The 1982 Winter Storm in Birmingham

| January 11, 2008 @ 9:53 pm | 27 Replies

Birmingham experienced one of its worst winter storms of the twentieth century as snow swept into Central Alabama about midday on January 12, 1982. Morning forecasts had called for a winter storm watch for occasional sleet and freezing rain that would arrive by sundown. By mid-morning, as freezing rain and sleet across South Alabama was spreading rapidly north, the watch was changed to a winter storm warning.

The snow arrived about 8 hours earlier than anticipated in the Birmingham area and quickly changed over to a mix of freezing rain and sleet that turned roads in skating rinks. Thousands of motorists had to abandon their vehicles on roads and hike home or spend the night in shelters. Brookwood Village mall became a huge shelter. So many wrecks occurred that the Birmingham Police Department could not answer the calls for accident investigation.

As temperatures hovered near the freezing mark through the night, freezing rain created a thick coating on all exposed objects. Trees snapped, pulling down power lines and putting as many as 750,000 Alabamians in the dark. A state of emergency was declared in Alabama and National Guard Armories were opened to serve as shelters.

The event occurred as low pressure moving along the Gulf coast spread moisture up and over an arctic airmass causing the wintry precipitation. Share your favorite story from the winter storm of 1982.


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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. Acid Reign says:

    …..Honestly, there was nothing fun AT ALL about that storm! Unless you had special shoes, walking on any outdoor concrete was extremely treacherous! I’d bet a LOT of area residents stepped out on the porch and “busted” some tailbones.

    …..No snowmen, no snowball fights, no fun. The power went out, of course. As I recall, it got pretty cold for a few days afterward. We sat in front of the fireplace, shivered, ate various reheated can goods, and read. We were low on stuff to read, too. A few magazines were exhausted quickly. The only library book we had was Stephen King’s “Cujo.” Having lived around large dogs all our lives, we all agreed that the book was ridiculous, but everyone took their turn reading it. Tedious, tedious, tedious. The highlight of the day was turning on a battery-powered radio and listening to TC and John Ed. Those guys worked a LOT of 16-hour shifts on the air during nasty weather events… Bless ’em!

  2. Stephanie Honeycutt says:

    Oh but I sure had fun. I was just a 10 year old kid then, and remember this day clearly. My grandmother picked us up from school. My mother was downtown doing who knows what, and my father was at work. Both were stranded. But Granny made it fun. I read Ripley’s believe it or not in from of the wood burning fireplace. We managed to play outdoors on her many acres of land, never nticing the cold, because there was always hot cocoa and warm hugs to come inside to…..

  3. ~Eddie~ says:

    If my memory is correct, this was the time when after we had all this to deal with we had some more snow 2 or 3 days later and there was snow on top of snow/ice on the ground for about one whole week!! I was working at Food World in Gardendale and since I lived not to far from the store & no one else could get to work I walked to work each day and worked from around 7 AM till 10 PM for 3 or 4 days in a row, got a HUGE pay check the next week and had fun while there at work cause we would go and get steaks and potatoes and cook them at the store before the meat went bad that was in the case because not that many people came into the store to shop.

  4. Next day, no power so, we cooked breakfast on the grill, best breakfast I have ever had.

    I put two nice thick T-bones on top of the grill in the back yard. I was going to grill them for lunch. I heard a noise in the back yard, went outside and….

    The dog next door jumped the fence and ate our steaks!

  5. Paul Way says:

    I reported into the Fire Station early (Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service, Rescue 6). When the storm hit we were overwhelmed with calls for help. We spent the next 3 days out in the storm trying to help the people as much as posible with EMS.

  6. Kevin McGuire says:

    I was a senior at Berry High School that year and was finishing an exam that morning before we were finally released. I was driving my brother and a couple of friends home. We turned down Columbiana Road and onto Tyler Road in heavy traffic, but cars were already sliding as we started up the first hill. With everyone sliding around out of control, we decided to park the car. There was barely enough room for our Datsun to fit between two cars parked against the guard rail, so I gunned the engine causing the tires to lose what little traction they had and my brother and friends pushed the car sideways into the small space. We walked several miles home from there enjoying the snow and stopping in at the old Woozy’s Gulf station on Alford Avenue for hot chocolate along the way. Although the rest of the week was like living in a frozen Narnia, I fondly remember how everyone helped each other and shared what they had.

