James Spann: Winter weather comes to Alabama tomorrow

WINTER STORM AHEAD: National Weather Service offices in Alabama have issued winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories this afternoon that will be in effect tomorrow, tomorrow night and early Saturday morning for much of the state.

AMOUNTS: Understand the “accumulation potential” map below is just a guideline, and “up to 3 inches” means a range of zero to 3. Not everybody will get accumulating snow in these colored bands; we prepare these maps simply as a guideline. Some will get 2 to 3 inches of snow; others will get nothing.

TIMING: Light snow and sleet could begin across the northern half of Alabama as early as 6 tomorrow morning along and west of I-65. Initially the precipitation will be light, but temperatures will be below freezing, and bridge icing is very possible. This will move into East Alabama tomorrow afternoon. Understand the snow/sleet during the day tomorrow should be relatively light, but many communities will remain below freezing much of the day, and icing will remain possible on bridges and overpasses.

Rain is likely over South Alabama during the day tomorrow.

Tomorrow night, after 5, precipitation rates will increase, with heavier snow and sleet for Central Alabama. This is when driving conditions will begin to deteriorate significantly as temperatures drop into the 20s after dark. Rain will change over to sleet and snow over South Central Alabama later tomorrow night, especially after midnight.

Precipitation will end early Saturday morning.

POWER: Widespread power outages are not expected, since in most places the snow will be light and winds won’t be especially high.

TRAVEL ISSUES: The main issue involves travel. As stated above, icy bridges are possible during the day tomorrow, but all roads could become icy, especially in the winter storm area, tomorrow night as temperatures drop into the 20s and precipitation gets heavier. Travel where heavier snow falls will become difficult, if not impossible, late tomorrow and tomorrow night. We could see icy travel even south of U.S. 80 after midnight tomorrow night and early Saturday morning.

While the snow will end early Saturday, icy roads could linger through at least midday, with very cold air remaining over Alabama. Conditions begin to improve Saturday afternoon.

BIRMINGHAM-SHUTTLESWORTH AIRPORT: Snow could mean potential for flight delays or reduced operation, mainly tomorrow afternoon and tomorrow night into early Saturday morning.

ATLANTA: Operations at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta could be seriously disrupted Saturday; Atlanta is under a winter storm warning, and snow amounts could exceed 2 inches easily. Expect flight delays, maybe even some cancellations. Driving in Atlanta is not advised Saturday.

REST OF THE SOUTHEAST: Snow will move into Georgia and the Carolinas Saturday, heavy in spots, making for very difficult driving conditions.

FRIGID WEEKEND: Very cold air will linger across Alabama over the weekend; the high Saturday will be only in the mid 30s, followed by upper 30s Sunday. We drop into the 15- to 20-degree range early Sunday and Monday morning. The sky becomes partly sunny Saturday, and Sunday will feature sunshine in full supply.

NEXT WEEK: The weather will be warmer, with a chance of rain by Tuesday night and Wednesday.

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