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January 10, 2014

Triangle could face severe weather on Saturday

Eastern North Carolina, including Raleigh/Durham, could see severe weather Saturday afternoon.

It’s unusual, but not unheard of to have a severe weather outbreak in January in North Carolina. Tomorrow is one of those unusual days. A cold front moving across the country will arrive Saturday with all of the ingredients for severe thunderstorms and maybe even an isolated tornado.

We are experiencing rain showers today, which will continue through tomorrow while a weak stationary front sits over our region. Tomorrow morning, the winds will shift and begin coming from the south bringing in warmer, moist air and adding to the instability of our atmosphere. That warmer air is the reason the forecast high is in the lower 70s despite the lack of sun, and the additional moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast of Florida means that we could see an inch or more of rain tomorrow.

There will be enough wind shear (the turning of the wind with height) and energy available tomorrow afternoon that strong to severe thunderstorms could develop just ahead of the cold front. In fact, in cases with the set up we’ll have tomorrow, isolated tornadoes can occur in the region where the warm air still has a foothold just ahead of the front.

Do not be surprised tomorrow if the National Weather Service issues a severe thunderstorm watch or a tornado watch late morning or early afternoon. Even if a watch is not issued, you would be wise to keep an eye on the weather and pay attention to local media through the afternoon and early evening hours.

The front should pass by late evening and the sun will return Sunday morning. Although the front is technically a cold front, the temperatures behind it will still be mild by January standards. A second front will bring a chance for rain Monday night into Tuesday, and cooler temperatures by Wednesday.

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