At midnight on December 31, 1963, it was 31F and cloudy at the Birmingham Airport with a light northeast wind. That northeast wind was circulating around high pressure over northern Illinois, sending cool air into North and Central Alabama. To the south, low pressure was in the southern Gulf of Mexico. Moisture was spreading up over the Florida Panhandle and Southeast Alabama. Up at 18,000 feet, a strong trough was rotating toward Alabama. This trough would cut off into a strong upper low over Louisiana.
The snow would begin during the morning in Birmingham, and continue for the better part of the next 24 hours.
An amazing ten inches fell at Bay St. Louis on the Mississippi Coast. Just west of there, people in New Orleans rejoiced to see four and one half inches of snow on the ground on New Years morning. Everyone except Alabama football coach Bear Bryant, who knew his heavily favored Crimson Tide could handle just about anything that occurred in the Sugar Bowl against Ole Miss except forâ€¦snow.
Here was the scene that greeted Coach Bryant in Tulane Stadium on New Years morning before the big game.
Source: New Orleans Public Library
Even greater amounts were recorded in a stripe from the Mississippi Coast through Northwest Alabama into Tennessee. In this area, 10-19 inches of snow fell. Lawrenceburg, Tennessee saw 16 inches.
Here is the weather map from 12 midnight CST early on the morning of January 1. It was still 31F in Birmingham, but now heavy snow was falling. In fact, visibility was noted by the observer as being 2 Â½ miles. Eight inches of snow had fallen and eight inches was on the ground. It was 30F with snow in Mobile, and 34F with heavy snow in Montgomery, where the visibility was just one mile.
When it was all over, the Magic City had recorded 8.40 inches of snow, its fifth largest snowstorm ever. Florence picked up 19.2 inches of snow, a record that still stands for the state of Alabama. Huntsville measured 17.1 inches during the storm with 11 inches on the ground New Years morning.
Here is an amazing photograph from Huntsville on New Years morning.
Source: NWS Huntsville