My first J.B. Elliott experience was probably in 1971. The National Weather Service in Birmingham had a recorded telephone line for the forecast. It was updated a few times a day by the meteorological technicians and forecasters that worked there at the office at 11 West Oxmoor Road in Homewood. When there was active weather, they could shorten the recording length and provide more frequent updates. One voice on the line could be counted upon to deliver excellent severe weather updates and even tropical advisory information. That was the trusted voice of J.B. Elliott.
As a nine year old that year, I had discovered tracking hurricanes and was using my trusty World Book Atlas to plot tropical cyclone positions from the advisories. The first storm I ever tracked was Edith that September. The major hurricane came together over the southern Caribbean and reached peak intensity on September 9th before it made landfall in Nicaragua. The storm weakened considerably and meandered northwestward, eventually crossed the Yucatan Peninsula and entered the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. It moved into Mexico then tracked slowly north northeastward along the coast. On the 15th, it was picked up by an approaching trough and shunted rapidly northeastward toward the Louisiana coast. It made landfall 30 miles east of Cameron as a minimal hurricane on the morning of the 16th.
As a fourth grader at McElwain Elementary, I begged to stay home on Thursday the 16th so that I could track the storm. It may have been the first hurricane weather day in history for a Birmingham school student. I followed the hourly observations by listening to the ATIS from the Birmingham Airport on an old Patrolman 6 VHF/UHF radio. The winds only gusted to 31 mph at BHM, but I recorded the reports diligently like it was a category five hurricane. 1.94 inches of rain fell at the Airport.
By the next year though, I was addicted to the reports on the recorded line. There was no Weather Channel, no internet, no weather radio, and barely any television weather. And you knew that it was going to be a good weather information day when you heard that reassuring voice.
But I didn’t know who it belonged to. It would be 1976 before I would meet the man behind the voice at the NWS. And in November of that year, NOAA Weather Radio came to Birmingham. Then it was on! J.B. quickly established himself as the trusted voice for Central Alabama weather on the new KIH-54 station.
Anytime there was active weather, you hoped J.B. was working. You knew then that you were in good hands for the next 8 hours or so. That never was truer than on April 4, 1977. I was the only kid at Huffman High School who carried a NOAA Weather Radio to school. I knew that we had trouble when a tornado warning was issued shortly before 3 p.m., which was dismissal time. I went up to the teacher and told her that a warning had been issued and that we needed to let someone know so that we could sound the tornado drill bell. She told me to sit down.
The rear flank downdraft struck with a fury even as the dismissal bell sounded. I hit the hallway running, but could not open the glass doors. The tornado bells sounded immediately afterwards and we were all hurried downstairs. The storm passed well to the north of us and we were allowed to leave. J.B. was broadcasting live on KIH-54, the first of several times that would happen under his watch.
J.B. would bolster his image as a weather legend with his updates that afternoon and over the next twelve years. Any event that warranted reports on the “Alabama Weather Situation” immediately got your attention. He would continue to be the voice of NOAA Weatheradio for everyone in Central Alabama until his retirement in 1989. The article that ran in The Birmingham News when he retired is shown here.
But that would not be the end of his storied career. He has been creating content for The Weather Company (now known as The Weather Factory) ever since. And while he has officially retired from his day to day forecasting duties, he still is an owner in the company. He has his logon for AlabamaWx and he promises you will see occasional stories under his byline in coming days. He will also make an appearance on WeatherBrains from time.
Sally and I went out to J.B. and Judy’s house last Thursday to take them a set of birthday cupcakes. J.B. was funny and said thank you to everyone for his birthday wishes. M&M were in rare form as well.
Thank you J.B. for your years of service to the people of Alabama, your mentoring and your friendship. You are an Alabama Weather Legend.
The tale of two skies continues across the state of Alabama on this Easter Sunday.
Skies are cloudy south of I-85 and US-80 over the southeastern part of the state when some moisture is riding up and over the high pressure over southern Alabama. Funny thing, the moisture is coming from an unusual direction: the northeast. The culprit is the large low off the coast of the Carolinas. Elsewhere, skies are a bright blue.
The closest rain to Alabama is some showers along the Carolina Coast. Just a little further away, we find some showers and storms over Texas and Oklahoma ahead of our next weather system.
Temperatures this afternoon across Central Alabama will be in the 76-79F range with a few readings touching 80F as the clouds stay well to the south and gradually erode. Lows tonight will be near 50F.
It has been a rainy, cloudy and cool day across Central Alabama, with a chilly easterly breeze thrown in for good measure. Highs in the I-20 corridor were generally in the upper 50s. The high in Tuscaloosa was 60F. When it was raining, it was even cooler, with the mercury falling back into the lower 50s. It never got out of the 40s on Mount Cheaha, Alabama’s highest point.
