Major Winter Storm Ahead

| January 7, 2011 @ 6:30 am | 50 Replies

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.

Up front, just a reminder this event is still about 48 hours from beginning, so this forecast could (and probably will) change, so keep an eye on the blog for updates.

TODAY/TOMORROW: While snow is possible northeast of Alabama over East Tennessee, down here the weather will be dry through tomorrow. The high will be up in the mid 50s today, so it certainly won’t feel like a winter storm is coming. The weather will be colder tomorrow with a high in the 40s. I should note that our friends up in the northeast corner of Alabama might see a few sprinkles or flurries today or tomorrow, mostly over Jackson and DeKalb Counties.

MAJOR WINTER STORM POTENTIAL: A strong short wave aloft will reflect a surface low in the Northwest Gulf of Mexico late tomorrow night, and precipitation will spread into Southwest Alabama Sunday morning. At the onset this precipitation could be sleet or freezing rain, even as far south as U.S. 84. Then, during the day Sunday, that precipitation will spread northeast, and cover all of Alabama by late Sunday afternoon.

NORTH ALABAMA: The precipitation north of U.S. 278 (Hamilton to Cullman to Gadsden) should be mostly in the form of snow. The snow will be heavy at times Sunday night. We are projecting potential for 4-7 inches of snow in this region, and where the deformation axis sets up, we might hear of isolated 10 inch amounts, especially across the higher elevations.

CENTRAL ALABAMA: Down this way, through North-Central Alabama, the most challenging part of the forecast is dealing with the precipitation type. There is no doubt there will be some freezing rain involved, in addition to snow, and defining that exact line is almost impossible at this time. For the broad area south of U.S. 278 (Hamilton to Cullman to Gadsden), and north of U.S. 80 (Demopolis to Selma to Montgomery to Opelika), there will be a wintry mix, heavy at times, with potential for some significant ice accumulation in that zone. Perhaps enough for some power outages due to ice build-up on trees and power lines. We are projecting snow amounts of 2-4 inches, with ice involved as well.

SOUTH ALABAMA: There could be some icy issues down to U.S. 84, but they will be more isolated in nature. Much of the precipitation could be in the form of rain, but we have seen evidence in modeling of freezing rain Sunday night possible down to Alabama 10 (Butler to Camden to Greenville to Troy).

The graphic below is a POTENTIAL accumulation forecast. We all know that snow doesn’t follow those nice straight lines we draw on these maps. Just a basic guideline on the thinking this morning. Be aware this graphic probably will change as we get closer to the event…

Here is a FAQ for you on the storm (frequently asked questions)…

TIMING: The main impact of this winter storm will come from about 12:00 noon Sunday through 12:00 noon Monday. Keep in mind there could be some issues Sunday morning over West and Southwest Alabama.

WHAT ABOUT TRAVEL? Travel will become difficult by Sunday evening across North-Central Alabama, and perhaps impossible late Sunday night as the snow and freezing rain becomes widespread and heavy at times. Understand we could see some icy travel as early as Sunday morning over West and Southwest Alabama, with the problems advancing northeastward during the day. It is likely that many schools will be closed Monday, with travel very icy Monday morning.

Expect flight delays at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Sunday night and Monday. Perhaps major delays. Keep in mind this same winter storm will be affecting airports in Atlanta, Memphis, and Nashville. Air travel will be very frustrating, most likely, Sunday through Monday.

POWER OUTAGES? Somebody over Central Alabama could very well see enough ice accumulation for some power outages, but at this point we simply don’t have the skill to define that area. The greatest risk of ice accumulation is south of U.S. 278, and north of U.S. 80. We do not expect the icing to be as significant as 1980, but it could be similar to 1996.

REMEMBER: We always have people asking about just about every county and community in our large market… no way we can address every single community; just see the maps we produce and pick out your hometown for the potential impact.

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Long time readers know what I am going to say here. With every winter storm in Alabama, there will be surprises. And, there will be some delighted with the amount of snow they see, and others severely disappointed.

REST OF NEXT WEEK: We might see a few flurries Tuesday morning, but generally speaking the rest of next week will be cold and dry.

JAN 16-20: Still some concern we will have a major Arctic invasion in this time frame with potential for temperatures near record levels… see the Weather Xtreme video for more on this.

CHAT: If you want to chat live about this event, we encourage you to use the chat alongside our live radar feed on uStream. You can access that right here.

FOLLOW ALONG: Here are our weather team Twitter accounts….

