Strong Storms Possible On Christmas Day

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While everyone is putting the finishing touches on their holiday plans today, wrapping the last of the presents, a classic Winter Storm is taking shape out to our west, which could bring severe weather and snow to the Tennessee Valley Christmas Day and Wednesday.  Before we get consumed with Christmas Day, let’s talk about Christmas Eve. Showers continue to track east and will gradually exit the region from west to east this afternoon as a weak cold front moves through. Clouds are expected to hang around for most of the day, though some sunshine is possible.

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If you have plans for this evening, expect cool and cloudy, but quiet conditions, with temperatures cooling into the mid to upper 40s through the evening.  Overnight temperatures will drop off into the low to mid 40s.

As you wake up for Christmas Day and start to unwrap presents, expect dry conditions. Since we have entered a more active weather pattern over the past few weeks, we have had a few chances for severe storms, but those chances never really materialized due to lack of instability/moisture.  A critical component for severe weather to develop is moisture surge ahead of the storm system to fuel storms.  If moisture is not available, then it doesn’t matter how dynamic a storm system is, storms will not develop.  This is the main question mark for the potential for severe storms Christmas evening and night across the Tennessee Valley.  As you might expect, the closer you are to the coast, the greater the moisture and therefore there is a higher potential for severe storms across central, southern Alabama, stretching westward into Mississippi and Louisiana, as highlighted by the Moderate Risk area by the Storm Prediction Center’s Day 2 Outlook below.

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The Setup:  The weak front that will move across the region today, will lift back north as a warm front tomorrow, bringing with it a warm and moist air mass, along with showers and a few storms Christmas afternoon.  Moisture will continue to increase ahead of an approaching cold front to the west.  How far north the warm front lifts and how much moisture an surge in ahead of it, will determine if strong or severe storms develop.  If storms do reach severe limits, it will mainly be due to high wind, though because the high amount of shear/spin in the atmosphere, rotating storms could be possible.  The greatest threat for severe storms will remain to our south, where the higher instability will be located and the greater moisture will be. Bottom line is, there is a conditional threat for a strong to severe storm across the Tennessee Valley late Christmas afternoon and into the evening. The bulk of the severe storms will stay south of the area. Even if severe storms do not develop, a few storms could pack some strong wind gusts. Heavy rain is also a concern and could hinder travel on roadways.  Here is a look at the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center Day 1-3  Quantitative Precipitation Forecast, showing 1.5 – 2.5 inches for the Tennessee Valley through Thursday morning.

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On the north side of the system in northern Arkansas, southeast Missouri, northwest Tennessee and into the Ohio River Valley, snow accumulation is expected. Check out all the Winter Watches and Warnings draped across that region.

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As the storm system departs the Tennessee Valley Christmas night/Wednesday morning and cold air rushes in, while moisture wraps around the area of low pressure, some snowflakes could mix in with the rain.  Don’t get too excited, because the ground will be wet and warm and little to no accumulation is expected.

No matter if you travel south or north, weather will likely impact your travel and you need to have a way to get the latest weather information to receive warnings when you are out and about in case a severe storm is headed in your direction.

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The most important thing to remember is to relax and enjoy the time with family and friends, just be prepared if storms develop and head your way.  Hope everyone has a safe and Merry Christmas! :)

- Jennifer Watson

Twitter: @JWatson_Wx

Facebook: Jennifer Watson WHNT