Archive for January 12th, 2013
Looking at the QPF for the next couple of days, a lot of rain will be falling, espcially across the Southeast and into the Ohio Valley. Many areas across Alabama will possibly be receiving anywhere from a half inch in the southeastern part of the state to possibly over two inches in some of our northwestern counties. Certain areas of Central Mississippi could receive over three inches. This forecast is valid from 6PM tonight until Monday night. Rain is expected into Tuesday as well, so even more rain could be added to these totals. As the slow storm system continues to push east, heavy rains will continue to fall. Many areas that will be receiving the rain have already had heavy rains all week. Flash flood and flood watches and warning are in effect in many states. The only warnings currently in effect for Alabama are river flood warnings in some of our western counties for the Tombigbee and Black Warrior Rivers. If enough rain falls across the state, we could see additional flood advisories issued for Alabama.
Temperature analysis for this afternoon, shows plenty of warm air has moved north from the Gulf of Mexico with 60s reaching into the Ohio River Valley. Much of Alabama is in the 70s with some areas approaching 80. There is a lot warm air across the eastern sections of the U.S., while locations in the west are frigid. You can almost see where the front is on this map, you will notice a tighter temperature gradient from eastern Illinois down through Missouri and Arkansas. The colder air will be slowly working towards us the next 48 hours.
On the surface analysis, you can see that the front is lined up along the gradient in the temperature analysis. Front is moving a bit more quickly on the northern end of it. The front is a bit more slower to near stationary from Arkansas into Texas. Several areas of surface low pressure along the southern end of the front is providing a bit of extra shear across the area. This is where we are looking at some strong and severe thunderstorms this afternoon. The slow movement will continue to allow for heavy rain to fall on saturated ground, so flooding will continue to be a threat. Once the front moves through, high pressure will eventually settle in from the west bringing colder and more seasonable temperatures.
A quick look at the radar this afternoon, shows most areas across Central Alabama remain dry for now. Some sprinkles and drizzle are possible, but the heaviest rain remains to our north and west. Expect additional showers and thunderstorms to develop throughout the afternoon and into the evening hours. Some storms back toward the Mississippi River could reach severe limits, but as the storms move towards us, we are not expecting severe weather. Flooding is a significant threat for much of the south as numerous flood watches and warnings are in affect in many area. Heavy rain is falling across northern Arkansas which is where the greatest uplift is located with the front. As the front inches its way towards our direction, rain chances and coverage will be on the increase. Several more days of wet weather are on tap for Alabama.
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The warm but wet weather pattern sticks with us for a few more days – at least through the weekend – but the signs are pretty clear that we will be seeing a shift in the pattern that will bring us back to the reality of winter.
While the upper air pattern remains dominated by a trough to our west, that trough edges closer Sunday and Monday, enough to bring the stationary front that has been lingering to our northwest into the area. We are setting up for a major contrast in temperatures across Alabama with temperatures in the 60s or even lower 70s in the southeast sections with highs only in the 40s for the northwest sections. So for much of Central Alabama, we are expecting temperatures to drop significantly on Monday and Tuesday as the front slowly progresses through the area with the slow approach of the upper trough.
But finally the upper trough will come by us on Wednesday which will finally give the boot to the frontal system that sits just to the northwest of US today. This will shift the upper flow dramatically from a moist southwesterly flow today to a northwesterly flow on Wednesday. But it will also mean a clearing sky so we get some sunshine to go with those much colder temperatures.
And actually the temperatures will not be especially cold with reference to our average temperatures for the middle of January. But those temperatures will seem dramatically colder since we are as much as 20 degrees above seasonal averages. So the change is pretty significant.
The surface high moves across the area through the end of the upcoming week, as we enter another period of model disagreement. The GFS suggests we stay dry into next weekend, but the European has a different solution with a surface low in the Gulf bringing another period of wet weather. So forecast confidence beyond Thursday is fairly low at the moment.
SPC outlooking an area for severe thunderstorms primarily over Arkansas for Day 1 with no areas of severe weather expected for Days 2 and 3. The severe weather threat is for damaging wind with isolated tornadoes a possibility. The severe weather threat should diminish into the evening as lapse rates decrease. And the current severe weather outlook for the medium range into Days 4 to 8 seems to be very low.
Rainfall has been fairly light so far even with several days of wet weather. It appears that the next 5 days will see rainfall amounts of 1 to 2 inches for most areas giving us a nice wet start to the rainfall for 2013.
In the long range, aka voodoo country, the screaming message is that we stay coolish – no real extremes – but we see another wet system toward the end of January.
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A powerful cold front moved through Birmingham 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 the 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.