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Blizzard of ’93 Alabama Totals

| 4:35 am March 13, 2009 | Comments (11)

If you have not done so already, scroll down for a lot more information about the Blizzard of ’93 in Alabama, including TV coverage and personal stories and still pictures. (I love still pictures so I can study them)

I wanted to add a list of the official snow amounts from around the state and some other notes. It was possibly the “storm of a lifetime” or “storm of a century” yet there are no laws of nature that would prevent more storms this bad in our lifetime. At one time during this drama, all airports along the Atlantic Coast were closed.

I am holding in my coffee-stained hands a series of surface maps during the storm. The intense low pressure area that was born over the Gulf of Mexico, was directly over Apalachicola, in NW Florida at midnight and by 6 am, March 13, it was moving across SE Georgia and gaining strength. By 9 am, directly over Columbia, S.C., then on up the east coast where record low pressures were record. Some of those:

28.28 inches, While Plains, N.Y., north of New York City
28.43 Philadelphia and at JFK Airport, New York
28.45 Dover Delaware

Many hurricanes do not have pressures that low. A few peak wind gusts:

144 mph Mount Washington, New Hampshire
110 mph in Franklin County, Florida
109 mph at Dry Tortugas, Florida
101 mph Flattop Mountain North Carolina

ALABAMA SNOW TOTALS
Walnut Grove had the honor of having the most from official NWS Coop stations and the regular reporting stations with 20 inches (however, check the note from the ABC 33/40 Skywatcher from Grantley at the end of this report. We just received it yesterday.) Walnut Grove is on U.S. 278, the main route between Gadsden and Cullman near the Blount-Etowah County line. Upslope probably played a part here as the powerful winds were out of the east and NE bringing in extra moisture from the Atlantic. Undoubtedly Atlantic moisture started mixing with moisture from our friend, the Gulf of Mexico by that time. Extra snow because the moisture-laden winds had to rise to get over Straight Mountain and Lookout Mountain.

All of Alabama got measurable snow except the extreme south portions of Baldwin and Mobile County and even those areas had a dusting. The list:

20 inches at Walnut Grove
17 Valley Head
16 Oneonta and Bessemer
13 Anniston, Talladega, Pinson, Birmingham Airport
12 Scottsboro, Childersburg, Thomasville
11 Sylacauga
10 Cullman, Clanton, Heflin
9 Thorsby
8 Centreville, Ashland, Moulton, Guntersville
7 Alexander City, Huntsville, Whatley
6 Camden, Evergreen, Jasper, Livingston, Andalusia, Haleyville, Highland Home
5 Auburn, Winfield, Muscle Shoals, Chatom
4 Montgomery, Union Springs, Tuscaloosa, Demopolis, Frisco City, Greenville, Troy
3 Brewton, Hamilton, Bay Minette, Mobile Airport
2 Atmore, Robertsdale
Trace Coden and Fairhope

OFFICIAL WEATHER SEQUENCE/BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT
At 5:50 am, morning of March 13, 1993: Temperature 28, visibility 1/16th mile with thunderstorm, heavy snow and blowing snow (near whiteout conditions) wind NW 18, thunder and lightning in all directions, one inch additional snow last hour, 9 inches since midnight, 12 inches on the ground. During that thundersnow, the sound of thunder was muffled and the lightning was erie green. The official final total at Birmingham Airport was 13 inches, a record that still stands. However, 17 inches in other parts of the city, including where I lived on Winola Lane in Huffman at the time and drifts up to 5 feet in parts of the city.

