Category: Weather History
Weather maps on the morning of Sunday, February 23, 1975 showed a low pressure system over North Central Mississippi. The low was not very strong. At 6 a.m. that morning, the pressure in the low was only 1004 mb.
A warm, moist airmass was in place across Alabama, with temperatures across the central part of the state in the middle 60s. Dewpoints were only a degree or too lower than the air temperatures, indicating the high relative humidity. The proximity of the low, the juicy air mass and a backed, southeasterly surface wind were telltale factors that there would problems during the day.
Just across the border in Georgia, dewpoints were much lower. At Atlanta, the dewpoint was only 52F.
Tornadoes touched down in northeastern Walker County just after 12:30 p.m. Nearly an hour later, an F2 tornado moved through Jones Chapel in Cullman County, destroying four trailers and damaging 23 homes.
But the biggest story of the day was a series of tornadoes that skipped along a 15 mile path across Tuscaloosa County beginning at 12:35 p.m. The first touchdown occurred near Taylorsville. There would be a total of five touchdowns across southeastern Tuscaloosa northeastward to near Holt.
There was particularly heavy damage near I-59 and McFarland Blvd. Most of the upper floor of the Scottish Inn was torn away, killing one housekeeper.
Nearly 300 houses were damaged or destroyed, along with 30 businesses and 21 mobile homes.
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Two significant snowstorms have been sufficient to push Birmingham’s 2013-14 snow season into he top 12 all time.
Will we see any more snow this year? Hard to say.
Across the Great Lakes and Northeast, the story is the same. Even more impressive in fact.
Chicago is expecting 4-6 inches of snow tomorrow on President’s Day. The official snow total for the season at O’Hare right now is 62.2 inches.
Tomorrow’s snowfall will likely propel this season into second place, a position currently held by the 1966-67 season, which stands at 67.7”. The all time seasonal snowfall total at Chicago is 83.7 inches back in the snowy year of 1978-79. While that record may not be broken, it has still been an interesting year.
Indianapolis stands at 51.4”, which is good for fourth place there. The 1-2 inches of snow expected on top of freezing rain Monday should be enough to help them pass the 51.7” total that currently is in 3rd place.
New York City’s Central Park stands at 55.6”, less than one half inch behind fifth place’s 1888-89 season. Last night’s snow will undoubtedly put this year into fifth place.
In Philadelphia, which has seen four six inch snow storms for the first time in its history this year, this season is solidly in fourth place all time with 55.4 inches of snow.
From the NWS Birmingham….
JANUARY 2014 RANKED IN THE TOP 5 COLDEST MONTHS FOR BIRMINGHAM, MONTGOMERY, TUSCALOOSA, AND ANNISTON. THESE NUMBERS ARE BASED ON THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURES. HERE ARE THE TOP 10 COLDEST MONTHS FOR
COLDEST MONTHS IN BIRMINGHAM
1 30.6 1/31/1940
2 31.6 1/31/1977
3 33.5 1/31/1978
4 35.5 1/31/1985
5 36.1 1/31/2014
6 36.5 1/31/1918
7 36.7 1/31/1948
8 36.8 12/31/1963
9 37.3 2/28/1978
10 37.6 1/31/1905, 2/28/1958
COLDEST MONTHS IN MONTGOMERY
1 36.0 1/31/1977
2 36.2 1/31/1940
3 39.7 1/31/2014
4 40.1 1/31/1970
5 40.4 1/31/1978
6 40.6 1/31/1961
7 40.7 1/31/1948, 12/31/2000
9 40.8 1/31/1884
10 41.1 1/31/1985
COLDEST MONTHS IN TCL
1 33.1 1/31/1977
2 33.7 1/31/1978
3 36.9 1/31/1985, 12/31/1963
5 38.0 1/31/2014
6 38.5 1/31/1979
7 38.8 2/28/1978
8 38.9 12/31/1989
9 39.1 2/28/1958
10 39.3 1/31/1963
COLDEST MONTHS IN ANNISTON
1 32.2 1/31/1977
2 33.5 1/31/1905
3 34.6 1/31/1978
4 35.9 1/31/2014
5 36.5 1/31/1985
6 36.7 1/31/1970
7 36.8 12/31/1963
8 37.4 2/28/1958
9 37.9 1/31/1979
10 38.0 1/31/1948
Roads/bridges/overpasses are becoming extremely dangerous due to icing across Central Alabama, generally south of a line from Eutaw to Columbiana to Heflin.
Officials are requesting that there be no travel across the following counties:
Autauga, Bibb, Chambers, Chilton, Coosa, Dallas, Elmore, Hale, Lamar, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Montgomery, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Sumter and Tallapoosa.
A Civil Emergency Message was just issued for those counties.
Several bridges and overpasses are icing in the Montgomery area, including the I-85/65 interchange. I-85 southbound is closed at the interchage.
For Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Anniston and Gadsden as well as Jasper, Cullman, Fayette, Carrollton and Pell City, a dusting to one inch of snow will fall. This will cause some slippery spots on roads.
On the morning of January 26, 1940, Alabama and the Deep South were in the deep freeze and had been for over a week. Headlines on the Birmingham Age-Herald were dominated by the cold and additional snow that had fallen the day before.
But there were also disturbing news from Europe, where the Nazis were threatening to attack Romania for their oil. The British were planning defense against Nazi air raids. Closer to home, a serious coal shortage was leading to negotiations between the governor and miners for increased production through suspension of work rules.
