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2020 Central Alabama Year in Review


What a year it was! While this year may be most remembered for non-weather stories, it was a rather active year weather-wise for Central Alabama.

We started the year off a little on the wet side with near-record rainfall occurring in February. By the end of spring, we had experienced a half dozen tornado and/or damaging wind events. We managed to get through the majority of the summer months mostly unscathed as we were able to avoid any major heat waves. However, we could not escape the very active tropical season, which was perhaps the biggest weather story of the year.

All in all, Central Alabama was directly impacted by two tropical systems, Hurricanes Sally and Zeta, and 35 tornadoes. There were no major winter weather events.



2020 Headline Stories


Hydrologic Summary


2020 will go down as a wet year in Central Alabama, with above to much above normal rainfall and a considerable amount of both river flooding and flash flooding. Rainfall for the year averaged from sixty to seventy five inches, with locally greater amounts. Central Alabama was also directly impacted by two tropical systems in 2020, Hurricane Sally in September and Hurricane Zeta in October.

The year began on a very wet note, as above normal rainfall of six to eight inches, and locally up to ten, produced two episodes of minor flooding on the Tombigbee and lower Black Warrior Rivers. Flooding first developed on these rivers following heavy rainfall from the 2nd to the 3rd, and the second after two to five inches of rain fell from the 11th to the 15th.

A wet pattern continued into February, with much above normal rainfall observed. Early in the month, from the 4th to the 6th, three to five inches of rain fell and sent many area rivers into flood. The Cahaba River reached Moderate Flood Stage near Cahaba Heights on the 6th when it crested at 22.08 feet. Elsewhere, minor flooding occurred on the Cahaba, Black Warrior, Tombigbee, Sucarnoochee, Alabama, Coosa, and Tallapoosa Rivers, as well as along Village Creek and Catoma Creek. With some forecast points still in flood, a second wave of two to four inches of rain occurred from the 10th to the 13th, and was followed by another one to three inches from the 18th to the 20th. This only exacerbated flooding already in progress, producing more widespread and significant rises on area rivers and streams. The worst flooding occurred on the Tombigbee, Black Warrior and Alabama Rivers. Bevill Lock and Dam reached Major Flood Stage on the Upper Tombigbee, while Moderate Flood Stages were reached at Gainesville Lock and Dam, Demopolis Lock and Dam, Selden Lock and Dam, Selma, and the Tallapoosa Water Plant. Flooding first began on the 6th day of the month, and was still in progress at some forecast points as the month ended. Listed below are consecutive days in flood for some of the forecast points in our area:


Forecast Point In Flood From Until
Bevill Lock & Dam 10th 23rd
Gainesville Lock & Dam 10th 24th
Demopolis Lock & Dam 7th 28th
Seldon Lock & Dam 7th 27th
Montgomery 11th 26th
Selma 12th 25th


And if February wasn't enough, above to much above normal rainfall continued through March, with an additional six to twelve inches across much of Central Alabama. Rainfall of three to six inches, with locally higher amounts, fell from the 3rd to the 6th. This produced additional, mostly minor, river flooding from the 4th to the 11th, although Moderate Flooding occurred at Selma and the Tallapoosa Water Plant.

True to form for the year so far, April brought more heavy rainfall, averaging six to twelve inches across Central Alabama. Three to six inches fell on the 12th and 13th from the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas east-northeast to Cherokee and Cleburne Counties. This produced minor flooding on the Tombigbee and Black Warrior Rivers, as well as flash flooding of numerous roads and streets in portions of Tuscaloosa, Walker, Jefferson, Cherokee and Etowah Counties. Then, from the 18th to the 20th, another four to eight inches of rain fell from Pickens and Sumter Counties east to Chambers, Lee, and Russell Counties. Widespread minor flooding followed on the Tombigbee, Black Warrior, Cahaba, Tallapoosa and Alabama Rivers, with Moderate Flooding at Selma and the Tallapoosa Water Plant. Flash flooding of some streets and roadways also occurred in portions of Shelby, Chilton, and Coosa Counties on the 19th.

A respite from the wet pattern finally arrived in May, with only three to six inches of rain for the month. This was followed by a fairly normal June, with three to six inches of rain from typical summer time convection. Similarly, two to five inches with localized higher totals were reported in July. However, on the evening of the 8th, three to five inches of rain in south-central Tuscaloosa County produced multiple reports of street flooding with some roads impassable. The ground floor of the Best Western University Inn was also flooded, but there were no reports of injuries.

In August, above normal rainfall of four to eight inches, and locally ten to twelve, were observed. During the early morning hours of the 20th, locally heavy rain produced flash flooding of some streets and roadways in portions of Elmore, Chambers, and Sumter Counties.

The big weather story in September was the passage of "Sally" through Southeast Alabama. This produced five to ten inches of rain in the southeast counties of Central Alabama, with numerous reports of flash flooding in Montgomery, Macon, Pike, Bullock, Russell, and Barbour Counties during the evening hours of the 16th and morning hours of the 17th, with many flooded streets and roadways across these areas.

Additional Information can be found at the following links:



Precipitation Totals


Yearly Maximum Precipitation Totals

2020 Precipitation Totals Yearly Maximum Precipitation Totals

Winter 2019-2020 Precipitation Totals


Yearly Minimum Precipitation Totals

Winter 2019-2020 Precipitation Totals February 2020 Precipitation Totals

Yearly Rainfall


Departure from Normal Rainfall

2020 Total Rainfall 2020 Departure from Normal


Data supplied by the NWS BMX. Additional information can be found at the following links:




2020 Extreme Weather


Hot & Cold Days




The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season was a historically significant year. The 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season featured record breaking activity. There were 30 named storms, of which 13 became hurricanes and 6 that became major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) The 30 named storms is the most ever recorded in the Atlantic Basin. The previous record was 28 back in 2005. In an average season, there are 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

2020 marks the fifth consecutive above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. The only other period on record that produced four consecutive above-normal seasons was 1998-2001. The Atlantic Hurricane Basin has recorded 18 above-normal seasons out of the past 26 years.

Based on the Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index (ACE), which measures the combined intensity and duration of the storms during the season and is used to classify the strength of the entire hurricane season, activity in the Atlantic basin in 2019 was well above the long-term mean.

Central Alabama was directly impacted by Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Zeta.


Tropical Summary Map

Tropical Summary Map


NOAA Press Release

Data provided by the NWS BMX and NHC.


Severe Weather & Tornadoes


Central Alabama was the recipient of 35 tornadoes in 2020. This number was just slightly above the normal for a year, which ranges from 26-35 depending on the time frame utilized. All 35 of the tornadoes occurred on 9 distinct days. The average numbers of Tornado Days in Central Alabama is 9. In 7 of the past 10 years, Central Alabama has had at least 9 Tornado Days.

The Central Alabama tornadoes were limited in strength and nothing above an EF2 was observed. Unfortunately, these tornadoes still produced injuries, fatalities and plenty of property damage. Fourteen Alabamians were injured and 4 lost their lives. One of the most devastating tornadoes occurred on January 11th in Pickens County. The EF2 was on the ground for 6.33 miles. Tornadoes occurred in January, February, March, April, August, October, and December in 2020.



Preliminary Severe Weather Numbers for Alabama & Central Alabama in 2020:

Alabama Tornadoes

Alabama Tornadoes

Alabama Tornadoes


North Alabama Tornadoes

Southwest Alabama Tornadoes


Southeast Alabama Tornadoes

Alabama NWS offices

Central Alabama Tornadoes

Central Alabama Tornadoes




Central Alabama Tornadoes - GIS Damage Path Display