Early this morning, temperatures are below freezing at a number of locations. Not the Birmingham Airport; they are showing 42 degrees at 5:00 a.m. with an east wind at 7 mph. But, other observations include 28 at Gadsden, 32 at Anniston, and 33 at Tuscaloosa. Looks most of the outlying areas are at or below freezing. I have to wonder if this is the last freeze for Alabama this season. We see no really cold air in here for the next seven days, and the odds of a freeze get much smaller as we get into April. We have passed the average date of the last freeze here, which is March 23.
But, having said all of that, we have seen freezing temperatures here as late as April 23. So, it certainly is possible to have another freeze, but at this point I would say it is unlikely.
THIS WEEK: Today should be dry and pleasant, with the mercury reaching the mid 60s this afternoon. That will feel like a heat wave; the last time we had a high of 60 degrees or warmer was back on Tuesday of last week, March 21.
Clouds return tonight, and we will mention a chance of some rain at times tomorrow as a weak surface boundary slips into the state. Some thunder is not out of the question, but severe weather or heavy rain should not be a problem.
I think Wednesday will be dry, as the mercury rises into the upper 60s. Some spots might touch 70 degrees on Wednesday as the warming trend continues.
Moisture returns on Thursday, and we will bring back the chance of a few scattered showers. Not an all day rain or a wash-out. To the west, a severe weather situation should be unfolding Thursday for much of the nation's mid-section, in the general area from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago.
That system will move north of Alabama, but the trailing front should bring a band of showers and storms in here late Friday and Friday night. Severe weather potential at this time looks rather small with the main dynamics passing well to the north.
THE WEEKEND: If you believe the 06Z GFS, the weekend will be dry with mild afternoons. But, I caution you the models have been all over the road. The GFS suggests rain on Saturday will be confined to the southern third of the state, and most all of the state looks dry on Sunday. We will roll with that for now, but be aware there is potential for change in the weekend outlook as the week rolls along.
The next impulse will bring more rain and storms to the state by Monday or Tuesday of the following week (April 3-4).
STORM ALERT 2006: If you missed our TV special last night on ABC 33/40, I will try to get that posted to the web today or tomorrow. Thanks to Bill Castle for his great work as always. He is the guy who makes the Storm Alert tour and TV special happen every year.
SKYCAM NETWORK: Be sure and scroll down to see Brian's pictures from the installation of the new ABC 33/40 SkyCam Network camera atop Mt. Cheaha. We are hoping our new cameras will be up and running soon at Gadsden, Inverness, and downtown Birmingham. There will be 11 in all on the network within the next couple of months. Our friends at Stratus Station are working on getting still images and current conditions from the sites on our web site. Stay tuned...
TIME CHANGE: Warning... we lose an hour of sleep this coming weekend. We go on Daylight Saving Time this Sunday morning (April 2) at 2:00 a.m. That also means we get computer model data one hour later, since models are run based on UTC and NOT local time. DST is not exactly my favorite thing... but I guess the extra hour of sunlight in the evening is nice.
GOSHEN TORNADO TRAGEDY: From Bill Murray's discussion over on the seven day page: What began as a peaceful Palm Sunday quickly changed to a black day day in Alabama weather history when a powerful tornado ripped through northeast Alabama and northern Georgia on this date in 1994. By the time the storm was over twenty-two were dead and ninety-two were injured by the twister. An F4 tornado cut a 50 mile path from Ragland in St. Clair, County Alabama to the Georgia line. The most disastrous damage occurred at Goshen, where the twister struck the Goshen United Methodist Church at 11:37 am. Twenty people were killed at the church, which did not hear the tornado warning issued ten minutes earlier by the National Weather Service in Birmingham.
If you get specific, the tornado warning was issued for southern Cherokee and northern Calhoun counties at 11:27 a.m., and the church building was destroyed at 11:39 a.m.
You can see a thirty minute TV special we did on the disaster on our video page:
Just scroll down until you see the "Palm Sunday Tornado Special". Pastor Kelly Clem's story is breathtaking.
I will have the next map discussion video posted today by 3:30!
My final installment on the Bahamas Weather Conference, held earlier this month on Grand Bahama Island.
Walter Maestri, Director of Emergency Management for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana made a very important statement. We often think that the National Hurricane Centerís role is forecasting and warning, but they are really in a partnership whose real business is education. The partnership between the National Hurricane Center, Emergency Management and the media is critical in educating the public about risks and what to do. Dr. Maestri said that storm surge is the biggest issue that we are dealing with, and seeing the photos from Hurricane Katrina makes you a believer. I can attest to that.
Mr. Mayfield said that he was pretty familiar with the Mississippi Coast from his years at the Center, but that after Katrina he didnít even recognize it. In giving an overview of the 2005 hurricane season, he said it was difficult to do because there were so many storms. He used that opportunity to set the stage for the future. Max said that track forecasting was good and even storm surge forecasting was on point, so a lot of things went right. He said that it was fairly easy to get people motivated for a Category Three or higher hurricane like the ones that made landfall in the United States last year. His fear is that people will go to bed prepared for a Catrgory One storm was wake up to a Category3/4/5 storm like Katrina or Rita.