James Spann Jason Simpson Ashley Brand
J. B. Elliott Bill Murray Brian Peters
Dr. Tim Coleman WeatherBrains Podcast E-Warn (AL wx watches/warnings)

WEATHER BRAINS: Don’t forget you can listen to our weekly 30 minute netcast anytime on the web, or on iTunes. This is the show all about weather featuring many familiar voices, including our meteorologists here at ABC 33/40.

Dr. Tim will post a mid-morning update after the 12Z models come in, and I will have another full discussion and video by 3:30. Enjoy the day, and stay tuned!


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Category: Alabama's Weather

About the Author ()

James Spann is one of the most recognized and trusted television meteorologists in the industry. He holds the AMS CCM designation and television seals from the AMS and NWA. He is a past winner of the Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year from both professional organizations.

Comments (50)

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  1. Rob says:

    I think the whole thing will shift a bit south, and beginning at the northern half of Jefferson County will end up with mostly snow… 5 inches I’d say, with slightly more as you head north.

  2. LincolnRoy says:

    Wow….Looking more like we will get a Snowman making Snow.NWS in Mississippi sayd the greatest amount of snow there will fall in central Mississippi.
    It is Going to SNOW!!!!!!

  3. OLD MAN WINTER says:

    I’m going to “hammer” someone!

  4. Rob says:

    PS –

    James, there’s been a lingering question on my mind. Do you see the frozen precip in BHM changing to all rain at any point? If so, would this melt away most of the snow/ice?

  5. James first maps have been very close to correct in the past. Let it snow!

  6. Evan says:

    Here it comes, by tomorrow morning there won’t be a loaf of bread or gallon of milk to be found anywhere between here and Chattanooga. 😀

  7. Revenge is Nice says:

    @ Old Man Winter: Do you take requests?

  8. OLD MAN WINTER says:

    Sure Revenge, what do you need from me.

  9. AUGRAD says:

    I don’t know what to do. I have reservations in Auburn Monday night but snow in Bham sounds much better than ice in Auburn.

  10. weatherdudette says:

    Well.MWS saying 1-2″ for Bham? !?!?!?

  11. bhmswa says:

    as far as air travel goes i work for swa in bhm and im sure there will be cancellations delta will cancel flights in a heart beat

  12. scott says:

    I LUV SWA in BHM!

  13. OLD MAN WINTER says:

    Don’t listen to NWS. They haven’t figured me out yet. But James has. Listen to James and you will know what I will do. Enjoy the snow and you’re welcome.

  14. Pope Tyrone XIII says:

    What schools will be closed?

  15. Al Gore says:

    With all do respect, Mr. Spann is wrong. There will be thunderstorms and tornados on Sunday followed by massive flooding and maybe a hurricane, all brought on by increased global warming. I will soon have a new movie out detailing how snow in the south is caused by global warming. Until it is released there will be no snow in the south.

  16. Sue says:

    if said didn’t hear but will snow stay thru tuesday??

  17. bhmswa says:

    thanks scott we appreciate you choosing to fly with us. I dont think its gone be alot of LUV if we cancel flights thank God im on the ramp LOL

  18. connie says:

    Do you think that i will see snow here in montgomery or will i miss out again ?

  19. Watch out for all the IDIOTS and you know who you are that will get out and cause all kinds of accidents thinking they can drive in ice and snow when they can’t my advise get what you you need before it comes in now not after

  20. Wendy says:

    Oh Al Gore goshhh take your global warming concept to people out in CA who may actually believe you gueaaaaa…. and all I can say is BRING ON THE SNOW with masss accumulations… enough to feed the world some snow ice cream LOLL Thank you James and Crew for all you do

  21. steven says:

    bhmswa: would they cancel flights mid-afternoon if the weather starts at that point or should we be good?? a lot of unhappy customers will be upset giving the flights to glendale and everything…

  22. Fred says:

    I don’t care where you are from, nobody can drive on ice. Please, if you do not have to travel Sunday afternoon and Monday, stay home.

  23. auburnfan says:

    can anybody give me a good idea of what time the weather will be into birmingham? I have a flight out at noon and trying to figure out what time the icy/snowy weather will be in town….any help is greatly appreciated!!

  24. Ashley says:

    CBS has the freezing rain/snow on Tuesday into Wednesday. What is that about?

  25. BKS says:

    Bill or JB (I think) posted a story last year about an ice storm. A guy had kept a journal for a few days during the storm. Any chance you guys could post a link or repost the story for me? It was very interesting.

  26. josh says:

    There are several FULL charter flights leaving both Sunday Night and Monday Morning from BHM. Even if the planes can take off(if they even land to begin with), the issue will be GETTING TO THE AIRPORT. All interstates downtown are elevated, the expressway always closes first. I hate it for the aubs, with their $3,000 tickets.

