Alabamians paid little attention to the weather forecast on Thanksgiving morning, November 23, 1950. The Birmingham News carried a lead article about the many blessings of the day, including bountiful food, talking about the day’s candied yams, crisp white celery, plump olives and a golden brown roasted turkey. Headlines told of a Thanksgiving Eve crash between two Long Island Railroad trains in New York City that killed 76 people. There were hopes that the Korean War might be ending, bolstered by hints that China might be willing to sit down for peace talks. Over 36,000 people made their way to Legion Field for the annual Crippled Children’s Classic at Legion Field. The game featured the Phillips Red Raiders and Woodlawn Colonels. It would raise $95,000 for the new Crippled Children’s Hospital. As the game kicked off at 2 p.m., the temperature at the Birmingham Airport was a balmy 70 degrees.
The fine holiday weather belied the fact that a major cold wave was overspreading the U.S. east of the Rockies. Birmingham’s official weatherman, Charles Bradley, warned that the mild afternoon and nice weather was going to be followed by a quick turn to winter. The afternoon highs near 70 would be replaced with overnight lows in the 30s. Highs the following day would remain steady or fall. Fans in shirt sleeves at Legion Field got a rude awakening when the temperature fell into the 50s by the fourth quarter of a 20-0 Phillips victory. By late evening, readings were in the lower 40s with a north wind averaging over 20 mph. To the north, it was getting interesting. It was 18F in Nashville with heavy snow. It was 25F in Memphis with moderate snow and a north wind averaging over 30 mph. The snow was reaching Northwest Alabama.
By 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning, it was down to 32F at Birmingham with snow. Four inches of snow was on the ground at Tuscumbia. An inch was on the ground in the Magic City. Roads were hazardous all over North Alabama. Dozens of accidents were being reported. By late morning, US-31 was impassable as far south as Clanton. By 10:30 a.m., the mercury had plummeted further, to 21F at the Birmingham Airport.
The Alabama Crimson Tide football team boarded a charter plane at the Birmingham Airport, bound for Jacksonville and a Saturday tilt with Florida. With two losses, Alabama needed a victory to seal a major bowl bid. Tennessee was already paired with Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Kentucky coach Paul Bryant was preparing his Wildcats for a Sugar Bowl date with Oklahoma in New Orleans. The Birmingham News carried rumors that the Bear might be nosing around for a job in Texas, while mentioning that Alabama was his alma mater.
In his afternoon forecast, the weatherman was calling for an overnight low between 12-15F. Good thing for Mr. Bradley that the three degree guarantee had not been invented, because with screaming cold air advection, the temperature would already be at 15 by midnight, on the way to a low of 5F. It is the coldest November reading ever in Birmingham. The second coldest November reading ever is 13F, underscoring the significance of the record. Fresh snow would fall across the northern half of the state on Saturday as the Great Appalachian Storm spun up over Ohio.
JB would call it a cold wave. I call it just another story from the pages of this week in weather history.
After a very nice late fall Saturday across Central Alabama today with highs in the upper 60s to near 70F and lots of sunshine, thin high clouds are overspreading the area this evening. The clouds are patchy, so you can still see some stars through them. Temperatures are still mild, running around 60F. But the air has a crisp feel to it with dewpoints still in the 40s.
In fact, the dewpoint at Anniston is only 40F, while amazingly, the dewpoint at Atlanta is an incredible 28F. That’s really dry. The dewpoints are shown in the large graphic on the right side above.
The reason is that Alabama is still under the influence of an easterly wedge of drier air invading the state from the east thanks to high pressure off the Atlantic Coast, reinforcing the drier air. You can see the surface weatehr map in the bottom left of panel of the graphic.
The wedge will be a limiting factor in our unfolding severe weather threat for tomorrow, at least for Central Alabama.
First, let me say there is no threat for severe weather tonight across Central Alabama. The main threat will come between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday.
A very strong upper level disturbance is approaching Dallas tonight. That will be our primary weathermaker over the next 36 hours.
Can’t rule out patches of light rain or showers after midnight tonight through the morning hours across Central Alabama. There could be an isolated heavy shower or even a storm during the morning hours ahead of the main area of rain and storms, but this activity will be isolated.
