Major Winter Storm Ahead

| January 7, 2011 @ 6:30 am | 53 Replies

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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.

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