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Top 10 Central Alabama Weather Events this Past Decade

It's hard to believe that the first decade of the 21st Century has come to an end. But as most of us can attest, time really does fly by.


We have made an attempt to identify the "Top 10 Weather Events" over the past decade. What defines a "Top 10" weather event? Is there a purely objective scientific method to identify and categorize these events? The answer to these questions, to no one’s surprise, is that there is no clear cut way to quantify the events of the last 10 years. So, using the collective corporate memory of meteorologists in the national weather service office in Birmingham, the following list has been compiled. The list represents the top 10 significant events presented in no particular order.  You can click on the links to take you to the original summary of the event.

Veterans Day Tornado Outbreak - November 10, 2002

Several ingredients including a warm and unstable airmass, wind shear in the low levels, strong upper level winds and a cold front pushing into the state, combined to bring severe thunderstorms and tornadoes to a large portion of north and central Alabama. Several destructive tornadoes in the north half of the state caused widespread damage and numerous fatalities and injuries. Two devastating EF-3 tornadoes ripped through Walker county in the vicinity of Carbon Hill. This outbreak covered 17 states and killed several dozen Americans.

Hurricane Ivan 2004

Hurricane Ivan will compare with the worst hurricanes to ever to affect the Alabama Gulf Coast region since 1900, including Frederic in September 1979, Opal in October 1995, and the September 1926 hurricane. Hurricane Ivan moved inland maintaining hurricane strength to near Uniontown (Perry county) around 11 am September 16, 2004. Ivan was downgraded to a tropical storm at 1 pm CDT as it was approaching Centreville (Bibb county). Ivan then tracked across the Birmingham metropolitan area between 4 and 8 pm. Ivan remained a tropical storm until reaching northeast Alabama, where it weakened to a tropical depression around 10 pm. Ivan produced estimated maximum winds of 60 to 80 mph generally southwest of line from Prattville to Livingston. A few spots may have reached 90 mph in this area. Most other locations across central Alabama had estimated maximum wind speeds of 50 to 60 mph, with a few isolated spots reaching 75 mph. Tree and power line damage was extensive. A few locations were without power for several days.


Heat Wave & Drought of 2007

A dreadful carryover from 2006, drought conditions worsened throughout the Spring season in 2007, resulting in very dry soil conditions. The lack of moisture due to the continued drought resulted in significantly lower dew points than usual for a majority of the summer and led to the rapid rise of the air

temperature across central Alabama during the summer months. A persistent wave of above average temperatures continued from may to October across the entire region, causing many problems such

as decreased air quality, heat-related illnesses, and wildfires.

2005 Hurricane Season

A historic hurricane season impacted central Alabama. Five separate tropical systems produced damage in central Alabama including Rita, Katrina, Dennis, Cindy, and Arlene. Numerous tornadoes, high winds and flooding resulted from these storms.

The Ice Storm of 2005

Significant icing occurred across Randolph and Chambers counties. One quarter to one inch of ice accumulations was reported countywide. Widespread power outages occurred due to icing on power lines, and trees that fell onto power lines, due to the weight of the ice that accumulated on them. Across Cherokee, Etowah, St. Clair, Calhoun, Cleburne, Talladega, Clay, Coosa, Tallapoosa, and Lee counties, widespread icing occurred on elevated and colder surfaces. Reports of ice on trees, bridges

and vehicles were common in these areas.

Tornado Outbreak of November 24, 2001 

A major storm system affected Alabama on November 24, 2001, causing a large number of tornadoes. Estimates indicate that around 24 tornadoes occurred Saturday. The National Weather Service in Birmingham issued 85 warnings including 58 tornado warnings for 33 counties and 27 severe thunderstorm warnings for 22 counties. Some counties were warned more than once due to multiple storms affecting the same counties. This is the largest one day outbreak by number of occurrences in central Alabama history. This event included the EF-4 tornado in Altoona and the EF-3 tornado that affected Kennedy, Fayette and Carbon Hill. 

Tornado Outbreak of February 17, 2008 

A strong upper level low ejected out of the southern plains and tracked across the Tennessee valley on February 17, 2008. Strong southerly winds dramatically increased the moisture content across central Alabama in a short period of time. Surface dew points rose into the 60s across a large part of the area. The skies actually cleared for a time in many areas allowing temperatures to soar into the 70s. An upper level jet streak and the strong upper low provided upper level lift, moisture was plentiful at several levels, and atmospheric instability was sufficient enough for supercell development. Before noon, a broken squall line, containing supercells, developed along the Alabama-Mississippi state line and tracked eastward across central Alabama. These storms intensified during the afternoon hours. By sunset, damage was reported at numerous locations generally along and south of a line from Demopolis to Wedowee. This event included the Prattville EF-3 tornado. 

White Christmas 2010 

A surface low in the northern Gulf of Mexico along with an upper level disturbance moving southeastward from the great plains contributed to an observation of heavy snowfall on Christmas Day, 2010.  The snowfall blanketed much of northern and central Alabama. Some locations saw the first white Christmas on record, while others experienced falling snow but nothing measurable. The heaviest snow band occurred north of a line from Beaverton, to Gadsden, to Ashland, to Wedowee. Some areas received up to 4 inches of snow. 

Snow Events of 2008 & 2009

Measurable winter precipitation is somewhat of a rarity across the deep south. But in 2008 and 2009, there were a few events that measured several inches of snow. On March 1, 2009, a band of snow measured 3 to 5 inches from Tuscaloosa, to the Birmingham metro area, to Clanton, to Auburn and Opelika. On January 19, 2008, a band of snow measured 2 to 4 inches from Demopolis, to Marion, to Clanton, to Rockford. 

April 10, 2009 Very Large Hail & Tornadoes 

Central Alabama received severe thunderstorms and gradient winds from around 2 pm Friday afternoon through 10 pm Friday evening. Numerous persistently rotating thunderstorms, called supercells, developed in north central Alabama and moved roughly across the northeastern two thirds of the area. This type of thunderstorm can produce all types of severe weather including tornadoes and very large hail. In fact, that is exactly what these storms ended up doing. Numerous reports of very large hail, up to the size of softballs, were received. The hail even collected up to a depth of several feet and was on the ground for more than 18 hours. At least 8 tornadoes occurred. Straight line wind damage was reported in a few counties. Even before the storms arrived, gradient winds knocked some trees down. The strong cold front moved through central Alabama Friday evening ending the severe weather threat.


Additional more detailed information about these events and others that did not make this list can be found on our research and outreach page by clicking here.