August 1, 2018

Damaging Winds and Isolated Tornadoes Possible on the East Coast on Wednesday

A threat for severe weather will accompany thunderstorms that pop up east of the Appalachians this afternoon. The Storm Prediction Center has issued a slight risk for severe weather—a 2 on a scale from 1 to 5—due to the threat for damaging winds and an isolated risk for tornadoes and large hail. The threat shouldn't be widespread, but any storm that develops could get strong in a hurry.

The eastern United States is deep in a gross weather pattern that just doesn't want to go away. A strong Bermuda High over the western Atlantic is funneling rich tropical moisture as far north as the Canadian Maritimes. This is why the East Coast has been so unusually muggy and wet for the past couple of weeks.

Source: Tropical Tidbits
A sharp trough stretching from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast on Wednesday will force thunderstorms to develop along and east of the Appalachian Mountains once daytime heating sufficiently destabilizes the atmosphere. There's enough wind shear in the atmosphere that conditions are favorable for storms to organize into squall lines—where damaging winds would be the greatest threat—or even isolated supercells, where large hail and tornadoes could occur.

It's not hard for thunderstorms in the middle of the summer to produce damaging wind gusts, especially in the southeastern United States where storms have ample moisture to work with. The severe weather threat today is exactly where you'd expect to see severe thunderstorms at the beginning of August.

Not only is there a risk for severe weather, but we can't discount the threat for flash flooding where storms develop. Flash flood watches are in effect from the Alabama coast all the way up to northeastern Pennsylvania. This region has seen a lot of rain recently. Parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland saw more than a foot of rain last week. The combination of soggy ground and the potential for torrential rain in any storms that form will heighten the risk for flash flooding through the end of the week.

It's a good idea to check your smartphone to make sure that emergency alerts are activated. People like to shut those off after one too many AMBER Alerts or flash flood warnings, but it's really helpful when you're out and about and a tornado warning is issued for your location.

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.