Archive for April 14th, 2013

The 1956 McDonald’s Chapel Tornado

| April 14, 2013 @ 10:49 pm
Hand analyzed facsimile chart from 10 a.m. April 15, 1956

Hand analyzed facsimile chart from 10 a.m. April 15, 1956

Headlines on Sunday, April 15, 1956 talked about Democratic Presidential hopefuls Adlai Stevenson and Estes Kefauver and their attacks on President Eisenhower’s foreign policy.  Eisenhower still had a firm lead in recent polls that showed him a clear winner if he was to run against Kefauver.  The U.N. Secretary General was in Lebanon working on the Israeli/Egyptian crisis. 

Locally, Jabo Waggoner was running for Associate City Commissioner of Public Improvement. Major league clubs were closing down their spring training camps and heading for Tuesday opening games.  The Yankees and Dodgers were favored to win their respective pennants, again as in 1955.

The Birmingham News put the official U.S. Weather Bureau forecast on the top of the front page back then.  The paper called for Considerable cloudiness, windy and warm Sunday and Sunday night with scattered showers and thunderstorms.  Winds 15 to 30 mph.  Sounded like tornado weather. It was.

Around 3 p.m., an F4 tornado tore across the western and northern fringes of Birmingham.  It  touched down just west of Wylam. The tornado plowed through McDonald’s Chapel and the Stacey Hollow area. One hundred homes were destroyed in these two communities. The murderous tornado continued through Sandusky, destroying twenty blocks of homes. 

It then hit the Sayreton area just north of North Birmingham and destroyed a filling station and barbecue restaurant along US-31 in Fultondale.  Homes were destroyed in the New Georgia community between Sayreton and Lewisburg.  The tornado passed just north of Tarrant City, near Ketona, finally lifting near Chalkville. 

Other neighborhoods that were hard hit were Capps Town and Oak Ridge.  A Capps Town resident said that the tornado looked like “a big ball of fire rolling in big black smoke. It just roared, roared, roared,” she said.  The only warning anyone had was the sound of the tornado.

The twister killed 25 along its 20 mile path.  Most of the deaths occurred in the Stacey Hollow and McDonalds Chapel communities, save for two young sisters in the Sandusky area. Over two hundred people were injured and eleven hundred left homeless.   A total of 400 homes and buildings were destroyed.

Windy Behind the Rain Area

| April 14, 2013 @ 1:45 pm


Some sort of wake low or gravity wave feature is causing gusty winds behind the large rain area over Central Alabama.

We have seen reports of strong winds in the Fayette area and south of Tuscaloosa on highway 69.

At Columbus, MS winds were gusting to over 25 mph for much of the late morning. Winds gusted to 22 mph just before 1 p.m. at Tuscaloosa.

Winds may gust to 45 mph over the next couple of hours over Central Alabama.

The rain is just about over in the Birmingham Metro and will end over East Alabama before sunset.

April Showers

| April 14, 2013 @ 11:00 am


A large area of rain had over overspread the southern two thirds of Alabama by late morning, with strong to severe thunderstorms along the coast around Mobile and Baldwin Counties. The rain has steady but generally light across the northern periphery of the rain mass, but some heavier rain was not too far to the south over West Central and South Central Alabama in places like Livingston: Demopolis, Linden, Uniontown and Marion. This heavier rain area will spread northeast through the afternoon, affecting areas generally south, southeast and east of Birmingham.

RAINFALL AMOUNTS: The places that see the heavier rain will see around an inch of rain through this afternoon, with some amounts in excess of two inches. As much as three inches will be the average along the coast, where the big thunderstorm are roaming. Further north, in the I-20 corridor, one quarter to one half inch amounts will be common. North of I-20, amounts will taper off to less than an tenth of an inch.

BACK EDGE OF THE RAIN: The heaviest rain will be east of Tuscaloosa by 1:30 p.m., east of the Jefferson/Shelby County areas by 2:30 p.m. and out of Anniston by 3:30. Behind the heaviest rain will be intermittent light showers. The end of the rain should be east of I-65 by 9 p.m. and out of Alabama by midnight tonight. Lows tonight will be in the 50s after our daytime readings in the 60s. A few places outside the main rain area might hit 69F this afternoon.

THE CULPRIT: The source of the wet weather is a 1008 millibar surface low east of Grand Isle, Louisiana at the lunch hour. It is moving east northeast. Ahead of it, Gulf moisture was being lifted up and over the airmass across the Deep South, resulting in the big rain area. Along the coast, it was trying to push a warm front on shore, hence the thunderstorms.

SEVERE WEATHER: Severe weather today is limited to coastal sections of Alabama and northwestern Florida. A tornado watch is in effect for the Florida Penahandle. There have already been severe thunderstorm warnings and even a couple of tornado warnings from Louisiana to Baldwin County here in Alabama. Expect more through the afternoon hours. Thunder might be heard as far north as Eutaw, Calera and Ashland, but no severe weather will occur in Central Alabama. Our next chance of severe weather will come late Thursday into Friday.

What A Difference!

| April 14, 2013 @ 7:28 am

An all new edition of the ABC 33/40 Weather Xtreme video is available in the player on the right sidebar of the blog. You can subscribe to the Weather Xtreme video on iTunes by clicking here.

