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Area schools to close, NWS urges caution in advance of approaching storm system

Some area school administrators have announced closures in anticipation of possible severe weather forecast for Thursday, Feb. 17. The majority of Hale county was considered by the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center to be in an area of “enhanced risk” as of Wednesday night, and portions of Perry were in the “enhanced” risk area, as well.

In response, Hale County Board of Education announced that all Hale County schools would close at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa announced on Wednesday afternoon that its campus would shut down at noon. And Breakthrough Charter School in Marion posted an announcement to Facebook that its classes would dismiss at 1:00 p.m. in response to the predicted storms. Perry County Board of Education had not announced plans to close school in Uniontown or Marion on any of its social media channels as of Wednesday night, though that announcement may still come.

The National Weather Service’s Birmingham office said Wednesday that the storm system, bringing with it cold winds, could mean powerful and destructive gusts of wind for parts of Alabama. The strongest winds were predicted to be in store for the northern parts of the state, where Meteorologist James Spann said gusts up to 45-50 miles per hour could blow down power lines and trees. These winds, both Spann and the NWS noted in their forecasts, would occur separate from any thunderstorm activity that may form throughout the day. Those systems, Alabamians know well, bring with them their own problems.

NWS Birmingham’s Twitter account on Wednesday noted that unseasonably warm air over the state meeting the cold air of the storm system could be a recipe for tornadic acticity.

“If you’ve lived in [Alabama] long enough,” you know temps like this usually indicate bad weather potential,” NWS Birmingham tweeted.

Spann reminded his followers to have a reliable way of receiving severe weather warnings, preferably a weather radio that is battery operated in case of power outages.

People in areas where thunderstorms and tornadoes are possible should not rely on tornado sirens as their first warning that bad weather is coming, as by the time this system is activated, it is often too late to seek adequate safety.

The NWS’s Selma weather radio transmitter, which had been off the air for several days, was back online as of mid-day Wednesday. That transmitter serves all of Dallas, most of Perry, and parts of Hale and other nearby Black Belt counties.