Severe weather could delay school starts

Published 7:55pm Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Forecasters say clashing weather systems are creating a chance for severe weather in Alabama — a threat Dallas County residents should be prepared for between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

“The main squall line will be entering west Alabama late [Tuesday night] and reach central Alabama sometime [Wednesday],” Mark Rose, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Birmingham said during a weather briefing Tuesday afternoon. “But some people are focusing too much on the squall line. [We also need to] highlight the possibility of super cells developing ahead of the squall line. I think there could be some rotating storms ahead of the squall line by several hours.”

The weather service in Mobile agreed and said, “We will have some distinct thunderstorms that develop outside, ahead of the squall line — anywhere a couple of hours ahead of the squall line you can expect a storm.”

The problem is an advancing cold front that’s moving toward Alabama from the west. Forecasters say strong storms could develop as the cooler air meets with warm, moist flowing northward from the Gulf of Mexico. The weather service says winds gusting to 60 mph are possible in southwest Alabama, and winds up to 45 mph are possible further north.

With the main threat reaching Dallas County between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., the time bus routes begin and students are being dropped off at schools, parents should be aware of the severe weather, as schools plan to announce their plans on start delays in the early hours of Wednesday morning, if needed.

“[Dallas County School] busses start around 6 a.m.,” Don Willingham, assistant superintendent of Dallas County School said.  “Right now we’re still planning on starting school on time. If anything changes, EMA’s real good about calling us. Hopefully we’re on the tail end of the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. [timeline] and we’ll already be in place.”

Rhonda Abbott, Dallas County EMA director said she plans to watch the storm and let schools know the status of Wednesday’s severe the weather.

“Our job will be, early in the morning to be those school’s eyes and call them and let them know what is going on with the weather,” Abbott said.  “We have a 24-hour connect with the Weather Service. We will be in our office extremely early in the morning watching this to be sure. We have contact information of a list of people that we’ll need to get in touch with if there is a need to do that.”

Abbott said they would also be monitoring the isolated storms that are predicted to pop up ahead of the main line.

“The other threat is storms should start popping up ahead of that line, so it could be two rounds of severe weather, possibly,” Abbot said. “It’s going to be one of those ‘wait and see’ things.”

Abbot said as of Tuesday evening she had not heard from any area schools making a change in their schedule.

“We’ve got time to wait and see what’s going to happen, so that’s really what they’re looking at now. And we have a plan in place where we’ll contact all the principals and bus drivers,” Abbott said. “The county schools are our main concern with travel because their bus routes are so long. They have bus routes that are over an hour long. So you’re looking at 5 a.m., those busses get on the road at 6 a.m. — those calls have to be made extremely early.”

For up to date information on the severe weather, Abbott said to visit the National Weather Service’s webiste, http://www.srh.noaa.gov/bmx.

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