The 1983 Iron Bowl

| November 23, 2010 @ 3:30 pm | 29 Replies

The 1983 Iron Bowl game is one of the greatest in the history of the rivalry. It was played at Legion Field on December 3rd. The game started in beautiful warm sunshine after a stormy night of very heavy rains that caused severe flooding in the Birmingham area. 9.22 inches of rain fell at the National Weather Service Forecast Office, which was on Oxmoor Road at the time. IF the amount had been recorded at the Airport, it would have stood as the all-time 24 hour rainfall record for the city (until Hurricane Ivan.)

Severe thunderstorms were in the forecast as the game kicked off in glorious sunshine. A severe weather event was rapidly coming together. The first signs of trouble for fans in the stands came as the Goodyear blimp turned tail and flew east before the start of the seocnd half. The western sky began to darken and an ominous, inky black line of clouds appeared on the horizon.

With just under three minutes to play in the third quarter, Auburn was leading the game 16-14 when Alabama running back Ricky Moore scored on a sensational 57 yard run. Alabama went for two, but failed. In the replay, you can see state troopers donning their protective plastic hat covers and Auburn head coach Pat Dye in a rain poncho and a light rain began to pepper the Stadium.

Auburn superstar Bo Jackson answered with a 71 yard touchdown run to make the score 23-20. ABC Commentator Frank Broyles remarked to Keith Jackson that he had never seen a better single performance by a college football player.

When Auburn kicker Al Del Greco approached the balll the ball to kickoff to Alabama, the wind picked up and blew the ball off the tee, causing him to miss the ball, a la Charlie Borwn and Lucy. The weather was quickly going downhill.

At the NWS, forecasters were concerned. A line of severe thunderstorms was approaching western Jefferson County and a tornado warning was issued. The radar at Centreville showed a well defined hook echo heading directly toward the stadium.

Legion Field Public Address announcer Simpson Pepper read the warning over the loudspeakers but the game was not stopped. By ten minutes to go in the game, the rain was coming down in torrents as Auburn tried to control the ball and win the game in the horrible conditions as they clung to a 23-20 lead. The rain began to fall so heavily that you could barely see the field on the cameras.

Fortunately, the storm did not produce a tornado in western Birmingham, or the results would have been catastrophic. But later, the same storm dropped an F3 tornado that heavily damaged the Winn Dixie store at Oxford, killing two people. A total of seven tornadoes touched down across the state that afternoon and evening.

Auburn went on to win the game 23-20.

These screen shots of ABC’s live coverage that day are from Dr. Tim Coleman…

Please share your favorite Iron Bowl weather memories!


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Category: Met 101/Weather History

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Bill Murray is the President of The Weather Factory. He is the site's official weather historian and a weekend forecaster. He also anchors the site's severe weather coverage. Bill Murray is the proud holder of National Weather Association Digital Seal #0001 @wxhistorian

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  1. Scott McClellan says:

    Can still see the little tornado warning icons on the scoreboard! I remember listening to WHMA in Anniston a few hours after the tornado hit Oxford. It was sheer chaos at that point. Unforgettable night.

  2. I am still waiting on the Alabama – Auburn game to be on 33/40 has severe storms move in, and James takes control of 33/40 for severe weather. Will the National Guard be called out to protect the 33/40 building? When it is over, will there be a 33/40?

  3. Jeff Reynolds says:

    I remember that day very well, as I was working at an up and coming Computer store on Oxmoor Rd. The PC had just had been introduced to consumers so that timeframe sticks out in my mind. I remember listening to a Electra Bearcat crystal scanning radio, and an old Radio Shack Short Wave to listen to the Hams. Boy, has things changed just a little bit!

  4. Acid Reign says:

    …..Chuck, you are an electronic wizard, and can fix near anything. But, you’d NEVER be able to fix THAT! There would be an outrage never before seen in history! The Iron Bowl was clearly shown, in 1983, to be more potent than a tornado, deflecting it off to another area…

    …..Nevermind that the Iron Bowl’s on ABC’s little sister, ESPN. The cable and satellite’s definitely going out, before the Iron Bowl does! Me, I’d rather see the cable folks get rioted on, than our friends at ABC 33/40!

