Lunar Eclipse Tonight

A total eclipse of the Moon will be occurring tonight. The entire event is visible from South America and most of North America (on Feb. 20) as well as Western Europe, Africa, and western Asia (on Feb. 21). During a total lunar eclipse, the Moon’s disk can take on a dramatically colorful appearance from bright orange to blood red to dark brown and (rarely) very dark gray.

An eclipse of the Moon can only take place at Full Moon, and only if the Moon passes through some portion of Earth’s shadow. The shadow is actually composed of two cone-shaped parts, one nested inside the other. The outer shadow or penumbra is a zone where Earth blocks some (but not all) of the Sun’s rays. In contrast, the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon.

The above diagram gives a good description of how the eclipse will play out tonight and let’s keep our fingers crossed for a partly cloudy sky. I have included the latest IR satellite images for your viewing. Unfortunately, we’re expecting the clouds to gradually thicken tonight.

(Image Source: NASA)

Wes Wyatt
WVUA Chief Meteorologist

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Wednesday Afternoon Forecast Discussion

Hopefully, the clouds will hold off for the Lunar Eclipse tonight. This will be a total Lunar Eclipse and the next similar event doesn’t occur until 2010. Tonight the clouds will continue to filter in and we may deal with a few showers during the overnight period. A warm front will be lifting in our direction and this will set the stage for occasional rain tomorrow, especially by the afternoon. The Hydrometeorological Predicition Center is painting quite a bit of rain over West Alabama. Some areas could receive totals topping the 2” mark by Friday night. Also, there may be some thunderstorms later tomorrow and tomorrow night due to elevated instability. An area of low pressure will march into Alabama from the southwest and this will swing a cold front into the state. Look for more rain and thunderstorms to materialize.

We will have to watch the conditions south of Tuscaloosa closely Friday morning as the atmosphere will be destabilizing quickly. The warm/moist sector will be feeding thunderstorms and I can’t rule out the unstable zone shifting northward a bit. South Alabama is currently in a slight risk zone for severe weather, as issued by The Storm Prediction Center. Therefore, we will have to watch developments closely tomorrow and tomorrow night. Just note that for now the severe weather threat looks to be over the southern counties in our coverage area. The rain and thunderstorms will be shifting eastward by Friday evening and we will have drier air filtering into the state. Some early morning drizzle or a stray shower could impact the southern portions of the area early Saturday morning, with afternoon sunshine.

Saturday night will be a cold one with readings dropping into the 30s; however a partly sunny sky will allow us to warm into the 60s on Sunday. Another cold front will approach the area on Tuesday. Monday will start off sunny for the most part, with afternoon clouds. Look for the chance of a passing shower or thunderstorm late Monday night and early Tuesday, followed by a big cool down.

Wes Wyatt
WVUA Chief Meteorologist

Severe Weather Awareness Week-“Tornado Safety”

Severe Weather Awareness Week continues with today’s topic of Tornadoes. A Tornado is a violent column of rotating air and in our part of the country a tornado is often difficult to spot. That is why the best advice is to take immediate action when a warning is issued. A warning means a tornado has either been sighted or detected by Doppler radar. Act quickly and do not hesitate, have a plan of action, and have a NOAA weather radio to alert you at all times. It is not a matter of will a tornado impact our area it is a matter of when will it happen. This year marks the 10 year anniversary of the deadly F-5 tornado that moved through the Oak Grove Community in Jefferson County. Three powerful tornadoes crossed central Alabama that day and 32 Alabamians lost their lives. The following is a list of some of the best safety tips from the National Weather Service.

In homes or small buildings, go to the basement or a small Interior room such as a closet, bathroom or an interior hallway on the lowest level. Get under something sturdy like a heavy table, if available. Protect yourself from flying debris with pillows, heavy Coats, blankets or quilts. Use bicycle or motorcycle helmets to protect your head.

Stay away from windows, doors and outside walls. Do not bother Opening or closing windows and doors as this will not protect the structure. This will only cause you to waste valuable time which may put yourself and possibly others at greater risk. Use those valuable seconds to find a place of safety. Remember to protect your head.

In schools, nursing homes, hospitals, factories and shopping centers, go to a pre-designated shelter area. Basements are the best, but interior hallways on the lowest floor usually offer Protection also. Close all doors to the hallway to ensure the best protection.

In mobile homes or vehicles, leave them and go to a strong building. If there is no shelter nearby, get into the nearest ditch, depression or underground culvert and lie flat with your hands shielding your head. But please be wary of the potential of flash flooding in these low lying areas.

(Image Source: Birmingham NWS)

Wes Wyatt
WVUA Chief Meteorologist