What a difference a day makes!! Yesterday was so beautiful – a nearly perfect Spring day that I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy. But for those early risers who peek at the weather, the sky has become overcast and rain is knocking on the door for Central Alabama. All of this in response to the development of a surface low pressure center along the Louisiana coast this morning. The low developing as a result of a low latitude upper trough that will move quickly into the Southwest Atlantic by Monday. Because of the overrunning, rain has developed covering the lower half of the Southeast US. Rain will be with us much of today. In fact, it looks to me like the rain will spread considerably further north than I was thinking yesterday.

Rainfall amounts will be the heaviest along the Gulf Coast with amounts of 2 to 3 inches possible. Across Central Alabama, isolated heavy rainfall will be possible with rainfall generally coming in around an inch. We’ll need to keep a close eye for flooding issues with this rain coming so quickly on the heels of the recent widespread 1 to 2 inch rains we had Thursday.

Interesting to note that the MOS guidance seems to have missed this event when it comes to temperatures. I noted yesterday that the combination of clouds, rain, and the very dry atmosphere which would contribute to evaporative cooling would result in temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than the MOS values for highs today. Well, the latest MOS guidance is still suggesting a high of 73 for Birmingham, and I have dropped my expected high into the lower 60s, still 10 degrees below MOS.

The low latitude upper trough moves into the Atlantic on Monday and should sweep the rain with it allowing us to clear out Monday with highs returning quickly into the 70s. We come under an upper ridge on Monday and Tuesday, so I think we see partly cloudy skies without any showers around. That is likely to change as we head into Wednesday and Thursday. A strong upper trough will be coming out of the Rockies on Thursday, and with a strong southerly influx of moisture and temperatures in the 80 to 84 range, isolated showers become possible on Wednesday and Thursday. The strong upper trough together with the strong surface low that will move from the Oklahoma Panhandle to the Great Lakes by Thursday will set the stage for a fairly widespread severe weather event on Day 4, Wednesday into early Thursday.

The front will come through here on Friday, probably during the first half of the day, so we will be facing a threat for severe storms. Right now, SPC still has not identified a specific area. With the major dynamics pretty far north along with some model differences, I understand their reluctance to be very specific. To me, it appears that the threat will be there primarily in the form of severe thunderstorms and a squall line. But that does not mean that we won’t see a few tornadoes – as we saw in this last event. So it is a bit far into the future to be really specific, but certainly a scenario for us to keep an eye on.

That front should be out of the state by late Friday which would bring us another great weekend with lows in the 40s and highs in the 60s.

Looking into the future, the pattern stays active but perhaps a little less active than the model suggested yesterday. But we all know the characteristics of voodoo country!!

And you can follow news and weather updates from ABC 33/40 on Twitter here. Stay in the know by following the whole gang – here’s the list…

James Spann Charles Daniel Ashley Brand
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E-Warn (AL wx watches/warnings)

I’m glad to see the rainy day for today after working in the yard and garage yesterday. Need an inside day to recover from the hard work yesterday! James Spann will be back with the next edition of the Weather Xtreme Video bright and early on Monday morning. I hope you have a nice day today. Godspeed.


Short Term Forecast

| April 14, 2013 @ 7:22 am

4-14-2013 7-19-38 AM

Brian will be along with the map discussion shortly.

Rain has thrown a kink into the plans of many Central Alabamians on this April Sunday.

Above you can see a picture of composite reflectivity forecast from the RAP model for noon today. This is an idea of where the rain might be falling. Imagine this moving from southwest to northeast and you get the picture.

As folks head out the door for church, moderate to heavy rain is falling across much of Sumter and parts of Greene, Hale, Perry and Dallas Counties.  There is also moderate rain from the Montgomery area east through Union Springs over to Eufaula.

A few spotty showers are over southern Talladega, Tallapoosa and Chambers Counties in East Central Alabama.

Everything is pushing northeast, but the northern edge is having a hard time chewing through dry air the further it makes it.

Light showers will reach Tuscaloosa by 8:30 or so.

Spotty showers will affect areas from Pell City to Birmingham before 9, increasing in intensity and coverage during the late morning. 

Rain will become heavier and more widespread generally from eastern Tuscaloosa through southern Jefferson into St Clair and Calhoun counties south into South Central Alabama before noon. Folks in places like Linden, Demopolis, Marion, Selma, Centreville, Clanton, Prattville, Talladega, Columbiana, Pell City, Anniston and Ashland will have scattered showers, with a period or two or moderate rain that could last an hour or two.

In the Birmingham area, it looks like the best chance for moderate to heavy rain will be between 11-2, especially for southern Jefferson, Shelby and St. Clair Counties.

Scattered showers will affect areas north of I-20 later this morning, continuing through much of the day, but rainfall amounts will be light.

There could be some thunder for areas south of US-80, but lightning is confined to southern Mississippi and Louisiana right now. There have been tornado warnings for some of the Louisiana coastal parishes and there is a severe thunderstorm warning right now for St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans. Severe weather is not expected in Alabama today.