Dr. Will Shaffer of NOAA hit one point hard. Many people have still not experienced the max part of a major hurricane. And, Katrina was not really the big catastrophic hurricane that we could have had. We could have had something even worse.
Nanette Lockwood is an expert on building codes. Her stated goal is to impact statewide building codes so that structures are more prepared to withstand hurricane conditions. She says that now is the best time for building reform as we have the attention of consumers in areas that have been affected by the hurricanes. She says that Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were the only three states without statewide minimum building codes, Louisiana has adopted an upgraded code. She says that Mississippi is hanging on the edge but may never get there. She says that it is up to residents living these states to demand tougher codes so that they will have a house to come back to after the next hurricane. She asserts that it only takes about an additional $30 per month to make a home more hurricane proof.
Max Mayfield said that the loss of life in Katrina (the largest in 77 years) was unacceptable. He pushed the message that every individual, every family, every business and every community has to have a hurricane plan. Amen.
More on the Bahamas Weather Conference at http://www.bahamaswxconference.com
Internet Explorer isn't rendering the page correctly; all of us using Firefox are not having problems. We will get Brian to adjust the size of his images in his post and everything will be back to normal for Internet Explorer users.
I strongly recommend Firefox... I have not used Internet Explorer for any serious web use in over one year. Once you understand the power of Firefox, it is hard going back!
Firefox is a free download:
Pardon my stammering this morning on the video map discussion. Just can't seem to get the brain and the mouth to coordinate their actions. Maybe it's the cold weather. Chilliest morning at my house with 27 - 29 for the low at the Birmingham airport. I think most locations saw lows between 25 and 32 degrees. One of the reasons is the incredibly clear sky allowing any heat we received yesterday to be lost to space over night.
Looks like a sunny day today with the beginning of a warmup. Afternoon temperatures should reach the mid to upper 50s - a few spots might nudge 60.
Monday will start off chilly once again but temperatures will generally be slightly above freezing. Those normally colder valley locations may dip into the 30 to 32 range for a couple of hours.
A strong short wave will drag a front into the area on Tuesday bringing a chance for showers. The latest GFS and HPC forecasts suggest that the moisture may be somewhat limited. The front sticks around so a small chance of showers will stay in the forecast though I do expect Wednesday to be mainly dry. And temperatures should get back into the 70s.
Thursday moisture increases as does the chance for showers and thunderstorms. A cold front enters the area Friday, so the end of the work week should be wet. But the model guidance sweeps the front into the Gulf, so it now appears that Saturday and Sunday will be dry and mild.
Don't forget the ABC 3340 severe weather special this evening at 6 pm.
Hope you and your family have a great Sunday and everyone can put on a smile as we return from spring break.
Hugh Willougby of NOAAís Hurricane Research Division spoke on the current hurricane cycle we are in now. We have endured two years of above normal landfalls from hurricanes here in the United States. He likens it to Las Vegas. For years the dice were cold. Now they are hot. Unfortunately, the dice may stay hot for awhile.
Dr. Bill Gray of Colorado State University spoke on the topic of global warming. He believes that the recent trend of rising global temperatures is mostly natural. He thinks that we are vain to believe that we can alter the whole climate system of the Earth. He also does not believe that our recent increased hurricane frequency has anything to do with global climate change. He bases this belief on the fact that although numbers in the Atlantic are up since 1995, the numbers worldwide are flat.
Gray went on to say that we have had a couple of bad years the last two years. But he thinks we should keep it in perspective. The number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic has been way up since 1995. However, we have been lucky, with a minimum number of landfalling U.S. storms. That changed in 2004. Our luck ran out. That luck is called the steering currents. For the past two years, the Bermuda High was stronger, steering hurricanes toward the United States. Last year was the all time record setting year, but there probably were actually more in 1933, when 21 were officially recorded.
Gray shared his 2006 predictions. They look active once again. Six predictors are used in their methodology and all six are high this year, strongly backing up their forecast. Gray and his team expect 17 named storms this season, with nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes. These December numbers have proven to be about 75% accurate. They will issue another update in early April, another May 31, one in early August and then issue them monthly to the end of the season.
You can subscribe to podcasts of the event at http://www.bahamaswxconference.com.
Wednesday, March 22nd, was a ground breaking day for the ABC 33/40 Weather Team. Not only was it the first, full official day of spring, it was also the day of the installation of the first camera/weather station combination for our SkyCam network. And I was fortunate enough to be part of the group that went to Mt. Cheaha to perform the installation.
It was a brisk day, and everyone had dressed appropriately. But while the day started out overcast, the sun quickly broke through the clouds providing a blue blanket of clear sky for our work. And even the wind cooperated by keeping to a light breeze.
