A weak impulse in the middle parts of the atmosphere appears to have ignited a cluster of showers and thunderstorms this morning over the western Florida Panhandle into parts of Southwest Georgia. The heaviest rain is located west of a Marianna to Panama City line in Florida and north of U.S. Highway 84 in Georgia. A cold front is stretched out from northeast to southwest from the North Georgia mountains to near Destin. This front is not expected to move very much this weekend, but mid and upper-level disturbances moving along it will have the opportunity to produce some rain. The latest model guidance and satellite imagery show this first wave of rain slowly weakening today, but additional much-needed rain will fall in the far northwestern corner of our viewing area. More than one-half inch should fall around Donalsonville, Colquitt, Albany, Tifton and Blakely. A good chunk of our area will miss out on any significant rains. Instead, it will take until at least midday to break up the low clouds and fog. Even if a few breaks of sunshine develop (which I suspect will happen), temperatures should easily get into the mid 70s and the sunniest areas will get near 80.
We are watching the next (and stronger) upper disturbance ejecting from the Four Corners toward Texas and Oklahoma. We will be in between systems tonight, so only low clouds, fog and drizzle are anticipated. The disturbance is forecast to swing more toward the northeast, taking the strongest lift toward the western Florida Panhandle, Southeast Alabama and Southwest through Central Georgia. That means the best rain chances will be over the same areas on Sunday; that is, in the northwest portion of our viewing area. The models are showing some instability emanating from air parcels that are lifted from above the surface. Our northwestern viewing area is also favorably positioned with respect to the upper jet stream. The vigorous jet circulation and elevated instability may well allow for hail-producing supercells to organize in those areas. I want to emphasize that only the far northwestern corner of our area (i.e. northwest of a line from Panama City to Bainbridge to Tifton) seem to be the only areas threatened by severe weather. The remainder of our area will probably see scattered showers and perhaps a rumble of thunder, at the most. We will, of course, monitor radar and model trends throughout the day and night, and refine the forecast as things evolve.
Modestly cooler air will arrive on New Years Eve and Day behind this first front. Weather conditions at midnight on New Years Eve should be dry with temperatures a little bit above normal for the season. A light jacket should be fine for those of you with outdoor plans. The much colder air is expected to arrive on Tuesday night. Wednesday will be extremely chilly, with a light freeze becoming more likely in the morning and temperatures getting stuck in the 40s during the afternoon. Thursday morning will be even colder, but the models are keeping the winds up a little bit as the surface high pressure stays to our north. That said, it's still unclear if we will see our first hard freeze of the season (defined as having temperatures at or below 25 degrees for at least 2 consecutive hours), but we will at least see a light to moderate freeze. The cold blast should be brief as the long range models show a rapid moderating trend commencing next weekend.