Rainfall amounts were generally light across our part of the state, including .20″ at Tuscaloosa and 0.19″ at Birmingham. 0.52″ has fallen at Anniston through 7 p.m., and it was still raining.
While rainfall amounts over North Central Alabama were light today, it was a different story to the south, as moisture from the Gulf rode up an over a dome of high pressure extending down from New England and the Mid-Atlantic. Montgomery got over an inch and a half (1.62″), but nearer the coast, amounts were dramatically higher. Pensacola picked up nearly four inches of rain and Destin over inches. Florala, on the Alabama/Florida border picked up over five inches! Flooding was reported in numerous spots across Walton County, Florida, just over the border between Florala and DeFuniak Springs. All in all, it was not a good day to be driving to Destin on US-331. Beachgoers will encounter improving conditions today and fine weather Sunday and Monday.
At 7:45 p.m., light to moderate rain continues over the eastern part of Alabama, with the heaviest precipitation over Randolph, Chambers and eastern Lee Counties. It was raining moderately in Tennant and Roanoke.
We will be tracking a developing upper level low along the Louisiana/Mississippi border as it moves east tonight. It could increase rainfall again over Central Alabama during the overnight hours, but there is a lot of uncertainty in that between the short term models. Lows will be near 50F.
Eastern Alabama will have clouds tomorrow and a chance of a few showers because of the effect of that upper low. Western areas (places like Tuscaloosa, Hamilton and Jasper will experience a good supply of sunshine. I-65 communities from Cullman to Birmingham to Clanton will be in the transition zone. Areas west of I-65 will warm well into the 70s Saturday afternoon, eastern areas will be in the 60s.
Saturday night lows will be near 50F, so sunrise services will be mostly clear with a little fog, but dry and cool with readings in the upper 40s to near 50F. Afternoon readings Sunday will be in the middle 70s across the area.
Two lines of showers and storms continue early this morning.
The first extends over western Tennessee and northern Mississippi into northern Lousiana.
The second extends across southeastern Missouri, across Central Arkansas and into northern Louisiana.
All of this activity will push across northern Mississippi overnight. It should weaken as it does.
There are only five severe thunderstorm warnings still in effect and no tornado warnings. Severe thunderstorm watches extend from northeastern Texas across much of Arkansas to western Tennessee.
The first round of showers/storms will enter the area around sunrise and continue to impact the area through the mornings hours. Showers and storms will build again to our west by Afternoon and some of them may become severe Monday afternoon and evening.
Please check the latest information this morning and review your severe weather safety plans.
We will monitor the situation all night. Expect the next update around 3 a.m. , unless conditions warrant an earlier notification.
It is an active night of severe weather in areas to the west of Alabama as a dynamic storm system continues to come together.
As we have been advertising, it is a two prong system. The first upper disturbance is moving into Arkansas from Oklahoma tonight, weakening as it goes. Showers and storms extend from southwestern Illinois to southeastern Missouri to Central Arkansas. Further south, new development is building over Central Louisiana.
Flash flood warnings are in effect around Little Rock, where water rescues are going on at this hour from West Little Rock into downtown.
A stronger, intensifying disturbance is moving out of the Rockies tonight. This disturbance is opening the door for a big Arctic airmass to come south. That impressive boundary extends from Chicago to Des Moines to Kansas City to Oklahoma City to Amarillo.
It is 68F at Springfield MO while just a short distance on the other side of the boundary, it is 39F in Salina and 32F in Hill City KS. Just yesterday, Salina was setting a record high with 91F. In Texas, it is 81F at Wichita Falls and 51F at Pampa in the Panhandle. Further back in the cold air it is 24F in Denver with heavy snow.
The main squall line extends from Central Missouri west of St. Louis into northwestern Arkansas across southeastern Oklahoma to the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma. Severe thunderstorm warnings extend from Central Missouri into western Arkansas. A tornado warning was in efect for areas near Ardmore OK a little earlier.
There have been only three tornado reports today, including two from Iowa and one from Oklahoma.
The initial activity will push across northern Mississippi this evening and reach Northwest Alabama before sunrise. The system will be weakening as it pushes through West Alabama, reaching I-59 on mid-morning.
Meanwhile, activity should intensify over northern Louisiana, northern Mississippi and western Tennessee during the day ahead of the main trough and powerful cold front. This activity should reach Northwest Alabama by late afternoon and push through western Alabama between 6-8 p.m. and into the I-59 corridor between 7-9 p.m. It will reach eastern Alabama during the late evening. Showers and storms will continue until the cold front moves through during the predawn hours Tuesday morning.
