Damaging winds, tornadoes possible Friday night in Tuscaloosa

Severe weather on Friday night and into Saturday morning could bring damaging winds up to 60 miles per hour and the possibility of tornadoes to the Tuscaloosa area, according to the National Weather Service in Birmingham.

The entire state will be under the threat of severe weather Friday night and early Saturday morning, forecasters say.

Alex Sizemore, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Birmingham, said Tuscaloosa area residents can expect the risk of severe weather to begin around 11 p.m. Friday and last until 8 a.m. Saturday.

Severe Storms Outlook for Friday
Severe Storms Outlook for Friday

Sizemore said the biggest concern for Friday will be the threat of tornadoes. Even if the system doesn't spawn tornadoes, Sizemore said front could generate winds up to 60 mph, which can be just as destructive. These winds can cause power outrages, fallen trees, debris and more.

Friday's severe weather outlook now shows the western half of Tuscaloosa County under an enhanced risk and the eastern half with a slight risk, but Sizemore said all residents should take these threats seriously and plan accordingly, regardless of which risk category their part of the county is in.

"In those situations, what we typically tell people is don't get too fixated on the colors, that your preparedness should to be the same. Because the threats are pretty much the same," Sizemore said.

"For example, Tuscaloosa is going to be under the threat of tornadoes and damaging winds. It's going to be Friday night into early Saturday morning. So that entire timeframe, we would encourage people in the Tuscaloosa area to be prepared for those threats. Don't worry about the colors on the map right now, your preparedness should be the same," he said.

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Now is the time to plan ahead and have multiple ways to stay weather aware throughout the night, Sizemore said.

Sizemore said overnight storms can be tricky since some residents tend to snooze through storms and it may be difficult to wake up when a warning is issued.

"The best thing to do overnight in these situations is have is to have multiple ways to get weather warnings. So if we issue a warning or a weather watch, which the weather watch will probably be in place before you go to bed. But if you were to go under a warning while you're trying to get sleep ... something needs to wake you up," Sizemore said.

"So have your phone charged and ready to go, have your wireless emergency alerts turned on. If you got a weather radio, have that turned on ready to go. It doesn't hurt to have multiple ways to have warnings in case one of those aren't working. So we always encourage everybody to have more than one way to get a weather warning,," he said.

Sleeping through these storms may be tempting, but it's important for residents to have multiple ways to stay alert throughout the night and not ignore any issued warnings, Sizemore said.

"You know if you're under a tornado warning, you don't want to be laying in bed and just ignore it. You want to get to your safe place until you know the warnings clear. So I tell those folks to get to have something there to wake them up. That way they can get to a safe location," he said.

Weather experts also say it's important to know the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A watch means conditions are favorable for tornadoes to occur. A warning means a tornado has been spotted or indicated on weather radar and you need to get to a safe place immediately.

For weather updates, residents can also follow the Tuscaloosa Emergency Management Agency on Twitter at @TuscaloosaCoEMA; The National Weather Service in Birmingham's account at @NWSBirmingham; and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency's account at @AlabamaEMA.

Reach Jasmine Hollie at JHollie@gannett.com.

The Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency has a list of storm shelters at www.tuscaloosacountyema.org/storm-shelters. Residents can also sign up to get weather alerts from the Tuscaloosa EMA on their phone by signing up for TuscAlert. A link to sign up for TuscAlert is provided at www.tuscaloosacountyema.org.

Reach Jasmine Hollie at JHollie@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Damaging winds, tornadoes possible late Friday night in Tuscaloosa