Aaron Gleason, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Calera, said a line of severe thunderstorms will move into the Anniston and Calhoun County area between 9 a.m. and noon Wednesday. Those storms are expected to move out of the area by 2 p.m., he said.
“It will be windy after they move through because a cold front is going to be pushing through as well, but with that line of thunderstorms we are expecting some damaging straight-line winds and isolated tornadoes,” Gleason said.
The National Weather Service said winds as strong as 60 mph, heavy rains and isolated tornadoes were possible into the afternoon hours before the system exits the state into Georgia. Strong winds are the main threat facing central Alabama, forecasters said, but isolated tornadoes also are possible.
As the winds pick up Wednesday, travelers should take caution and be aware of any watches or warnings.
“Those straight-line winds can always blow trees down, which can potentially cause power outages,” said Tammy Bain, an emergency management officer with the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency.
Because the severe weather isn't expected to enter the Anniston area until 9 a.m., the county's schools will be bussing students on a normal schedule Wednesday morning, said Mike Fincher, Calhoun County Schools' director of safety and security.
"Our last child is in the school building at 7:45, and so we feel that we can complete the transportation procedure without a hitch," Fincher said. "And then everybody will be in the safe school building until the weather passes."
An advancing cold front moving toward Alabama from the west created the potential for bad weather. Forecasters said strong storms could develop as the cooler air meets with warm, moist flowing northward from the Gulf of Mexico.
Temperatures are predicted to fall from highs in the 70s today to lows in the lower 30s Wednesday night. Jennifer Chuller of the National Weather Service said it was unusual to have such a rapid change.
"Workers will be bringing back their coats Thursday with highs in the upper 40s," she said. "We will have the feel of spring, then right back into the feel of winter."
Forecasts showed storms developing in western Alabama during the predawn hours Wednesday, with the threat continuing through early afternoon in eastern Alabama.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter contributed to this report.