Early Palm Sunday weather alert

HUNTINGTON/CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Truly spring weather has arrived with our first batch of gusty squalls passing on Friday afternoon-evening. Rainfall totals mustered near 3 tenths of an inch in the Huntington and Charleston area (as measured by rain gauges at local airports) with winds gusting to 30 miles per hour during the brief downpours. While not a long soaking, the rain did provide a nice drink of water for local gardens and lawns.

Now that the Palm Sunday weekend has arrived a look ahead to the weather is one that deserves a wary eye based on the expected meteorological set-up and past notorious history of American weather.

First up Saturday Easter egg hunts (Magic Island in Charleston from 11am-1pm) and outdoor activities like 5K runs (Heart Walk at Ritter park et al) are in good shape with a mixed sun-cloud sky. Early temperatures for those pavement pounders will be in the 50s with afternoon highs tickling the 70s for Shriners gathered to celebrate Hillbilly Days in Pikeville (grand parade 2pm).

By Sunday an unsettled pattern will unfold with fast moving clouds overhead a dead give-away to the turbulent weather to follow. The day will unfold windy and warm with any passing morning thundershower giving way to partial afternoon sunshine. Highs will soar through the 70s to near 80 this time with a sudden increase in humidity. With a strong low pressure system to the west, watch your barometer’s needle take a dramatic fall to lower values. That will be a sure sign that severe weather will be developing.

While the extent and magnitude of the later afternoon-early evening weather is not predictable yet, the likelihood is that a squall line of thunderstorms armed with hail, high winds and torrents of rain will develop and move through the region.

Since it is spring and there will be a pent up amount of energy for any storm to tap from the heavens above, chances of a series of high wind reports are good enough for an early alert even on this Friday evening.

The final thought to be considered is the climatology of a spring set up like this from past Palm Sundays. Back in 1965 and again in 1994, a rash of tornadoes ripped across parts of America (Great Lakes in 1965, deep south in 1994). While impossible to predict days in advance, this set up has the potential to muster a few tornado warnings in our region.