It's an old "rule of thumb" for the Southeast - admittedly anecdotal and not backed by scientific research - that when you get an extended period of abnormally warm weather in the middle of winter it will culminate in a round of severe thunderstorms, it's just a question of when. We just may be on track for something like that to happen as the pattern begins to evolve into something more like January.
From January 7-8 when we had a high of 37º followed by a low of 19º, temperatures have climbed steadily and we have now experienced seven consecutive days of 70 degrees or higher, including one record high on the 13th. The reason for the warmth is a flip in the briefly cold pattern that has put the Deep South under an upper high that doesn't seem to want to be dislodged. But now the storm systems that have been hitting the West are starting to do their work on the ridge, and we expect it to break down over the next week when a new series of powerful storms comes crashing into California and heads east.
That will set us up for several opportunities for rain and thunderstorms, the first one Thursday night into Friday, another chance for Saturday, and the strongest of the bunch on track for Sunday into next Monday. Since it's 5 days away, there are a lot of unknowns regarding the placement, timing, and intensity of the weather that storm will bring, but the overall upper configuration is looking rather ominous at this range. The only forecast I can make at this point is that someone, somewhere will see severe storms Saturday and Sunday, and based on past experience with these kinds of systems a tornado threat is likely.
Now, much could happen between now and then: The severe storms could wind up being limited to the Gulf coast and give us only rain and some rumblers, the instability could wind up too low, or the whole mess won't line up right and it all blows by too fast to do any damage. Almost anything is on the table at this juncture.
After that system exits the U.S. on Monday, it should quiet down and cool off temporarily before the ridge builds back (yeah, that's what I'm seeing!) but beyond that it does look like colder air - not necessarily arctic though - will be taking over much of the country. That could prove interesting as we close out January and move into early February.
Warm or cold, it's rarely a dull moment where winter weather is concerned. Keep up on later weather forecasts the rest of this week as the First Alert weather team zeroes in on how the weekend storm is going to develop.
Kurt Schmitz, Senior Meteorologist