Calhoun County is under an enhanced risk for severe weather Sunday morning, according to the National Weather Service’s Calera station.
Meteorologists Saturday evening updated a forecast that puts Calhoun County in an “enhanced risk” zone from 5 a.m. to noon, a time when many churches hold Sunday services.
Conditions may be similar to those on Palm Sunday 25 years ago, when a tornado struck Goshen United Methodist Church during Sunday services, killing 20.
“Palm Sunday in Calhoun County has a significant history,” Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency officer Myles Chamblee said. “It’s definitely something to take seriously.”
Meteorologist Daniel Martin, who works for the National Weather Service, said strong tornadoes and damaging winds could happen Sunday morning in a large portion of Alabama, including Calhoun County.
“A lot of the southeast is expected to see severe storms,” Martin said. “It’s just one of those spring-season storms.”
He said storms are expected to move into Alabama from Mississippi close to midnight.
“We do expect that the storms will maintain intensity,” Martin said.
The threat is expected to pass around noon, according to models released late Saturday evening.
Before then, Martin said, residents need to have multiple ways to watch the weather, such as weather radios and cell phones. Chamblee said residents can also receive weather updates by texting “CalhounEMA” to 888777 or by checking local media outlets.
Chamblee also said to keep in contact with friends and family members before and during the storms.
“If you know there’s someone in a severe weather area, give them a phone call,” Chamblee said.
Because storms are expected to hit in the early morning, Martin said, it’s important for residents to have an alert system that will wake them up in an emergency.
“This will be an overnight event,” Martin aid. “A lot of people will be sleeping.”
Martin also encouraged locals have a weather preparedness plan that designates a safe place to go. Chamblee said to have supplies at that location.
“This system does have the potential to have a strong tornado, so you want to be ready if something does happen,” Martin said.
Some local churches have announced plans to cancel or postpone services, including Goshen United Methodist, which had planned a 25-year memorial service.
For those churches that haven’t canceled, Martin said, a member of each church’s congregation should be checking the weather throughout the service. The congregation should also have a designated safe area, according to Martin.