All systems are still go for severe thunderstorms, then snow across parts of the Southeast this weekend, and we are now getting into a range where I can throw out some more specific forecasts with some measure of confidence.
First, I’ll discuss the severe weather prospects for Saturday and my plans to chase the storms and do a live internet broadcast of my storm chase.
It is hard at this point to say exactly where the greatest threat for severe storms will be on Saturday. The models are pretty much showing the area in Georgia and eastern Alabama along and south of I-20 as being in the threat zone. However, I’m not sure the models are handling the effects of the large convective system over central AL and GA very well. Surely this will reinforce the boundary farther south than the models indicate. Right now, I’m thinking along and south of line from Macon, GA to Troy, AL will be my target for severe weather on Saturday.
Steep lapse rates, rather low freezing levels, and the potential for rotating updrafts will lead to very real possibilities of large hail. Also, the shear, divergence aloft and strong 250mb winds will lead to the chance for long-tracked supercells with a chance for a few tornadoes.
The plan right now is for me and my chase partner, Greg Zamarripa, to depart Atlanta at 11:30am and head for either Columbus, GA or Macon, GA as a base. We will then head out in any direction from there to intercept storms. We hope to be in our target by 2pm EST. Storm chaser Mark Aubin will be targeting the Florida panhandle for any severe storm activity that erupts farther south.
I will be broadcasting my storm chase live on the internet on Ustream.tv and Severestudios.com. Between 11:30am and 3pm I will be streaming live at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mike-phelps-mobile-weather-stream. Then, from roughly 3pm EST onward I will be streaming live at http://www.severestudios.com/livechase as Mike Phelps. On the ustream.tv broadcast the viewer will have the ability to not only view the live video, but also hear audio from within the chase vehicle. You’ll be able to listen in on critical nowcasting conversations and storm chase strategies, so you’ll actually feel like you are riding along with us on the chase. There is also a chat feature where you can interact with me via instant message, and I can talk to you live. The severestudios.com broadcast will not feature audio, but the video could be spectacular at times since we will be streaming at that location during the height of the storm chase. I will be available to the media for live phone interviews any time at 404-202-6317.
Now onto the snow prospects for Sunday.
This looks to be a classic late winter/early spring upper level snow events for parts of the Southeast. The upper low drops in from the northwest bringing with it a supply of moisture, cold air and strong dymamics. These events are notoriously difficult to forecast and the area of heavy snow that falls will be dictated very much by the exact path the upper level low takes. Right now, I’d say a general trace to 3 inch snowfall looks like a good bet across TN, northern and central AL and GA, much of SC and much of NC. 1 to 3 inches for Memphis, Birmingham, Huntsville and Chattanooga. 1-2 inches for the west Atlanta metro area, and 2 to 4 inches for the east and northeast ATL metro. 3 to 6 inches for Athens, GA. 4 to 7 inches for Greenville, SC. I won’t venture to throw out a snowfall forecast for Columbia, Charlotte or Raleigh just yet, but they could also make out very well. I also believe someone in the Southeast is going to see some “jackpot snow”of a foot or more, but it is impossible to pin down who that will be at this juncture. I hope it is my backyard! 🙂 Now having said all that, I do need to caution that the bust potential with upper level snow systems in the Southeast is very high. Honestly, we are not going to have a fully confident handle on this thing until it is happening. The cities I listed above could just as easily end up seeing a lot less, or a lot more. Definitely a system to monitor closely as there are sure to be several changes in the forecast over the next 24 to 36 hours.
I will also be streaming live video of the snow storm, and I will have more details on that in my blog entry Saturday evening or Sunday morning.