Widespread showers and storms will enter Southwest Alabama Sunday morning and push northeast. Should reach the Birmingham area by early afternoon. These storms should be elevated, and not surface based, so their main impact will be very heavy rain and loud thunder. But, with a strong mid level wind maximum passing overhead, there could be some damaging wind reports. This will all be between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. from southwest to northeast.
The low level helicity will be maximized during the early afternoon, so it is good that there should not be much surface based instability.
The storms should weaken as they push deeper into the more stable air.
BOTTOM LINE: There is a severe weather threat generally south of a line from Reform to Tuscaloosa to Montevallo to Goodwater. The Storm Prediction Center severe weather outlook for Sunday is shown in the top left panel of the graphic above. The main threat will be damaging winds. To the north of the slight risk area defined by the SPC, the threat lessens the further north you go. But isolated storms are still possible during the afternoon hours in places like Jasper, Cullman, Birmingham, Pell City, Gadsden and Anniston.
There is a tornado threat closer to the coast and we can’t rule out an isolated tornado with the activity lifting north, so we will be watching.
LATE AFTERNOON INTO MONDAY: Some sunshine will break out during the late afternoon as sinking air behind the disturbance clear the sky. The air will actually become more unstable, but there shouldn’t be enough lift for storms to form. There could be a few late afternoon showers though. Sunday evening should be mainly dry. The main cold front will arrive early Monday morning, quickly pushing temperatures into the 50s for the day.
November 17, 1957 was a Sunday. Newspaper headlines chronicled a deadly crash of the New york Central passenger train, The Chicagoan, in Michigan. The crash killed one and injured 32. Another train crash in France killed 28. Seventeen people, including fourteen children, died in a New York tenement fire. There was a lot of talk about defense spending in light of the space race that had exploded with the Russian launch of Sputnik. The prospect of atomic testing in space was causing a great deal of concern. A Christmas Seals cartoon of Santa on the front page warned there were only 31 shopping days left until Christmas.
As is usually the case on any Sunday in Alabama in the fall, the big news revolved around the world of college football. The front page of the Birmingham News heralded “API Takes Dogs” after Auburn had beaten Georgia 6-0. API stood for Alabama Polytechnic Institute. The name was officially changed in 1960 to Auburn University. The headline also hinted that Auburn might end up with the number one ranking in the polls, but Michigan State catapulted to number one, passing the unbeaten, untied Tigers. Auburn would of course go on to the number one position in the AP Poll at the end of the year.
Also that Saturday, Oklahoma had seen its incredible 47 game unbeaten streak end at the hands of Notre Dame. It took a last second field goal for Georgia Tech to eek out a victory against upset minded Alabama. The News kept a close eye on what was going on at Texas A&M, where Bear Bryant was the coach of the 4th ranked Aggies.
On that November Sunday, Alabama was in the first day of a two-day period of severe weather. That morning, strong subtropical high pressure was centered near Key West. The Gulf of Mexico was open for business as the high pumped moisture into the Deep South on southerly winds. A powerful upper level trough extended from the northern Rockies to the Southwest. That morning, a surface low pressure system was moving northeast into northwestern Arkansas, dragging a cold front back into Texas.
Just after noon, tornadoes started touching down in eastern Mississippi. Two people were killed by a strong tornado that cut a 15 miles path from near Macon. Mississippi State Police were tracking the tornadoes and relayed reports ahead to Alabama.
A little after 3 p.m., a violent tornado touched down 6 miles northwest of Jasper near the community of Red Mil Cross Roads. Mr. and Mrs. Wilford Bradford had just built a new home there. The ranch home was blown 150 feet and smashed to bits. The couple and their 14 year old daughter were killed. One other person was killed along the short 5 mile path that carried it near Saragossa and Manchester.
An amateur photographer snapped a dramatic picture of the tornado that ran on front pages of newspapers all over the country, including the one on the front page of The Birmingham News the next day
The official forecast from the U.S. Weather Bureau called for cloudy, windy and warm weather for Monday the 18th as Alabama would remain in grips of a battle between the subtropical high and the encroaching upper trough. More about the events of the 18th tomorrow.
The National Weather Service In Birmingham Has Issued An
– Urban And Small Stream Flood Advisory For
Southern Jefferson County In Alabama
Northern Shelby County In Alabama
– Until 1245 AM CST.
These are Doppler Radar estimated rainfall amounts so far today.
The flood advisory is outlined in green.
