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Election 2016: Severe storms to target southern US Super Tuesday voting states

By By Michael Kuhne, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
March 03, 2016, 1:30:11 AM EST

With primary season well underway, Democrats and Republicans across 13 states will venture out to the polls this upcoming Super Tuesday, set for March 1.

Voters from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming will participate in their respective caucuses and primaries, making it the biggest day of 2016 Presidential Election season so far.

"It looks like we should have a positive turnout," AccuWeather Business Intelligence Manager and Meteorologist Tim Loftus said.

Loftus utilized L2 as a resource when conducting his research, which included analyzing weather trends and voter data to election seasons dating as far back as 1996. According to the research, weather does impact how some voters respond when making a decision to head to the polls.

Take a look at several of the states where data could be obtained on how weather may influence voters on Super Tuesday.

Due to the severe weather threat in the South Central states, voters in areas such as far eastern parts of Oklahoma and Texas, Arkansas, western Tennessee and northwestern Alabama will want to closely monitor their local AccuWeather forecast to know when the best time will be to head out to vote and to avoid potentially dangerous conditions.


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Alabama

Tuesday will be a cloudy to partly sunny day. Thunderstorms will threaten the northern and western areas of the state, mainly during the afternoon and shift into the eastern and southern portions of the state during the evening. These thunderstorms have the potential to become severe with damaging winds and flash flooding as the main threats.

"Female voters will be more deterred to hit the polls when Heating Degree Days, or HDD, are higher and the forecast temperatures in the northern sections of the state are supposed to dip below the comfortable 65 degrees," Loftus said.

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Heating Degree Days are used to reflect the average demand for energy consumption when outdoor temperatures dip to, or below 65 F, the average in which heating is required to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature of 70 F.

"Overall turnout due to the weather impact is expected to be lower by a couple of percentage points especially in the northern counties," he added.

Arkansas

"Weather is expected to be quite impactful on Super Tuesday in Arkansas," Loftus said.

"Unsettled weather will likely decrease voter turnout across the state," he added.

According to Loftus' research, warmer weather accompanied by rain is a combination that is not so encouraging for voters.

Severe storms will develop over the a large portion of the state on Tuesday from northwest to southeast. Damaging wind gusts and torrential downpours are the primary threats with any storms that move through the state.

Severe weather will impact the western half of the state during the morning hours before tracking toward the eastern half during the afternoon.

Georgia

A cold front will be approaching from the west during Tuesday night. While most of the day will be dry, a shower could dampen northern Georgia, with the bigger threat for thunderstorms, some severe in the northwestern counties, coming at night.

Ahead of the front, Tuesday will be mild and breezy with highs running around 10 degrees above average.

“Above-average low temperatures favor a higher turnout. However, higher wind speeds tend to deter voters from hitting the polls,” Loftus added.

Massachusetts

"Voters aren’t deterred by cold weather in Massachusetts, which is no surprise," Loftus said. "The only big factor could be snowfall, especially if it proceeds Election Day," he said

“However, snow doesn’t impact the female vote in Massachusetts,” he added.

A dry day is in store across the state on Tuesday. An approaching storm will produce spotty showers overnight.

Oklahoma

Thunderstorms capable of dropping blinding downpours and damaging winds will threaten far eastern Oklahoma Tuesday morning, creating hazards for some motorists driving to polling stations.

By the afternoon, the entire state will be dry but windy. Winds could occasionally gust over 30 mph.

"Heavy rain exceeding 0.50 of an inch during a period of three hours or more has a negative impact on voters especially in counties with high-population densities such as greater than 1,000 persons per square mile," Loftus said.

"Ages 45 to 54 are most sensitive to rainfall and will be likely to stay home during a rainy primary election," Loftus said.

Tennessee

"Cool and damp weather causes voters to stay inside, but if temperatures are comfortable, rain won’t bother them all too much unless it is severe, in which notifications may cause voters to vote either early or after the storms clear," Loftus said.

The weather across the state will be mild. While there can be a shower or two over eastern areas, the threat of severe thunderstorms will develop across western areas, including Memphis, during the afternoon. The potential for severe thunderstorms will affect middle Tennessee during the late afternoon and early evening hours.

"Tennessee Republicans will have a higher turnout as temperatures are expected to be well above average, especially in central and eastern parts of the state. Overall, turnout is expected to be higher than 2012," according to Loftus.


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Texas

"Due to the sheer size of Texas, the weather and turnout will vary," Loftus said.

Far northeastern Texas will face the threat of severe thunderstorms on Tuesday as a storm blasts the central U.S. The greatest chance of a severe thunderstorm will be across the northeastern portion during Monday morning and across the southeastern portion, including Houston, during the afternoon hours.

Dry conditions will unfold across the rest of the state, however. Gusty winds will develop across northern and central Texas as cooler air plunges southward.

"Overall, most counties will see either no change in turnout compared to 2012 or a slightly higher turnout," he said.

Fair conditions with low relative humidity, limited cloud cover [below 50 percent] and no rainfall increases turnout in Texas, according to Loftus' research.

Vermont

"Very little change in turnout is forecast in Vermont this year compared to 2012," Loftus said.

"Cloudy skies with a chance of snow showers do not have any negative impact to turnout during primary elections. In fact, the findings suggest, turnout actually increases during cloudier conditions in Vermont," he added.

The greater threat for travel disruptions may arise at night as a winter storm moves into the interior Northeast.

Virginia

"The warmer the conditions, the better the turnout is expected to be. This is especially true for voters in counties with lower population densities," Loftus said. Specifically, counties with population densities less than 1,000 persons per square mile.

Tuesday will feel like spring across Virginia, with high temperatures expected to rise 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

Higher low temperatures should also favor turnouts of singles or family members with less than three people, and Europeans, according to his research.


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Following back-to-back primary victories, Trump further clinched the Republican lead by winning the Republican Nevada caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 23, according to the Associated Press.

In order to win the Republican nomination for president, 1,237 delegates are needed. At stake on March 1 is a total of 595 delegates, making Super Tuesday an important step forward, according to NOLA.com.

For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton is front runner, ahead of Bernie Sanders, and has secured wins in Iowa and Nevada.

According to a recent report from the Washington Post, Clinton's win in Nevada by five points makes Super Tuesday the biggest day in the primary season so far.

"All told, there will be 974 delegates at stake in the Democratic contest, or 40 percent of the 2,383 a candidate needs to secure the nomination," the Washington Post reported. "The big prize is Texas, with 252 delegates, followed by Georgia and Massachusetts with 116 each and Virginia with 110."

While weather does impact some voter turnout, according to AccuWeather Business Intelligence Manager Rosemary Radich, it is usually the air temperature that influences people's decision of whether to head to the polls or not, rather than precipitation.

"When it comes to voter turnout, it really depends on a variety of other factors, including the enthusiasm level for the candidates, how close the race is and the individual's campaign success," Radich said.

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