The different hurricane season alerts Alabama can see
Impacts from landfalling tropical systems can be felt well inland
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There are quite a few weather alerts that can be issued by the National Weather Service and its associated entities like the Storm Prediction Center and National Hurricane Center. Some of these are mainly associated with hurricane season.
This includes tropical storm watches and warnings, hurricane watches and warnings, and storm surge watches and warnings. The watches are issued when an approaching tropical storm or hurricane is forecast to bring impacts within the next 36-48 hours.
The warnings are issued when confidence in impacts being felt in the next 24-36 hours is high enough. Tropical storm watches and warnings can certainly be issued for our part of the state in and around Montgomery. It’s highly unlikely that hurricane watches and/or warnings are issued this far from the coast.
Hurricane alerts are usually confined to the coast and counties near the coast. It’s possible to have hurricane watches and warnings as far north as I-85 if the storm is strong enough. But I’ll tell you it’s highly uncommon to see them that far inland.
Storm surge alerts are strictly confined to the coastal communities as surge only affects those along the immediate coastline. Surge does not affect the WSFA 12 News viewing area, but it is one of -- if not the most -- dangerous aspect of a landfalling tropical system.
Flooding watches and warnings, flash flood warnings and flash flood emergencies are some of the more common inland alerts we find in association with tropical systems.
Tropical storms and hurricanes bring oodles of moisture with them as they move inland. That moisture has to be squeezed out of atmosphere in some fashion. For us, it’s in the form of plenty of rain and tropical downpours. These downpours can lead to quick water rises and significant flash flood situations.
Perhaps the most common type of watch or warning Central Alabama sees with landfalling tropical cyclones is associated with tornadoes. Tornado watches and warnings usually accompany named storms regardless of their strength and size.
Some storms bring more tornadoes than others. It all just depends on how the storm is organized, where it makes landfall and how the environment is ahead of the storm.
Tornadoes associated with tropical systems are oftentimes fickle and difficult to predict ahead of time. They can spin up seemingly out of nowhere. On the other hand, they can dissipate in the blink of an eye. Many tropical tornadoes have a lifetime of less than a couple minutes. That’s why a tornado watch should be taken very seriously!
As we are well aware along the Gulf Coast, hurricanes can go anywhere. The entire Gulf Coast from South Padre Island in Texas all the way to Key West is at risk for a landfalling tropical cyclone. Alabama most definitely is included in that!
Should a system threaten the region in 2023, there are some things you can look for to determine our impacts in Alabama...
A storm well to our west in Texas or western Louisiana usually brings us minor to no issues. This is dependent on the size of the storm, though, as a large and sprawling storm can bring some more noticeable impacts to Alabama.
A system that makes landfall somewhere in eastern Louisiana or Mississippi usually puts Alabama in the “prime spot” for tropical showers and tornadoes. For the most part this activity comes in the form of the system’s outer rain bands that rotate in from the south and southeast.
Lastly, a system that pushes directly up Alabama -- roughly along I-65 -- brings widespread rain and a strong to damaging wind threat. Think Hurricane Zeta from a few years ago!
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