Northeast Alabama is under a tornado watch until 4 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.
Mark Linhares, meteorologist with the service’s Calera station, said Wednesday afternoon that the watch, issued at 4:25 p.m., will last through the expected end of a severe weather window through Thursday morning that also includes a flash flood warning.
“The time frame is going to be a pretty wide timeframe,” Linhares said. “Really, from now until 4 a.m., there could be anything.”
Alabama had yet to see a tornado touch down, Linhares said, though some had in Mississippi. Pea-sized hail was spotted in the western part of Alabama, but that’s considered sub-severe, he explained.
Storms are also predicted to bring as much as 3 inches of rain to Calhoun, Talladega, Cleburne and St. Clair counties, with the possibility of flash flooding in low-lying areas.
“The risk of so much rain leading up to this event is that the soil is fairly saturated already,” said Daniel Martin, another meteorologist with the service. “If you get too much rain you can see minor flooding issues, and that concern continues into the long run.”
Storms are expected to arrive around 5 p.m. Wednesday, Martin said, and the risk of flooding rises into the overnight hours. Flooding issues could persist past the expected end of severe weather at 4 a.m. People driving after dark should be careful, he said, and those driving to work Thursday morning should be on guard as well.
Myles Chamblee, an officer with the Calhoun County Emergency Management Agency, said drivers should avoid flooded roads.
“Most issues arise when someone tries to drive through it,” Chamblee said. “Sometimes muddy water doesn’t look as deep as it is.”
Martin and Chamblee both urged area residents to make sure they can get weather alerts, especially from sources that can wake them up overnight.
“A lot of people let their guard down when they go to bed, so it’s important to have a way to wake them up,” Martin said.
Area residents can subscribe to Nixle, a free weather alert service provided by the Calhoun County EMA, by texting “CalhounEMA” to 888777. Weather alerts will arrive as text messages.