As you can see, widespread two inch rainfall amounts have fallen so far from Greene County into southern Jefferson and northern Shelby Counties.
The NWS Office at the Shelby County Airport has picked up 1.72 inches of rain through 10:09 p.m.
As you can see, it will continue to rain heavily in some areas into the early morning hours.
Since it has been so dry, flooding is not a major concern, but ponding on roadways and minor flooding in urban areas will continue until the rainfall abates later.
Heavy rain is falling tonight across parts of North Central Alabama generally in the I-20 corridor just to the north of a frontal boundary and low pressure system.
It is a rough drive right now from Hoover to Tuscaloosa on I-20/59 with lots of heavy rain.
Be careful on area roads as there will definitely be ponding on streets and highways.
So far, 0.76 inches of rain rain has fallen at the Birmingham Airport as of 7 p.m. Another inch is likely before the rain ends late tonight.
Rain overspread Northwest Alabama early this morning as advertised, in advance of a very powerful upper trough that is bringing some amazingly cold air to the center of the country and aided by a frontal system that lies generally along and north of I-20. Low pressure centers are lined up back along the front which extends across southern Mississippi.
UPSTREAM TEMPS: It is interesting to note at early afternoon, temperatures are in the teens and 20s across Kansas, 30s over Arkansas and in the 40s over northern Mississippi. It was 18F at noon at Chanute, KS with heavy snow and 23F at Joplin MO with heavy snow as well. It was 39F at Little Rock and 43F at Greenwood MS. In sharp contrast, it is 70F at Mobile.
NOWCAST: As of the noon hour, rain had overspread much of the space north of I-59 and was steadily advancing eastward. This first wave of rain will continue to do so through the afternoon hours leading to a gentle, soaking rain for most locations. North of the front, temperatures are in the 40s in places like Hamilton, Muscle Shoals and Huntsville. There will likely be some evaporative cooling as rain begins to fall in areas that are in the 50s, setting the stage for a cold rain. Over three quarters of an inch of rain has fallen at Muscle Shoals this morning and much of the area should see at least one half of an inch this afternoon. Great weather for a nap.
WAVE #2: Another wave of rain will overspread the area tonight as another of those surface disturbances ripples northeastward along the front. There is currently some lightning over southwestern Mississippi and even a tornado warning west of Lafayette LA. There is a slight risk severe weather outlook in effect along the Gulf Coast from Fort Walton back to Lake Charles LA. As this low passes by, the front will start dropping southeastward pushing the rain with it. Rain should end in places like Hamilton and Carrollton by 3 a.m. or so, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa around 6 a.m. and over East Alabama soon after that. The rain should be basically out of the state by noon. Overnight rainfall amounts may be over an inch, with accumulated totals finishing around 2 inches in some spots.
SEVERE WEATHER? I know you zeroed in on my comment about a tornado warning. No, there is no threat of that coming to Alabama. Instabilities may well support a little thunder tonight in areas south of I-20.
ROLLER COASTER TEMPERATURES: Wasn’t it the Ohio Players that sang about the Rollercoaster of Love? The theme of this paragraph will be the Rollercoaster of Temperatures. Although the screaming message is the coming cold, there are a couple of things meteorologically that some of our friends will experience. As the second low pushes northeast tonight, temperatures may jump into the 50s and 60s as far north as I-20, in places like Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Clanton, Talladega and Ashland as well as points south. Temperatures will fall during the morning across the area, with Monday daytime highs likely occurring before sunrise in many areas. That is always interesting. Temperatures will be in the lower 40s in the I-20 corridor during much of the day, falling back into the 30s during the late afternoon. Places to the north will remain in the 30s all day. The Arctic front will arrive Monday night, plunging temperatures into the lower 20s with a few teens by Tuesday morning.
FRIGID TUESDAY: Highs on Tuesday will likely not get above freezing in places along and north of I-20. We are talking highs around 30-32F. It will be a day for bundling up and dressing warmly.
TO WEDNESDAY AND BEYOND: Wednesday morning will likely be as cold if not a degree or two colder than Tuesday morning, with teens and lower 20s prevailing. Most areas should warm back to the upper 40s by Wednesday afternoon. Moderation will occur starting Thursday with 50s likely again and continuing on Friday – Sunday. The next rain chances will come late Thursday night into Friday as another front system starts acting up over the south. It could be followed by another round of rain on Sunday.
