On the morning of Thursday, March 6, 1967, forecaster Jerry Couard greeted Chief Meteorologist Charles Bradley as they came on duty at the Birmingham Weather Bureau office at the airport. They commented that it was going to be an interesting day. Forecasters had known since Sunday that it was going to potentially be a day for bad weather. Our very own J.B. Elliott was on duty that morning. As he pondered the forecast deadline he had at 10:30 a.m., he saw a classic severe weather pattern. “When a new low pressure area started forming at the surface, we were reasonably certain that it would be an ideal situation for a significant tornado to form about 100 miles ahead of a cold front and sweep eastward across the state,” Elliott said the next day in a Birmingham News article.
J.B. had a forecast due at 10:30 a.m. He lobbied for more time as data was pouring into the office. Not only was severe weather possible, there were indications that snow would fall on the heels of the outbreak. At 11:05, he sent the issuance. It was a good one, alerting about the possibility for tornadoes and giving a heads up for the pending snowfall. The first warning was for Pickens, Lamar and Fayette counties based on a tornado report near Philadelphia, MS.
About 3:30 p.m., a tornado was reported near Sumiton, where witnesses described it as a “puff of smoke.” This would be the most significant tornado of the day. The F4 tornado cut a thirty mile path across Walker and Jefferson Counties. A chilling report came when a caller phoned the Weather Bureau to say he had just emerged from his storm shelter in Dora and was watching the tornado move off to the northeast. The tornado passed near Rocky Hollow, where it killed a sixteen year old young man named Dennis Wright, who was credited with saving a young girl by urging her to safety. The tornado caused heavy damage at Dilworth and killed a 27 year old woman. The tornado lifted after passing near Warrior. A total of fifty homes were damaged or destroyed across Walker and northern Jefferson Counties.
A total of two people died. At least six other tornadoes were reported across the state, including an F2 tornado that struck the downtown area of Uniontown in Perry County.
Not quite as chilly this morning as most locations remained just above the freezing mark as lows were about 4 to 6 degrees warmer than those of Saturday morning. At this writing around 8:30 am, Alabama was essentially cloud free but satellite imagery showed mid and high clouds to our west and northwest. These clouds will be moving across the Alabama sky this afternoon and tonight.
A fairly strong disturbance in the North Central US will move down the east side of the ridge tonight and Monday and with it there is a possibility of a few elevated showers - maybe even some thunder. The big IF will be the amount of moisture available, so I think most of us will remain dry.
As that disturbance moves away from Alabama on Tuesday, we come under the ridge through Wednesday as a new disturbance gains strength and moves out of the Rockies. Today's model run of the GFS has the system further south than what we saw yesterday, so we are looking at a serious threat of a severe weather episode Thursday afternoon and Thursday night. That is still about 108 hours away, so it is difficult to be very specific and the timing of that system four days out could change. We'll certainly be watching to see how this evolves.
With good southwesterly flow aloft and the Gulf wide open bringing low level moisture and good warming to the area, it sure appears that we're setting up for a significant severe weather episode. And afterall, it is March so we are into the primary severe weather season for Alabama.
The pattern remains unsettled after the Thursday system, but there are some differences in the variious model solutions. Earlier runs were indicating the possibility of another severe weather episode on Saturday, but the 06Z GFS run this morning was not as positive. But we need to deal with that Thursday system first.
The long range GFS solution brings the long wave trough slowly across the US and over the eastern half of the country. This could result in a cool down, but there weren't any strong indications of any kind of major cold snap on this run.
Certainly hope you've had a good weekend with the spectacular weather. James will be back Monday morning with the next web video map discussion. Hope you have a good upcoming week.