  27. chris says:

    12z nam still looks great!!

  28. Jeff from Hoover says:

    Looks like with this winter storm we are going to have to wait until it starts to see what type of precip we will get. Hope its ALL snow and NO ice.

  29. curt05 says:

    i remember the storm in 96….. i was pretty young but i remember walking to the store with my dad and it was sleeting/snowing with over an inch of ice/sleet/snow on the ground.
    around birmingham and especially north looks like a good chance for at least around 3 inches of snow now. everyone will enjoy it and there will probably be a few problems but nothing bad, b/c most people will stay home with that much snow on the ground.
    south of that where i think there it will be more ice than snow. People may wake up Monday and look outside and not see much snow on the ground and think its ok to drive.
    Ice is deadly but missing one day of work is not.

  30. Feenix Fyre says:

    @ Al Gore….thank you! That totally made me lol. 😀

  31. Jeff L says:

    Chris…..what type of precip is the 12z Nam predicting?

  32. Jennifer in Mt Olive says:

    I was only 11 at the time, but does anyone remember if this is how the ’93 predictions started?

  33. whiz says:

    12z NAM is awesome for BHM!!

  34. Jeff from Hoover says:

    Wonder when the NWS will pull the trigger and put up a Winter Storm Watch?

  35. bhmswa says:

    @steven i really cant say rite now dispatch tells us all type of stuff from their office in dallas & like sumone else said the planes might have a hard time coming in here

  36. KAD says:

    12z nam has the whole state of Alabama getting snow!!!

  37. steven says:

    @bhmswa thanks…I’m just hoping my flight can beat the weather. It will be cutting it close. The rain/ice/snow will be jsut getting into town by the time we are boarding….well, hopefully boarding. I am praying for rain that morning and changing over to snow later for everyone. I just want to make it out there!!!

  38. steven says:

    @bhmswa just FYI my flight is at noon…

  39. rooster says:

    What do ya’ll think us folks up here in Jackson County, in the NE corner, around Scottsboro will see with this event? We are right on the Tenn River.

  40. kevin says:

    Can someone post a link to the 12z nam

  41. BamaboyinTN says:

    Where is the link for the 48 NAM snow outlook that James showed in his video update this morning?

  42. Tom says:

    I wonder why accuweather and weatherunderground are not nearly as hopeful for major snow accumulation.

  43. bhmswa says:

    @steven i wish i could have told you more but if i find out anything about cancellations i will post it

  44. jdm97trm02 says:

    Well, I guess it is going to be a chili weekend. Nothing goes better with snow than a big bowl of chili!

  45. Medicine Man says:

    Here is a link to the GFS & NAM, choose the 850 Loop at the top of the page. subtract 6 hours for central time.

  46. AM says:

    Ah, yes, 1996 (February..I think it was). I year as a whole I’ll never forget…got married that year. 🙂

    Mainly ice coated everything with about an inch or two of soft white ice pellets…just enough for good sledding but not a snow man. But Blount county got hammered with more snow than Jeff Co….I remember cuz we were looking for land up that way and got caught in it all. It started mid day and got worse that night. Sounds like a similar set up. Can’t wait, now I am snug up in Blount County and wont feel so trapped and can enjoy it more. Love the white stuff!

  47. Medicine Man says:

    WOW the NAM is looking great for the HAM! Dynamic Forcing at its best! Pull that cold air DOWN!

  48. Renee' Hurd says:

    Wow, I sense a new Mayhem commercial out of this…. 🙂

    I now live in the Chicago area and to the person that said no one can really drive good in ice, they are correct. I would have thought these people are experts by now, but no. I’ve driven in the snow a little bit right around here and so far, so good. I haven’t wondered far from home yet, though.

    I know Bama is infamous for closing the state down so if y’all get what’s been predicted, listen to them and STAY home. If you must get out, though, staying in the previous ruts can be bad. They can ice quicker, plus, if someone else has gone off the road, being in a rut can make you do the same thing. If you need to, drive into deeper snow — it will help slow you down. You do NOT want to slam on your brakes in ice and snow as you will go sliding and possibly do some 360s. Allow LOTS of room to slow down. Hope this helps….

    Good luck, and happy snow to y’all. Enjoy, but be safe and don’t take dumb chances — it isn’t worth your life or someone else’s.

  49. kathy mellon says:

    will they close local courthouse if the roads are bad? I have to be in civil court on monday at one thirty. I would stay home but its in my best interest to be there so was wondering if they close down as well.

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