The forecast for the 26th was for partly cloudy and not as cold conditions. But Friday the 26th would be just as cold as the day before, when the high was 20F. And lows by Saturday morning the 27th would again be 1F.
At 7 a.m., Birmingham Weather Bureau Chief E.C. Horton measured the temperature on the thermometer in his observation shelter at 1.2F. There was still a total of seven inches of snow on the ground. The airport reading, the official location now, was –5F, but the max/min thermometer showed a minimum reading of -6F.
Across North Alabama, temperatures were below zero, including -6F in Florence and -2F in Huntsville.
Horton saw no relief in sight, and called for lows to drop to below zero over northern sections the coming night, with overnight lows for the coming night between 6F and 22F.
The cold had been unprecedented in its duration. It had arrived on the night of January 18th as temperatures plummeted from 34F that afternoon to 2F the following morning. The mercury would not go above freezing until the afternoon of the 21st, and then only to a high of 37F.
The next day would see a high of 42F, but snow would fall much of the night of the 22nd and day of the 23rd, until .5 inches had fallen and a total of 10 inches was on the ground. The thermometer would not recover for the next week. Between the 23rd and 28th, the warmest it would get in Birmingham was 34F.
By the 26th, Skaters were actually able to skate on the frozen surface of the Black Warrior River west of Birmingham, where ice was six inches thick near the banks. A total of nineteen inches of snow was on the ground at Berry in Fayette County, a record that still stands.
An unheard of event!
On the morning of January 25, 1940, the headlines on the Birmingham Age-Herald screamed that more cold was in store for the state. And it had already been very cold.
Since an arctic cold wave invaded the state on the night of the 18th, overnight lows had been in the teens or single digits every morning except for the morning of the 23rd when the low was 24F. The average temperature of 21.3 for the seven day period ending January 25, 1940 still stands as the ninth coldest seven day period in Birmingham history.
The 1940 cold wave still holds most of the cold wave records in Magic City history, including seven of the ten coldest seven day periods, the three coldest ten day periods as well as seven of the top ten coldest ten day periods and the top nine coldest fourteen day periods as well.
On the morning of the 25th, another trace of snow had been added to the mantle of white that blanketed the city. The morning low was 8F and the mercuty once again barely made it to 20F at the Weather Bureau Office atop the hill overlooking downtown in Fountain Heights. There would be three days between the 18th and 31st that the mercury would only reach 20F. By the morning of the 26th, the mercury would register 1F, the coldest of the protracted cold spell.
A powerful cold front moved through on Saturday, January 9, 1982, sending temperatures plummeting. The high on Saturday was 49F, but it was down to 27F by midnight and the mercury was in a free fall like I had never seen. It was bitterly cold all day on Sunday, with the mercury slowly inching through the teens along with a powerful north wind and a few snow flurries. But even more interesting things were on the way. The NOAA Weather Radio that morning gave the standard two day forecast with a three day extended outlook. It called for rain or snow Tuesday night. That is all that a snow fan needed to hear, and with temperatures expected to drop to near zero, the prospects of some wintry precipitation had to be promising.
The morning low on Monday was 2F. The 500 mb chart told the story. A huge vortex was over Quebec, and a cross polar flow was delivering cold air straight into the Southeast. The mercury struggled back up to 27F on Monday, but with the high close by Monday night, winds went dead calm and the mercury plunged to –1F at the Airport during the evening hours. But in response to developing low pressure in the Gulf, cloud cover increased, and by midnight, it was back up to a balmy 13F.
Morning forecasts on Tuesday, January 12th had called for a winter storm watch for occasional sleet and freezing rain that would arrive by sundown. By mid-morning, as freezing rain and sleet across South Alabama was spreading rapidly north, the watch was changed to a winter storm warning. The snow arrived about 8 hours earlier than anticipated in the Birmingham area and quickly changed over to a mix of freezing rain and sleet that turned roads in skating rinks. Thousands of motorists had to abandon their vehicles on roads and hike home or spend the night in shelters. One suburban shopping mall became a huge shelter. So many wrecks occurred that the Birmingham Police Department could not answer the calls for accident investigation.
As temperatures hovered near the freezing mark through the night, freezing rain created a thick coating on all exposed objects. Trees snapped, pulling down power lines and putting as many as 750,000 Alabamians in the dark. Travel became possible for a short while on Wednesday, as temperatures rose to just above freezing at lunch. But the sound of tree limbs snapping under the weight of the ice was like shotguns.
An upper level disturbance brought a nice snowfall on Wednesday night that led to some great sledding and snowball fights on Thursday. But when it was all said and done, twenty Alabamians were dead and another 300 injured and damage totaled $78 million.
With all the talk about the upcoming wintry weather event, I thought we might shift gears for a moment and look back at some weather history that doesn’t involve cold and that happened on this date.
Back in 2009, heavy rains fell across North Central Alabama between January 5-7. The most rain fell from Walker County to Etowah County; where up to seven inches of rain was reported. A bingo hall was flooded in Walker County on the night of the 6th, requiring the rescue of seventy stranded patrons. Eighteen cars were submerged.
While the flooding was a disaster for some people, overall, the rains were very welcome, with long term rainfall deficits still in place in many Alabama counties.
Rain kept coming all year. When all was said and done, it was the third wettest year in Birmingham since 1930.