  7. Angie says:

    No way that was “fun.” I was 8 months pregnant with my second child, (my first being a 3 year old.) I got snowed in with my in-laws (all of them). My husband works with AL Power, so I didn’t see him for two weeks. My 3 year old son and I had to stay with my in-laws for a week until the roads cleared and my dad could come and get us. My parents never lost electricity, but my in-laws lost it that first night. My son was obsessed with hot wheels, so all we heard for a week was him pushing his cars and making his “motor sounds”. All of my in-laws say what they remember most is being scared to death I would go into labor early and the sound of my son “driving” his cars. What a storm!!

  8. Kellie says:

    I was in the 6th grade that year. I remember going home from school that day. Of course, our power went off for 4 days, but we had a fireplace. We slept in sleeping bags in the living room in front of the fireplace. My parents and grandparents cooked us scrambled eggs for breakfast over the fire. We even had chili for supper. As a kid, it was fun because we were out of school and snow did fall a few days later. We got the cardboard out and used it to sled down our driveway and a really steep hill in our neighborhood.

  9. L'Rue says:

    Thank you for putting this on the blog. My friend and I often talk about this storm. We both recall snow falling then being covered with ice.And then snow fell on top of this. There were icicles hanging from the roof. It was really messy. I remember not having power. Those were the really good days.

  10. Charles says:

    I had car trouble that day, and couldn’t get to work.(Very Lucky) I borrowed my sister in laws car to go to town,)Sylacauga) and before I got home, it started to snow, and snow hard. We probably had about a inch on the ground before it stopped and the freezing rain began. Then it really got exciting, as my Daughter decided this would be a good time to be born! My brother in law was in the National Guard, and came out in one of there four wheel drives and carried my wife to the hospital. while I made arrangements for my other kids welfare. Using Betty’s car, which was a huge chevy impala, I was able to get to the hospital. Dana was born at 3:am on the thirteenth.I left the hospital and it took me over an hour to get home, which was only 6 miles. Betty had lost power, and had no heat, so we put everyone in the car and started for my house. (At he time I had a wood burning heater)I took over a hour to get to my house, which was only half a mile, but it was down a dirt road, and tree’s were bent and broke everywhere. But we stayed warm, and seven days later we got power back. Bring on the snow, but PLEASE, no ICE!!!

  11. Chris M. says:

    Wasn’t this also the time period that record lows were broken? Besides no snow, it just doesn’t seem to get as cold anymore. Here in Huntsville, the last record low in January was set in the 80’s!!!
    Anyway my story, I was in 7th grade in South Alabama in Jackson, Alabama and everyday the kids that were absent made the absent-tee list. On that particular day it was easier for the office staff to just make a list of kids that were there that day. My parents made me go to school if the school was open period- plain and simple! Schools started out open on the day but closed by late morning. By around 10 am the school decided to close.

  12. Ang says:

    I remember my dad taking us to school that morning and the flurries were already blowing and wisping on the roadways (a sure sign it’s going to stick if it falls heavy enough). My dad was grumbling that school would be cancelled as soon as he dropped us off and he’d have to end up coming back to pick us up (or mom would). Sure enough, that is exactly what happened. What an exciting time to grow up in the 80’s….lots of wintery fun days during that decade. I know it was hell on the grown-ups, but it was so FUN for us kids. My kids have yet to experience this type of excitement and while they don’t know what they’re missing…I do.

  13. kevin says:

    I guess because we were 4 single people living in a townhouse at Valley Ridge Aprts.,we had a blast.I was in Jasper on my sales route when the word came out to get off the roads immediately.I made it as far as 21st street exit and the red Mt.Expressway turned into a parking lot.Had to walk home.I remember this poor young lady in toeless sandals,her feet were turning blue,so i offered her my shoes,and we would swap back and fourth everytime one of us couldn’t stand it anymore.There were about 200 people walking with us,but I guess no one was taught to help out a stranger in trouble.Kinda made me proud to help.