THANKSGIVING SNEAK PEEK: Some snow looks possible in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys along with cold weather over the Southeast.
-Credit Mark Bradley AJC http://markbradley.blog.ajc.com/2014/01/29/snowjam-2014-atlanta-at-its-absolute-worst/
Sorry for the late notice, but finding a venue for our last full chapter meeting was difficult this time. However, we have an outstanding speaker lined up for the meeting this coming Monday, November 17th at 7 p.m. at the Medical Forum Building at the Civic Center downtown.
Keith Stellman is the Meteorologist in Charge at the National Weather Service in Atlanta. He is responsible for forecasts and warnings for 96 counties in the northern part of Georgia. He will be speaking on a subject that is near and dear to our hearts: the January 28th winter storm in the Southeast U.S.
Like Birmingham, Atlanta has rarely been exposed to the unique and devastating combination of dramatically below freezing temperatures at onset of frozen precipitation on a weekday. Like here, a humanitarian crisis ensued with tens of thousands of commuters stranded on area highways.
Keith will focus on the meteorological factors that made this event so significant, the forecasts and warnings and lessons learned from them as well as the human and government response.
The meeting will be held in Meeting Room F in the Forum Building at 950 22nd Street North. This is the building to the east of the Sheraton and has an entrance at ground level on 22nd Street. You can also access it from the 3rd level of the parking deck.
You can park in the 22nd street deck and we will have parking validation. Or you can park on the street around the complex.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the meeting and presentation will start at 7 p.m.
The meeting is free to members of the Central Alabama Chapter of the National Weather Association. Visitors may attend for $10. You can join the chapter at:
The Chapter Holiday Party will be announced at the meeting.
This meting is being sponsored by the Westin and BJCC. Thanks to them for their support.
Looking at the weather maps today, we see surface high pressure dominating the eastern half of the U.S. That 1033 millibar high (translation=pretty strong) is centered from southern Kentucky to Central Mississippi. In the mid levels and upper levels of the atmosphere, we see a big wave pattern, with a trough over the eastern U.S., a ridge in the middle and a trough in the West. Clouds that were moving in from the northwest earlier have dried out as they pushed across Arkansas and western Tennessee into northern Mississippi. Hence they will not have much of an impact on our skies through the evening.
FIRST FREEZE OF SEASON AT BIRMINGHAM: It was a cold morning across Alabama with freezing temperatures generally north of I-59 and a few thrown in down into Southwest Alabama. Birmingham fell to 28F, while Calera was 6 degrees warmer at 34F. Tuscaloosa checked in with 30F and Anniston measured 29F. Interestingly, North Alabama readings were not substantially colder. Russellville won the cold weather lottery with 25F. The 28F at Birmingham was the coldest since March 26th and the first freeze since April 16th. Most folks should stay above freezing for the next few days with the exception of Eastern Alabama, where some freezing readings will likely drop below 32F tonight.
GETTING DARK EARLY TODAY: Sunset will come much earlier today because of the Daylight Saving Time change that occurred early this morning. Hopefully you weren’t an hour early for church or brunch! Highs this afternoon will rise into the upper 50s across the area. As mentioned early, most folks will be above freezing, in the 30s tonight, except for places like Gadsden, Fort Payne and Anniston in East Alabama. But look for frost still across much of the area anyway as grass and exposed automobiles fall to below freeze after dew forms.
SUNSHINE AHEAD: Plenty of sun in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday. And that surface high will slide east, giving us southerly surface winds by morning. That means moderating temperatures. With lots of sunshine, highs on Monday will be in the middle 60s with upper 60s to near 70F by Tuesday.
MIDWEEK WET WEATHER SYSTEM: Showers and storms will enter Northwest Alabama ahead of a cold front Wednesday night and will push southeastward through the state overnight. It should be weakening as it pushes toward I-59, but it will bring a soaking rain to the area late Wednesday night and early Thursday. Don’t look for great amounts of rainfall. Average amounts should be around a quarter of an inch. The GFS is a little slower with the system’s exit , keeping rain in the forecast deeper into the day on Thursday. Expect a high near 70F on Wednesday, but readings will fall back into the lower 60s on Thursday and be limited to the 50s on Friday. Lows will drop to around 40F by Friday morning.