    …..All kidding aside, I’d like to thing that school and game officials would take a situation like that more seriously, these days. It was RIDICULOUS that the game went on, I thought! I don’t know what you’d do with a stadium full of 80-90 thousand people, though, if a storm like that blew up suddenly. This year, I guess you’d try to herd ’em all into Haley Center, and hope the building doesn’t fall on ’em. I seem to recall a lot of glass in that building, though.

    …..Worst Iron Bowl misery, actually being in the stadium, that I can recall, though, was the 2000 Ice Bowl. I don’t care HOW warn and dry you dressed, the humidity was about 300 percent, and that cold soaked into your BONES! There were Bama and Auburn folks hugging each other for warmth, that game.

  5. william jordan says:

    My wife an I were at that game. As I recall, the announcer stated the problem
    quite well. The upper deck. I think they feared panic as much as the weather.
    The upper deck just couldn’t be emptied in time was what the announcer implied. . We took shelter in the field-level exit until the wife’s “weather nose” said it was safe.

  6. Andy too says:

    As much as I love BHM, it drives northerners (ex-pat Candians included) crazy. The temperature is so often ripe for frozen precip, but the moisture is never around… well, except for ’93. I was here. That was impressive snowfall by any standards, but the lightening/thunder that accompanied it was new to me. Sorry, just griping… maybe this winter will finally bring some snow our way in spite of cyclical global warming.


  7. Tim Coleman says:

    I was only 9 years old during that game, and I remember being scared as I watched with my grandfather, Frank Emerson, in Tarrant.

    I still have that game on tape…Frank Broyles’ comment indicated to me why college football coaches need meteorologists on standby. “Could Auburn be so lucky that the wind has changed and is at their back also in the 4th quarter?” or something along those lines. Auburn defended the south goal in the 3rd quarter, so they had the pre-squall line southerly flow at their back. The gust front associated with the severe storms passed near the beginning of the 4th quarter, shifting the wind as Auburn switched to the north goal.

  8. Bill Lockridge says:

    I was at the game with seats in upper deck. Best I remember, we could see clouds coming before it was to dark and retreated down to under the North endzone stands. We were watching the guys on top the pressbox between plays.

  9. Mike Wilhelm says:

    I was at that game. Does Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare have a plan for that kind of nightmare scenario?

  10. Chuck says:

    I was at that game, seated in the South Endzone. Bo’s run (flattening Biscuit BTW) had us all stoked to the point that we weren’t going anywhere-tornado or otherwise. When it was all over I have never been so soaked in all my life-but it didn’t matter. We won-and that’s all that counted. WARRRRRRRRR EAGLE!

  11. It’s just wild that Big Red is joining the Big 10. The upcoming year promises to be challenging for the competition. Wow!

  12. nancy says:

    Was living in Texas and watching it on TV. I had taught several of the Auburn players…Tommy Powell and Alvin Briggs. Then the announcement that it hit Oxford later and we had no idea where that was. Ironically, six months later, we moved to Oxford.

  13. Frank says:

    Does anyone have a video they can post on YouTube of this?

  14. Scott Singer says:

    I was there with my father who ushered in section 53 in the upper deck. We were unable to exit the upper deck area quickly enough and just had to ride it out. I was only 10 years old then and remember it like it was yesterday. We huddled up together in the very top row, in the very corner of the structure. I also remember my father being asked by my mother when we arrived home if we were able to take cover during the storm. To his credit, he told the absolute truth and told her NO….needless to say, she was livid, but happy we made it home.

  15. Randy says:

    My biggest weather memory related to the game was the 1967 game won by Alabama 7-3. I was with my parents who went shopping that afternoon at a brand new store called K Mart in Roebuck. It was one of the first K Marts around at that time and was THE place to shop back then. There was a Jack’s Hamburgers on the corner and across the street was Jim Skinner Ford. And of course, the Roebuck shopping center was, along with Eastwood Mall, the places to shop in Birmingham. I managed to convince mom and dad to allow me to stay in the car and listen to the game on the radio. (Very few games then were on TV and this one wasn’t, in fact, the next ALA-AUB game to be televised was the 1971 game). I remember the wind and rain very well. The parking lot lights were on two poles coming up out of the ground in a V shape. The wind was really whipping them around and rain was so hard you could barely make out the front of the store, not to mention the lightning and thunder. Of course, things at Legion Field were about the same as Roebuck. The field was a quagmire but Alabama won on the famous Stabler run midway in the 4th quarter 7-3.