  14. Suzanne says:

    I was a Senior in high school in Tuscaloosa. I remember how excited we all were about the possibility of snow later in the day, and I also remember hearing that it might come earlier than originally expected. We found out that school would be dismissed after 2nd period. I had a friend who rode to school with me, and yearbook pages that absolutely had to be taken to the post office that morning, or the yearbook would be late! By the time we got to my car, snow already was sticking to it, the parking lot pavement and the street. You can imagine the chaos of a large high school parking lot full of teenagers getting out of school mid-morning for snow! It’s a wonder we all did not kill ourselves. After the trip to the post office and to drop off my friend, I started home. It probably was about 10 miles, but I had never driven in snow before and it seemed to take forever. I remember thinking there were a lot of small hills I had never noticed before. That night, ice fell on top of the snow, then more snow on top of that. I believe that was my first experience with ice, and I recall the sound of tree branches snapping from the weight. The power was off for several days. We had a small gas heater in our basement, but no fireplace. It was very cold, very dark, and very boring. We all read a lot, played “20 questions” and other word games, and I pretended to study for my postponed final exams. I remember my father making coffee on the grill, but I don’t know how he did it since I’m pretty sure he didn’t use the glass “Mr. Coffee” pot. We did not return to school until the next Monday.

  15. Ryne says:

    93 storm was better!!!!

  16. ed says:

    It was a day before my birthday when that storm hit. I was in the 6th grade and we came home early. I didn’t get jack for my birthday…just stayed home from school. My birthday loot was delayed until the roads cleared

  17. Jeff says:

    Oh, I disagree Ryne, the Blizzard of 93 was no fun at all…Too many people stranded and without power for weeks. The snow was so deep the kids couldn’t even enjoy it. The storm of 1982 and 1992 both were much better for fun…although the 1982 storm did have some ice involved with the snow, but it was fun overall…but the one in 1992 on Jan 18th (Saturday) it snowed all day long if I remember correctly it was 6 inches and we had fun all day!!

  18. Matt Marshall says:

    As a kid, the 1982 storm(s) was great! As an adult, probably not so much. I was 11 so it was great fun! The 1992 storm was really nice because it was all snow. 1993 Blizzard was a mixture of fun and trouble.

  19. Kim says:

    I was in 4th grade at Avondale and I remember looking out the window and not being able to see. We were all so excited! Schools were dismissed early and my mom came and got us. My teacher was from Iowa and could not understand why we were all going home. We spent the next day sledding at the golf course and Triangle Park. Fun times!

  20. Judy Travis, MD says:

    I was home that morning studying for Medical Boards. My husband worked “over the Mountain” but we lived in Center Point. Gary called me and told me he was coming home because James Spann had issued a winter storm warning. I laughed because it was in the 60’s and a beautiful day. Gary got home 3 hours later…walking because cars were all over the roads. He took our three wheeler and spent the rest of the afternoon rescuing stranded motorist and taking them home. We are your NUMBER ONE FANS. Dr. Judy

  21. Matt Padgett says:

    I was three and just remember it being cold and snowy and waiting on my parents to pick-up me and my older brother from some friends house. 92 storm was fun and the Super Storm of 93 was a dream come true.

  22. Kelly1 says:

    I remember this storm for a couple of reasons. My parents taught my sister and I how to play Rook. The other thing was I believe this was one of the times that one of our local stations made a video with the music “Slip Sliding Away” with people trying to walk on the ice.

  23. Ben says:

    I guess it was the first evening of the storm that I was scheduled to fly from Indianapolis back to BHM. I made it fine to Atlanta that night, but quickly discovered that my flight to Birmingham had been canceled. I got to spend the night in the airport (it’s hard to imagine ATL totally empty). After getting on many flights to BHM that would eventually cancel, I made it on the first flight into BHM 20 hours after arriving in ATL. Other than being exhausted, I enjoyed the beauty of the snowfall.

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