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TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2005
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Expect severe weather today; hail likely

By Ken Retherford
DAILY Weekend Editor

kretherford@decaturdaily.com 340-2444

Between 6 and midmorning today, the National Weather Service is expecting a mass of cold and warm moist air to collide over the area, bringing the threat of severe storms.

Meteorologist Steve Shumway with the weather service at Huntsville, said the area can expect hail, perhaps as large as golf balls. Hail is often a precursor to tornado conditions.

As the system may pass during mid-morning, Shumway recommends that people at work have a plan should they hear a warning siren or the weather service issues a warning.

"They should pick out a spot at work or if they are driving, remember not to park under an underpass or stay in their car."

One of the safer places for those in cars, if no protection is available, is in a roadside ditch.

"We're looking for it to spread across most of Alabama by afternoon and then begin tapering off by in the evening," Shumway said. "It should be over by midnight."

As the front approaches from the west, Shumway said, it's pulling up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.

"As it steers this way, it will be setting up the conditions needed for severe weather, so look for damaging winds along with the hail."

The weather service considers a storm severe if it has winds of 58 mph or more. The storm spawned no tornadoes as it hit Oklahoma on Monday, but Shumway said tornado watches were up in its path. The weather service expects it to intensify as it approaches Alabama.

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