  16. James/Jim (Tuscaloosa) says:

    I was living in Monroeville as a youngster in 1967 and remember a tornado hit Frisco City, some 5-6 miles to the South during the game. Interesting the local radio announcer DID NOT interrupt the game to broadcast a warning and was only after the game was over, did we learn of the strom.

    In 1992, I was at the Iron Bowl game in Birmingham, and remember how cold it was, as was the 2000 game in Tuscaloosa.

    In 1983, I was at Ordnance Officers Basic Course at Redstone Arsenal preparing for a Field Exercise, so I didn’t get to watch the game, but I do remember the bad weather; and the fact we had to come out of the field early in the week due to bad weather still in the area.

  17. James/Jim (Tuscaloosa) says:

    BTW Mike, an EMA offical is present at all games at Bryant Denny Stadium and they do have a plan in place.

  18. susie says:

    I was a student at Alabama and went to the game with friends. We did not leave the stadium when the Tornado Warning was announced; where would we have gone? It actually seemed safer in the open air than in the concourse where all the stands could come crashing down on us – besides, we did not want to miss the game! I’ve never been that wet – my shoes did not dry until Wednesday. Except for the loss, it’s a great memory.

  19. Chriss says:

    My dad, my brother and I (being 17 years old at the time) were at the 1983 Iron Bowl. It was the first time I had ever been to an IB and was so excited. Dad had paid attention to the forecast and had us dress accordingly. We had waders, ponchos…we were basically covered in plastic from head to foot. The thing is, just like was said in the story, the 1st half was played in dry, sunny weather. We looked so out of place in our rain gear that I think I heard snickers now and then.

    During the 2nd half, the rains came and the people who had been snickering at us were running for cover. We held our seats even after the tornado warning was announced. I even remember the crowd cheering when the warning was announced. After all, where could we or they go? Not even a fraction of the 80k could crowd in the concourse so we just sat there. And we might of missed the game if we got up! I also remember the players looking around at each other like, “Seriously, we’re going to keep playing?”

    The rain was coming down so hard that I had to look at the game from at an angle sort of like you do when you glance at the sun. When I did look straight at the game, water would just pour into them.

    We were sitting in the Alabama section and after the game was over, I remember the Auburn fans who had tore down the goal post sat it down right in front of the Alabama section.

    Dad had even had us bring an extra pair of socks that we had strategically left in the van. When we finally did get to the van, I had no idea just how good dry socks could feel when the socks you did have on were soaked.

    A tornado could of swept through and killed thousands of people during that game. Very fortunate that all that happened was that we were all soaked. Wouldnt trade the memory for anything, though. What an intense experience!

  20. Dave says:

    I never been to a Iron Bowl game. I remember that game and had a hard time believing the game was not stopped due to the weather. I remember my son went to the 2000 game when the weather was cold with rain and sleet. He went a day after having 4 wisdom teeth cut out. I was surprised he made threw the game. He said he was high on Vicodin and alcohol and didn’t notice it.

  21. Rex says:

    I was at this game, my first year at UA. We were young and never really thought of leaving. You know the feeling, it won’t get us. The worst thing to me was that Auburn was the last one with the ball before the torrential rain hit. Nobody did anything on offense after that and Auburn won 23-20. That would have been the first Iron Bowl without the Bear.

  22. tony nashville tn says:

    I was there w/ my, (now ex), wife and father n law…setting in the upper 200 section of the ole gray ghost…we had already made the decision we “ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE”! THE sky was so dark and the hardest rain I ever sat in during any game, EVER! I CAN STILL HEAR THE WAR EAGLE chant as tho it was yeasterday…..

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  24. kim johnson says:

    I was in high school and was there with my family! what a great game for auburn!! war eagle!!

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