Northern Alabama blasted by tornadoes

Northern Alabama blasted by tornadoes

Storms with large hail and damaging winds are smacking the Southeast on this last day of winter, according to the National Weather Service.

About 20 million people are in the path of these severe storms, and the areas most at risk are parts of Tennessee, northeastern Mississippi, northern Alabama and northwest Georgia, according to CNN meteorologist Haley Brink.

The bull’s-eye of this storm is northern Alabama, CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. In a 4 p.m. press conference, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the state is “not taking this situation lightly.”

“My team and I have been monitoring this system throughout the day,” she said. “The exact locations of where these storms will form are unpredictable.”

The NWS said that “a large and extremely dangerous” tornado had developed near Russellville, Alabama.

Tracy Bragwell, who lives southwest of Russellville, said the storm ripped the metal roof off of his parents’ home, damaged some trees and their carport. He posted a video of the damage to Facebook.

Bragwell, his wife, son and his parents went to his storm shelter about 10 minutes before the storm hit, he said. As they sheltered there for about an hour, the wind “sounded like a roaring train coming through,” he said.

The sheriff’s office in Limestone, Alabama, also posted multiple photos of the damage on Twitter.

The area between southern Tennessee and northern Florida has a slight risk of being impacted by this storm.

The main impact of this system, Brink said, includes tornadoes, very strong, large hail and damaging winds. It’s expected to hit Monday evening and continue overnight. Tuesday will mostly see a wind threat, Ward said.

As the weather in the South clears up, the mid-Atlantic and New England will be bracing for the fourth nor’easter to hit the region in less than three weeks.

Forecast models are saying the low pressure system could move toward the coast, which would bring snow to Washington, DC, New York City, Boston, and possibly Portland, Maine, Brink said. Areas of the mid-Atlantic could see some snowfall as early as Monday night, she said, and snow is likely to keep falling Tuesday through Wednesday. Boston could get 2-4 inches of snow and 3-6 inches could fall on Washington, DC, Brink said.

However, the system’s exact path is still uncertain and should become clearer in the next 24 hours, Ward said. At this point, Ward said, the question is whether the system will continue east toward the coast or travel north. If it veers north, there will be significant snow in New England, but if it goes eastward, it’ll mean less snow for the region.

New England is still reeling from last week’s storm, which the weather service declared a blizzard. Before that, a storm dropped heavy, wet snow in areas west of Interstate 95 and left one person dead in New York state.

On March 2, a nor’easter that morphed into a “bomb cyclone” slammed much of the Northeast with heavy snow and rain, hurricane-force wind gusts and significant coastal flooding. The storm left six people dead from falling trees, and about 900,000 customers lost power.

Nor’easters aren’t uncommon for New England during this time of year, CNN meteorologist Jenn Varian said. They can occur any time of year, but they’re strongest from September to April.

Severe weather is also impacting the West Coast. Santa Barbara County officials have issued a mandatory evacuation order for high-risk debris flow areas ahead of a mid-week storm in California.

“We have no choice but do to this,” said Santa Barbara Sheriff Bill Brown. “It’s not worth risking lives to avoid evacuation.”

The evacuation is effective Tuesday at 12 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (3 p.m. on the East Coast) for burn areas near the Thomas, Sherpa and Whittier fires.

Those in impacted areas have until 5 p.m. PST Tuesday to evacuate, Brown said.

According to Rob Lewin, director of the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management, the storm may cause severe flooding and mudflow. The National Weather Service predicts between 5 and 10 inches of rain in the foothills and mountains, reaching between half an inch to three-quarters of an inch per hour.