There is a chance that instabilities will be pretty impressive over western Alabama late tomorrow afternoon. In addition, wind shear values will be high as well, In fact, 0-1 km helicities may be in the 250-300 m2/s2 range. Surface temperatures will push into the middle 70s and dewpoints should be in the middle 60s.
So, we will be monitoring the severe weather potential across Central Alabama through early Tuesday. Indications are that the threat tonight is very low. But we will keep an idea on it. The main threat should come late tomorrow afternoon through tomorrow evening. Hail and damaging winds will be possible and we can’t rule out the threat of tornadoes as well. Stay tuned.
In addition to the severe weather threat, there is a flash flooding threat. Rainfalls across Central Alabama will average 1.5-2.5 inches through Tuesday morning. Flash flood watches are in effect through Tuesday afternoon.
The NWS in Birmingham has issued a flash flood watch for much of Central Alabama, beginning Monday morning and continuing through early Tuesday afternoon.
Counties in the flash flood watch include: Autauga, Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Jefferson, Lamar, Marengo, Marion, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Talladega, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker and Winston.
1 to 3 inches of rain is expected across the watch area starting as early as Monday morning and continuing through early afternoon Tuesday. Flooding will be an issue.
Be ready to receive warnings if they are issued and to take action. Get MyWARN if you have an Android or iOS device.
A pleasant spring Sunday is in progress with partly cloudy to occasionally mostly cloudy skies at time. High clouds are starting to stream across the area, and thickening and lowering clouds are to the west. Back over Mississippi, we see a healthy field of cumulus clouds in a plume of moisture surging up into the Magnolia State. By the time you get to the Mississippi River, a thick overcast is in place.
The nearest rain to Alabama is some rain over northwestern Arkansas and some showers over eastern Texas. Thunderstorms are in progress in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, but they are not strong nor severe at this time.
Temperatures are in the upper generally at this hour. Birmingham and Anniston are at 78F and 77F respectively, Tuscaloosa checked in with 73F at noon, a little cooler since skies are already cloudy. It has become quite breezy, with southerly winds averaging 10-20 mph and gusts to near 30 mph at times.
A quick check of the weather early this afternoon shows that the forecast is on track for Central Alabama.
Severe weather is expected today and tonight to the west of Alabama. There is a large slight risk severe weather outlook area in effect today and tonight in an area roughly bounded by Austin, Wichita Falls, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Kansas City, Peoria, St. Louis, Memphis, Meridian, Alexandria and back to Austin. The moderate risk area that was included in the forecast earlier has been removed due to the clouds and precipitation over Texas and Oklahoma that is reducing instability.
The storms to our west will move eastward overnight, weakening as they move across Mississippi. They should make it into Alabama well after midnight.
As a second surface low develops to our west early tomorrow and instability rises with some daytime heating, storms should ramp up during the day. They should be enough instability and shear in place for some of the storms to become strong to severe by afternoon. It now appears that all modes of severe weather are possible, with hail, damaging winds and even tornadoes. We will be able to refine the exact threat as we move into the daylight hours tomorrow, but for now, review your severe weather safety plans and check your sources for receiving watches and warnings.
Much colder weather is in the offing for Tuesday behind the cold front. Highs will remain in the 50s all day with the threat of some frost Tuesday night as the mercury drops into the middle 30s generally with a few spots reaching freezing. Growers and planters should be aware of the threat and plan accordingly.
Dr. Bill Gray just finished speaking at the Tropical Meteorology Conference at South Padre Island, discussing the challenges of seasonal hurricane forecasting and the precursors that they use.
He turned it over to Dr. Phil Klotzbach to announce their 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast. Here are the numbers, showing their forecast and the 30 year average (1981-2010).
Named Storms: 9 (12.0)
Named Storm Days: 35 (60.1)
Hurricanes: 3 (6.5)
Hurricane Days: 12 (21.3)
Major Hurricanes: 1 (2.0)
Major Hurricane Days: 2 (3.9)
ACE*: 55 (92)
*ACE is Accumulated Cyclone Energy, a measurement of the wind energy expended by tropical cyclones. It is a better parameter for looking at the overall intensity of a storm or season.
…Klotzbach credits the pending El Nino for the below average forecast.
…The Atlantic is at its coolest since 1994 as well.
Some analog seasons cited:
…1957 Hurricane Aubrey killed at least 416 people in SW Louisiana
…1963 Flora killed over 7,000 people in the Caribbean
…1965 Hurricane Betsy struck Bahamas, South Florida and Louisiana
…1997 Hurricane Danny flooded Alabama coast
…2002 Lili impacted Gulf Coast
I cite the example storms from the analogs as a reminder that it only takes one story to make it a bad hurricane season. So even though a below average season is forecast, that is academic if storm hits you.