March 1993 Blizzard Memories: Brian Peters

| March 12, 2018 @ 3:01 pm

As James stated in the beginning of his video, just where do you begin when remembering an event as historic as the Blizzard of 1993. In trying to be organized, I jotted down some notes about my memories before creating the video. I’ll post those note right below the video and update here in there that might not be in the video.

Notes for Snow Storm of March 12-13, 1993

For those of us that lived this event, we saw it from our perspective. So these are the things that stood out to me. I’m sure there are even more, so this is something I probably should have started preparing several months ago. I hope you find it interesting.

At the time, we were using LFM model – often referred to as Little Funny Model, and the NGM model, the no good model – but the NGM pegged the storm system that brought record breaking snow to Alabama. James reminded me that bit was the MRM, the Medium Range Model, that initially progged the snow storm, but as I recall, the MRM took over where the NGM ended using the NGM as its initial condition. The NWS extended forecast began mentioning the potential for snow on Monday, five days before the event. In those days, there were two forecasts, a two-day forecast and an extended forecast which covered days three through five.

Every square inch of Alabama experienced snow. In fact I observed thunder snow Friday evening. One of the lead forecasters and I were working together on a snow forecasting technique called the “Magic Chart.” The magic chart technique was used by forecasters in northern climes, and we were trying to see if it could be useful in the Southeast US. It used the 12 hour net vertical displacement forecast chart overlaid with the 850-mb temperature prog that began the 12 hour vertical displacement period. The heaviest snowfall was predicted in the area of greatest net vertical displacement that was bounded by -3 to -5 degrees C at 850-mb. Within the defined area, the net vertical displacement gave a 12 hour snowfall estimate. Using the technique Thursday and early Friday before the event produced snowfall estimates of 12 to 15 inches across Central Alabama. These amounts were generally dismissed as impossible since the standing record at Birmingham was 11 inches.

A round of scattered snow showers along with some light rain occurred at late morning on Friday, March 12th, and we handled numerous calls all afternoon about how we’d missed the forecast of snow. A Special Weather Statement was posted around 1:45 pm advising everyone that the snow was yet to develop. If only we’d known the full magnitude of what was coming our way.

We came very close to blizzard conditions in Central Alabama with heavy snow and wind gusting to over 45 mph. Initial forecasts by the NWS forecasters started out with 2 to 4 inches of snow, but those numbers were gradually raised until Friday evening when more than 8 inches was forecast. The combination of those gusty winds and the heavy, wet snow lead to many thousands of power outages when we did not need them.

The NWS was located in office building on Oxmoor Road, and like most, was snowed in. The evening shift schedule to work Friday evening made plans to stay into Saturday figuring the roads would be impassable. They encouraged the midnight shift forecasters to come in early before the start of their shift while it was snowing but roads had not become impassable. Around noon on Saturday, I was informed by a lead forecaster that they had run out of food. Everyone was fine due to emergency power and they had managed to make some suitable sleeping arrangements in offices that had no windows. After that call, I was able to find a small convenience store open, and I purchased about $40 worth of food. I embarked on the 22 mile trip that normally took about 25 to 30 minutes. But the Interstates were completely blocked by jack-knifed 18 wheelers so I had to take other surface roads, many of which were nearly impassable. The trip took nearly 2 and a half hours. Once I reached the NWS office, I had to plow through a drift blocking the entrance to the parking lot that was over 4 feet high. Getting home was equally as challenging.

Valleydale Road or 261 right below Pelham High school that leads into Helena had over six feet of snow covering the road due to drifting as west wind blew the snow off the Bearden Farms field depositing it on the roadway as the wind went up the hill toward the high school.

Snow amounts varied significantly across the area with many locations across southern Jefferson and northern Shelby counties seeing 15 to 20 inches of snow. The official amount at the Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport was 13 inches which broke the old record of 11 inches.

In some regardless, those events seem like they occurred just the other day.




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Category: Alabama's Weather, ALL POSTS, Met 101/Weather History, Winter Weather

About the Author ()

Brian Peters is one of the television meteorologists at ABC3340 in Birmingham and a retired NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist. He handles the weekend Weather Xtreme Videos and forecast discussion and is the Webmaster for the popular WeatherBrains podcast.

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