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FRIDAY, MARCH 2, 2007
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Lack of sunshine helps Valley area escape worst

From Staff Reports

On some occasions, not getting any sunshine can be a good thing, and Thursday was such a day for the Tennessee Valley.

Except for one tornado warning, issued for Winston County for a storm that drifted into parts of Morgan and Cullman counties at about 4 p.m., the area avoided the storms and tornadic winds that struck the state farther south, although Cullman County also was briefly under a tornado warning.

Meteorologist Jason Elliott of the National Weather Service office in Huntsville said the Decatur-Huntsville area had the ingredients for severe weather, including moisture, warm temperatures and high dew points.

"We just didn't have the sunshine that makes the atmosphere more unstable to generate severe thunderstorms and help sustain them for long periods of time," Elliott said.

He said the storms had a dry line behind them and ahead of a cold front. Temperatures Friday could reach 65 degrees; then the cold air will drag temperatures down.

"We'll struggle to reach 50 on Saturday and Sunday," Elliott said, "and the nights will drop below freezing."

He said temperatures could return to the 50s and 60s next week, while the next rain should not reach the area until the end of next week.

Still, the threat of storms Thursday led school officials to take precautionary measures. Lawrence County Schools was the first to take action, calling off classes early Thursday morning.

The remaining area schools in Morgan and Limestone counties began dismissing classes between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, barge traffic on the Tennessee River through Decatur was minimal, and barges that were in port were lashed side-to-side to minimize their exposure to the wind.

Rick Terry, vice president of marketing of Decatur Transit's Port of Decatur, said high winds have little effect on loaded barges. Empty barges, however, are vulnerable. But Terry didn't expect Thursday's weather to have a significant impact on barge traffic.

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