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Winter Awareness Banner
Safety & Preparedness Precipitation & Types Past Events
Products & Criteria 2020 & Outlook Additional Info

 

The National Weather Service will observe the week of November 15th through November 21st, 2020 as Winter Weather Awareness Week in Alabama and Tennessee.

While the frequency of extreme winter weather events is relatively small in north Alabama and southern middle Tennessee, winter weather can cause significant property damage, injury, and even death. With the start of each new season, preparation is the key to lessening the dangers and hazards associated with winter weather. Please join us in promoting winter weather safety during this year's Winter Weather Awareness Week.

Watch vs Warning Watch vs Warning
The snowstorm of February 11th-12th, 2014 dumped 4 to 7 inches of snow across DeKalb county. This is a picture in the Mentone area after the snowfall. The snowstorm of February 11th-12th, 2014 dumped 4 to 7 inches of snow across DeKalb county. This is a picture in the Rainsville area where 5 inches of snowfall is being measured.

 

Safety & Preparedness

Travel Safety:

Many people travel throughout the winter months (around the holidays) so it is very important to check the weather ahead of time and be aware of any potential hazards. In addition, having a travel safety kit could save your life!

                                                                                                                        

 Why are Wind Chill Values Important?

Remember, breezy to windy conditions combined with cold temperatures can cause hypothermia within 15 to 30 minutes if no precautions such as layered clothing, gloves, warm hat, etc are used.

 

 

 

Precipitation Types

The challenges of winter weather forecasting go beyond predicting when it will snow or how much snow will fall. At times, determining the type of precipitation is an even bigger forecast challenge! Precipitation type with winter weather is largely related to the temperature profile in the atmosphere (basically between the ground and ~ 20K feet up). Typically, it gets colder as you go up in elevation but sometimes there can be a “warm layer” of air that gets wedged between the ground and the clouds. This will have an effect on the melting/freezing processes of precipitation. Refer to the graphic below that explains how you can get freezing rain versus sleet versus snow or just all rain.

 

 

Local Winter Weather Products and Criteria

 
 
Product Criteria
Winter Storm Watch At least a 50/50 chance that warning criteria (>2 inches of snow, and/or 1/2" of sleet or greater, and/or ice accumulations of 1/4" or greater) will be met in the next 12 to 24 hours.
Winter Weather Advisory 1" to 2" of snow, and/or sleet, and/or ice accumulations up to 1/4" or travel impacts expected in the next 12 to 24 hours. 
Wind Chill Advisory Wind chill readings between -10°F and 0°F
Winter Storm Warning Greater than 2" of snow, and/or 1/2" of sleet or greater and/or 1/4" of ice accumulation or greater in 12 hours or greater than 4" of snow in 24 hours or if blizzard conditions are expected (at least 2 inches of snow AND sustained winds of 35 mph or greater for 3 or more hours. 
Ice Storm Warning Ice accumulations of 1/4" or greater
Wind Chill Warning Wind chill readings at or below -10°F
Freeze Warning Temperatures at or below 32°F for 3 or more consecutive hours during a climatalogically significant time of the year (first widespread freeze of the Fall or a freeze after the growing season has started in Spring)
Frost Advisory Temperatures between 33°F and 36°F are forecast. (widespread frost in the Fall or after the growing season has begun in Spring.)

 

 

Past Winter Weather Events

Watch vs Warning Watch vs Warning
The historic snowstorm of January 9-10, 2011 dumped 6 to 12 inches of snow across a large portion of North Alabama and Southern Middle Tennessee (8.9 inches was recorded at the Huntsville International Airport). Heavy snow blankets Florence during the overnight hours of January 9-10, 2011.  Around 1 foot of snow fell across portions of northwestern Alabama. 
An icy tree branch in Madison County on January 29, 2010
The winter storm of March 1, 2009 also brought a few inches of snow to parts of north Alabama. This picture was taken in Florence on the morning of the 1st. (Image courtesy Drew Richards)
An icy tree branch in Madison County on January 29, 2010.  Roughly one quarter of an inch of ice accumulation in this picture. The winter storm of March 1, 2009 also brought a few inches of snow to parts of north Alabama. This picture was taken in Florence on the morning of the 1st. (Image courtesy Drew Richards)

 

Other significant storms that have impacted the Tennessee Valley in the past are listed below:

  • February 25, 2015:  Heavy snow fell across a large portion of the TN Valley, with snowfall amounts up to 12 inches reported in Marion County.
  • January 17, 2013:  Heavy snow fell across Morgan, Cullman, and Marshall counties, and the southern portion of Madison county. Up to 3.5 inches of snow was reported in Morgan and Cullman counties. 

  • January 9-10, 2011:  Widespread snowfall totals of 6 to 10 inches were reported across the TN Valley. The highest amounts occurred over Lauderdale county in NW Alabama. 
  • December 25-16, 2010:  A rare "White Christmas" was observed in 2010, when most locations across the TN Valley received over 1 inch of snow. This was only the 2nd time that Hunstville received snow on Christmas day, with up to 7 inches reported. 
  • 1988 January Winter Storm: Over a half a foot of snow fell across much of the Tennessee Valley, including 9.6 inches at the Huntsville Airport and 10.5 inches at Bridgeport.  Also, around 1 foot of snow fell across much of northwestern portions of Alabama.
  • 1963-1964 New Year's Storm: An all-time record snow event for the city of Huntsville that resulted in 17.1 inches of snow over a 24-hr period. (For more information on winter weather events, visit our significant weather event posters page.
 

Early Winter Weather Outlooks from the Climate Prediction Center

Outlook shows equal chance of above or below normal temperatures from January through March 2021. 

Outlook shows equal chance of above or below normal precipitation from January through March 2021. 

 

Additional Information