Ash Wednesday is the High Holy Day signifying the beginning of the Lenten period. Ash Wednesday in 1962 was on March 7th. On that day, an unusual series of factors were coming together to create an especially bad situation along the U.S. East Coast.
First, there was a new moon, which meant spring tides along the coast that “sprung” higher than they normally would. In addition, twice every 29.5 days, the Earth is aligned with the sun and the moon and the gravitational pull on the tides is greater, making the tidal range higher. This is called syzygy. At syzygy, high tides are higher than they normally would be.
The third factor was that the moon was at perigee. The moon’s orbit around the Earth is not perfectly circular. It is shaped more like an oval. The Earth is located closer to one end than the other, meaning that once during each orbit, the moon is much closer to Earth than at other times. Nearly 225,000 miles closer in fact. When the Earth and moon are at the closest point, it is called perigee.
Again, the proximity of the moon results in higher tides than normal. The two events occur within 36 hours of each other a few times each year. On this date in 1962, they were within 30 minutes of one another. By themselves, these two events would not cause very much trouble, but they occurred simultaneously with a huge late season nor’easter, known as the Great Atlantic Storm to meteorologists.
Locals christened it the Ash Wednesday Storm. Its forward progress blocked by high pressure to the north, for three days beginning on Ash Wednesday, the huge extratropical storm unleashed its fury without warning from North Carolina to New England. With each succeeding high tide, water levels rose higher and higher, inundating beachfront communities. Massive waves pounded 500 miles of beach, eroding the dunes.
When it was over, 1,800 structures were destroyed. Damages totaled $500 million. Forty people died.
Numerous wrecks are being reported on I-459 by State Troopers on southbound I=459 at MM 27 via John Talbot on Twitter.
This is just south of the I-20 interchange, north of Grants Mill Road.
There are injuries and extraction help is being requested.
Area roads are still dangerous where freezing rain and sleet has fallen. It is still a good idea to avoid travel for now.
The NWS Birmingham continues the Winter Storm Warning for Jefferson, Blount, Pickens, Tuscaloosa and Walker Counties until 3 p.m.
They have posted a Winter Weather Advisory until 6 p.m. for counties to the east, including Bibb, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Etowah, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry, Shely. St. CLair, Sumter and Talladega.
Sleet continues across much of the Birmingham Metro area, but will begin to taper from the west over the next hour. Exposed surface such as decks are gathering an accumulation of sleet. Roads are becoming sleet covered in some areas and slushy conditions are being reported in places like Ashville, Mountain Brook and over northeastern Jefferson County. In all areas, watch out for ice on bridges.
An area of heavier sleet over Sumter and Greene Counties will affect Hale and Marengo Counties between now and 3 p.m.
Get ready for a cold night tonight with tens over the Northwest, readings near 20F in the I-59 Corridor and lower 20s elsewhere across Central Alabama.
A band of moderate to heavy sleet is affecting many communities in a southwest to Northeast line from Sumter and Greene Counties through Tuscaloosa, Jefferson, Shelby, southern Blount, southern Etowah, St. Clair and Cherokee Counties.
It is sleeting like crazy now in places like Hoover, Bessemer, Helena and Mountain Brook.
It is 32F at the Tuscaloosa Airport, 30F at the Birmingham Airport. In fact, most of the stations in the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham areas are now at or below freezing.
Roads are just wet for now in the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa metro areas but it is beginning to accumulate on raised and exposed objects like decks.
Travel is not recommended now in the affected areas.
The temperature has reached 32F at the Birmingham International Airport and the Tuscaloosa Airport as well.
Sleet is being reported in parts of the Birmingham metro area.
Precipitation upstream is beginning to diminish, but periods of sleet and some freezing rain will affect the area from Pickens across Tuscaloosa, Jefferson and Shelby Counties over the next two hours.
Roads may become slick in areas that receive freezing rain and heavier sleet.
Reports of sleet are becoming more common across Walker and northern Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties at this hour.
In the past 15 minutes, sleet has been reported at Coker in northern Tuscaloosa County as well as in the cities of Northport and Tuscaloosa. Steady sleet is reported in downtown Tuscaloosa.
Sleet is being reported as far south as Livingston in Sumter County.
Sleet is being reported in Dora, as well as in Kimberly and Hayden. Sleet is being reported around Lake Tuscaloosa.
It was 35F at the Birmingham Airport with sleet being reported last hour, but now it is down to 34F
If you are not where you are going to be this afternoon, now would be a good time to do so in the Tuscaloosa/Birmingham area.