Shoals authorities were bracing overnight for what was expected to be a powerful predawn storm front that could carry widespread damaging winds with gusts exceeding 70 mph.
Officials were told during a Tuesday afternoon briefing with the National Weather Service office in Huntsville that the front likely would hit northwest Alabama between 3-6 a.m.
Weather service officials said they expected to issue an overnight wind advisory because of sustained winds around 20 to 30 mph after midnight that pack mighty gusts of 60 to 70 mph or stronger. The advisory was expected to last through 6 p.m. today, although the most forceful winds are likely to end early this morning.
There also is a slight risk of an isolated tornado, but those chances are only about 10 percent, according to the weather service.
Meteorologists said if a tornado forms, it would last for a brief span rather than stay on the ground for a long period.
Residents were advised to bring in or tie down loose outdoor objects such as patio furniture.
“With sustained winds at this speed added to the kinds of gusts they’re talking about, that’s not a good combination,” said George Grabryan, director of the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency. “If you’re in one of those areas that gets that kind of wind, you’re going to know it.”
He said if you’ve awakened today to such winds or encounter damage or outages from the winds, it’s important to use common sense.
“I’m hoping it’ll calm down by the morning rush of people going to work and school,” Grabryan said. “It would be a good day to use very close caution driving this morning. If you’re an early riser, you could find yourself driving on a road with a tree down.”
Avoid downed power lines and don’t try to drive over them, Grabryan said.
Heavy rainfall from the system also could be a factor, especially under such windy conditions.
“You may have some wind-driven rain, which means your home might have some leaks in places it doesn’t normally have them,” Grabryan said.
If the storm packs the kind of punch that is anticipated, 911 operators and other emergency officials are going to be busy and don’t need unnecessary calls to hamper them.
“If you lose your power, that’s not an emergency,” Grabryan said. “Don’t call 911; call your electricity department. We need to keep emergency lines open for bona fide emergencies.”
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.