data are available on injuries or loss of life. Fingers crossed!

Now this storm pattern will be shifting more east than north on Thursday but there is concern we could be clipped by some severe weather.

First an overnight band of non-severe though persistent rains will make for muddy landscapes and lawns, as well as wet roads heading to school and work. Temperatures in the 50s will support a few rumbles of thunder in the more intense showers, but severe weather is unlikely. Still street flooding in areas of poor drainage can present itself before 9 a.m.

From mid-morning into mid-afternoon, the sun will break through the clouds and the wind will pick up from the south. The enhanced heating from the sun and moisture transport, thanks to the wind coming from the humid Gulf Coast states (hit by the St. Patty’s Day outbreak) will make the air unstable just in time for the afternoon school bell. Then in the critical 2 until 7 p.m. time slot, showers will quickly blossom amidst the sun and soon turn into thunderstorms.

One meteorological facet that may help mitigate severe weather is the narrow time window of stronger winds in the heavens to interact with the sun. Basically by 2-3 p.m. the stronger winds aloft will be shifting from the river valleys of the Ohio, Big Sandy and Kanawha and into the mountains. These are the so-called “sheer” winds that can turn showers into angry thunderheads then into hail and high wind producers.

While a significant tornado outbreak occurred on Wednesday down south, the risk of twisters this far north is comprehensively less. Why? Well our air will not be nearly as muggy as down south and those “winds of sheer” in the heavens will start overhead at dawn then shift off to the east by late afternoon. When and where the muggy air and strong winds aloft intersect in Venn Diagram form, the best risk for powerful winds (straight line or tornadic) will occur.

So what to do? Well keep an eye to your smart phone and or WSAZ.COM and WSAZ NEWSCHANNEL 3 for updates. Should a severe storm or tornado warning be issued for your area, use prudence to take safe shelter and in the most unusual case if you were to hear the roar of train during any severe weather day this spring and summer, the safest place to seek shelter is in an interior room under a sink or work bench. OF COURSE it is important to mention I personally have never had to implement this latter piece of advice in my life. So use this as a sort of “what to do” if the unthinkable happens.

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