James Spann: Messy winter storm ahead for Alabama

James Spann: Winter storm hits Alabama today from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

WINTER STORM WARNING EXPANDED: The National Weather Service has expanded the Winter Storm Warning. It now includes the larger cities of Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Anniston and Gadsden through early tomorrow.

Winter Weather Advisories include much of the rest of Alabama, all the way down to the northern part of Mobile and Baldwin counties in Southwest Alabama. Only the southeast part of the state is free of warnings and advisories.

Up to 3 inches of sleet, snow and freezing rain is possible in the Winter Storm Warning area, with amounts to 2 inches elsewhere.

Here are some important points and notes:

  • Precipitation will be light this morning, but icy spots on bridges are possible through noon as temperatures fall below freezing and cold air advection continues. Birmingham reached the freezing mark as of 5 a.m.
  • For Central Alabama, it will be mostly freezing rain this morning due to a warm nose of air aloft. Snow this morning will be confined to the northern quarter of the state. Freezing rain is rain that falls with temperatures at the surface at or below 32 degrees. This will lead to icy spots. The change to snow for Central Alabama comes later today and tonight as cold air deepens.
  • Travel conditions will deteriorate late this afternoon (especially after 4 p.m.) and tonight and precipitation rates increase, and temperatures continue to fall. Initially ice will form on bridges, but all roads have potential to become icy, especially where heavier sleet, snow or freezing rain falls. We are in the business of forecasting the state of the atmosphere, and not road conditions; we learned in 2014 we certainly aren’t road engineers, but I surely would not encourage driving this afternoon and tonight.
  • With temperatures reaching the teens early tomorrow, road conditions most likely won’t improve until tomorrow afternoon. Even then we will have a hard time getting past 32 degrees, but the sky will become mostly sunny during the day.
  • Precipitation will be mostly sleet and rain initially across Central Alabama, changing to snow and sleet later today and tonight as cold air deepens.
  • Mostly sleet and freezing rain will fall across South Alabama late tonight. All precipitation will end during the pre-dawn hours tomorrow.
  • We can’t rule out a few isolated power outages where heavier snow, sleet and freezing rain comes down tonight.
  • The weekend will be very cold, with lows in the teens tomorrow and Sunday. The high tomorrow will be in the low 30s, followed by upper 30s Sunday.
  • The winter storm rolls east over the weekend, with lots of snow and ice from Atlanta to Richmond. Travelers beware.

NEXT WEEK: The cold air is flushed out, and we should be close to 70 degrees by Thursday and Friday. This is a state where it doesn’t “get cold and stay cold.” Some rain is possible by Tuesday night and Wednesday.

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