LOW TEMPERATURES AT THE END OF THE STORM
2 above at Pinson and Birmingham Airport
3 Valley Head
6 Cullman, Bessemer, Winfield, Talladega
7 Russellville, Vernon, Childersburg
8 Scottsboro, Oneonta, Jasper, Ashland, Heflin
9 Thorsby

EXHAUSTED NWS FORECASTERS
I have in my hands, a long list of all the statements and warnings issued by NWS/Birmingham during the event including some preliminary statements on March 10. At that time, forecast discussions were not released to the public like they are now but here are a few notes from those:

8:54 am, CST, Saturday, March 13: “Evening and midnight shift still here for the duration. Possibly until Monday, so if you have any bread, send us some. Looks like Cleveland and Buffalo out our window (11 West Oxmoor Road) At 2:52 pm, “Still have tired evening shift from yesterday and last nights midnight shift. May need food drop soon since our building surrounded by snow drifts 2 feet or more” Finally, at 9:15 am Sunday: “Winter storm crew, now working shift number 6 growing wary but there is light at the end of the tunnel. (Sure reads like Bill Herrmann to me)

After the event was over, there were reports of 15-foot snow drifts in NE Alabama. This report from Ben, the 3340 Skywatcher in Grantley seems to support that report:

This is one date I will always remember. We measured 34 inches of snow here in Grantley and had drifts 12 feet tall ( I have a picture of our house from inside the back porch and you can just see the sky peeking between a 12-foot snow drift and the eave of our roof, it looked like something you would see in the lake effect areas) . I stayed up all night listening to the storm as it brought down so many trees them being snapped. It was like hundreds of shot going off all around. I remember how it was surreal outside as the storm passed there was about an hour lull in the storm sometime around 4am and then like a train coming it roared into action again. It was just the oddest thing. I remember walking outside to see the snow thinking well, I guess its over, then its was like a tidal wave you could hear the winds coming along with the thunder in the distance. Then for another 4 hrs we got hammered by the wind and snow. We had one fatality nearby as a man wrecked his car during the storm then tried to walk to saftey but he didn’t make it. He had missjudged a snowdrift and fell into a stream that was about 14 ft deep. We lost power for 17 days and couldn’t get out of the area till Friday of the following week. I love snow but this is one snowfall I never want to see again.
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This report is way too long. I may delete parts of it later this morning…

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  1. Great info! Thanks JB.

  2. John From Talladega says:

    JB, great story! Don’t delete a thing! The story was not long enough! Great read!

  3. Patrick in Riverchase says:

    I lived in Vestavia at the time, with the back of my house facing a scenic cliff facing east. Backyard had drifts of 37inches, front yard had actual accumulation of 17 inches.

  4. Eric says:

    Great read! We has 12 inches of snow at my house in Clanton during this storm. I measured one drift where some snow had fallen off our roof and it was 36 inches deep!

  5. Stuart says:

    please don’t delete any of the post, its all so interesting JB.

    love the NWS blurbs, I can’t imagine what that must have been like cooped up in the office..

  6. Acid Reign says:

    …..Didn’t think to bring the yardstick out after that storm, but I did take a measurement. Up on Shades Crest Road near I-65, the snow was as deep as a two-year-old toddler’s armpits! Estimate of 16-18 inches. Needless to say, she didn’t much care for it! Between the wet, and the brilliant, reflected sunlight, she screamed. She also didn’t understand why the light switches and TV wouldn’t work…

  7. John Terry says:

    I will go to my grave with in disagreement with the “official” measurement in Tuscaloosa of 4 inches. Even though I was 14 at the time…I measured almost a foot with several feet of drifts. I just dont agree with that total or even some of the totals from past events. The 1 March snow I had almost four inches at my house in Northport…and the Tuscaloosa Airport Station didnt even log a measurement…

  8. Rex says:

    John Terry- I was in Tuscaloosa in 93 and measured 9 inches in my front yard.

  9. Rob says:

    I measured 17 inches in Hoover an average from 3 different measurements around our house along with 4 foot drifts against the backside of our house. Absolutely the weirdest winter storm in my lifetime…..thundersnow and green lightening. I would love to have another one now that I am old enough to appreciate it.

  10. James (Tuscaloosa) says:

    Yea, we certainly had more than 4 inches.

  11. brian says:

    heflin had about 15 inches! and tons of ice followed the following 10 days!!!

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