Severe weather expected in Blackbelt this weekend

Published 6:29 pm Friday, December 20, 2013

By Sarah Mahan

The Selma Times-Journal


Severe weather is likely Saturday night into Sunday morning as a line of severe thunderstorms is expected to move through the area.

The storms, expected to produce high winds and the possibility for tornadoes, will reach Selma between 2 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday morning, according to Tim Steskovich of the National Weather Service in Birmingham.

“Most of the damage that occurs in Alabama is not because of tornadoes but because of straight-line winds,” Steskovich said. “We need people to take those severe thunderstorm warnings seriously.”

Steskovich said a high likelihood exists for a tornado watch to be issued for areas in and around Selma, meaning conditions will be favorable for the formation of tornadoes with winds between 60 and 80 mph.

“Selma is right in the bubble for potential for severe weather,” he said, noting that the biggest threat for severe weather lies west of Interstate 59, which runs between Tuscaloosa and Birmingham.

Ronda Abbott of the Dallas County Emergency Management Agency said the expected time of the storms increases risks for residents.

“People will be sleeping, and they need to be able to receive these [weather] notifications,” Abbott said. “They need to be able to know what’s going on and to not be complacent that it’s not going to happen. Things do happen, and we have to encourage people to try to be prepared.��

Steskovich and Abbott agreed paying attention to multiple types of warnings is important.

“Since it will be coming through during the early morning hours, some folks may still be asleep even,” Steskovich said. “We want to make sure they have a weather radio or a phone app to wake them up. Do not depend upon outdoor warning sirens. Sirens are meant for people who are outdoors.”

Abbott said the EMA is operating under its normal, necessary precautions for the weekend.

“When we go under a tornado watch, our office will be totally staffed,” she said. We’ve got to get that word out to people. They need to be able to receive these watches and warning when they’re issued.”