The first major tasks involved transporting all of the equipment and tools to the roof of the restaurant and getting access to the Internet. The latter task was handled ably by the two technicians from CenturyTel, Jay and Al, who got the line run by lunchtime. For the rest of us, we tackled moving the equipment up the ladder to the roof over the center of the restaurant, then across the sloped roof to the southern end of the restaurant where the station was to be installed.
Getting everything assembled to transport the equipment to the installation site on the roof of the restaurant.
The installation involved over 20 cement blocks for weight for the non-penetrating roof mount for the camera and weather equipment. Once all of the equipment was moved, the StratusStation guys went to work mounting the camera and weather station to the pole and wiring all of the equipment to the control box which sits at the bottom on the pole.
Ricky, Jeff, Dwight, and James mounting and wiring the camera and weather station.
Once the equipment had been mounted to the pole, it was time to attach the pole to the mounting stand.
The equipment on the pole as the pole is raised into position and bolted to the mounting plate.
With the pole and equipment in place, the work focused on wiring the waterproof box that brings it all together. The Internet connection, power, and the specially designed brains of the unit are all connected.
The final step involved hooking everything together in a weatherproof box at the base of the pole.
And there it is - the complete installation that will bring weather data and live video to the ABC 3340 Weather Center and ultimately to our viewers.
The finished camera and weather station at Mt. Cheaha.
And posing for one last shot is the whole crew minus Jeff Wyatt who took the picture. The completed station can be seen in the background to the right side of the pictures.
Jeff Wyatt from ABC 3340 took this picture of the installation team after completing the job. (L to R) James Beasley (StratusStation), Ricky Pierce(StratusStation). Ron Thomas (ABC 3340), Dwight Herren (StratusStation), Brian Peters (ABC 3340), Al and Jay (CenturyTel)
More SkyCam installations will be coming on line in the near future as ABC 3340 works to bring the weather visually to you - another first from the best weather team anywhere.
A clear, brisk March morning greeted Alabamians this morning. Most sites across central Alabama reported lows within a couple of degrees of freezing. My temperature hit 31 this morning. Similar temperatures are forecast once again Sunday morning, so be sure to take the needed precautions to protect tender vegetation.
Our fine spring weather will continue into the first of the week, but with the projections for a wet weekend next weekend, be sure to enjoy this one. Today through Monday, a surface high pressure system will settle into the Southeastern US and gradually move eastward. As it does our temperatures will moderate with forecast highs expected to reach into the 70s by Wednesday and stay there through the end of the week.
A front moves into and washes out across the area Tuesday, so there could be some showers to contend with. With limited moisture, I don't expect to see everyone getting rain. The high position seems to reduce moisture on Wednesday though there is a lingering chance for a scattered shower.
The Gulf opens up on Thursday with a fairly strong front approaching the area on Friday and moving through Central Alabama on Saturday. Saturday appears to be the wettest day on the current model run, but timing is always a forecast issue when you get beyond about three days. Slightly faster movement and Friday would become a wet day - slower movement and Sunday could become the wet day.
This system could bring strong thunderstorms to the area, so this will bear watching. Remember, it is spring and our primary severe weather season.
Long range forecasts out 10 days to two weeks have an interesting solution with a closed low coming from southern California over into Texas. I'm not confident that the next model run will be like this one, but if that should materialize, Texas to the Atlantic coast could see a stormy period.
Don't forget our severe weather special on Sunday evening at 6 pm. Set the VCR or TIVO so you don't miss it. It brings together the material from our Storm Alert Tour.
And remember that daylight savings time begins next weekend - first Sunday in April.
Have a great weekend and spend some time with your family.
The Birmingham Public Library features an impressive digital online collection..
One of the best pieces in the collection is a souvenir book published locally after the tornado that tore across parts of southern Birmingham, Avondale and Irondale on March 25, 1901.
A presentation by Professor Nicholas Coch that we havenít seen the worst yet. Coch, a professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the City University of New York, warns that worst disaster will be when a major hurricane strikes one of our major urban areas, such as New York City. Even as terrible as Katrina was, Coch says that the true big one has not yet hit the United States.
Researcher Phillip J. Klotzbach of Colorado State University presented the forecast for the 2006 North Atlantic Hurricane Season. It calls for 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes. This is well above the long term average of 9.6 named storms and 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes. While the Dr. Grayís research team expected a well above average year, they stated that they believed there would be fewer landfalling major hurricanes along the coast of the United States. Still, they warned that there was an 81% probability that a major hurricane will strike the U.S. coastline. The long term average is 51%. The threat to the U.S. East Coast including the Florida Peninsula is 64%, over double the long term average of 31%. From the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas, the probability of a major hurricane this season is 47%, considerably higher than the long term average of 30%.
In 2005, a record breaking 27 named storms occurred. There were 14 hurricanes and 7 major hurricanes. An unprecedented three hurricanes reached Category Five status.
More tomorrow...and a very, very special guest on this week's edition of WeatherBrains...