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The storm that stuck around: The makings of Alabama’s ‘Snowpocalypse 2014’

The storm that stuck around: The makings of Alabama’s ‘Snowpocalypse 2014’

It wasn’t the typical kind of Alabama snow day. Not by a long shot.

What many expected to be a minor winter weather event with a dusting of snow suddenly turned chaotic on Jan. 28, 2014, as snow fell, melted on roads and then refroze, paralyzing most major thoroughfares and stranding thousands in central Alabama.

“It’s pretty rare,” said Jim Stefkovich, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Birmingham. “You can get freezing rain events here, but it’s pretty rare to have a snow event where it was in the upper teens here in Alabama. That just doesn’t happen very often.”

The trouble began on a Tuesday, but just two days earlier it was near 60 degrees across a lot of central Alabama.

The ground was warm — and the roads were warm. Hardly the precursor to a winter storm.

Then an arctic front moved across the state. And that front brought with it very cold and very dry air, Stefkovich said. It was so dry that, according to the National Weather Service, a few locations in central Alabama had dew points below zero.

Next, an upper-level disturbance moved into the area and the headaches began.

The air in place over Alabama was so dry by that point that it was difficult for forecasters to determine how long it would take the approaching disturbance to moisten the atmosphere enough to produce precipitation. And it happened faster than anyone was expecting.

“A lot of times when precipitation falls from very high in the atmosphere, it melts. In other words, you have to saturate the atmosphere before it reaches the ground,” Stefkovich said. “And what happened was the precip obviously saturated the atmosphere much more quickly than we anticipated. And it started falling to the ground probably 2-4 hours prior to when we thought it would start.”

In typical Alabama snow events, it’s very close to freezing when precipitation falls. But then temperatures rise fairly quickly, and what’s on the ground fast becomes a memory.

Not so this time.

“(Temperatures) never really got out of the high teens or maybe around 20 degrees,” Stefkovich said. “And of course that’s what caused all the icing problems on the roadways.”

Snowfall amounts in central Alabama on Jan. 28, 2014. Most of Jefferson and Shelby counties and surrounding areas received “advisory amounts” of snow, said Jim Stefkovich, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Birmingham. “But the impacts were tremendous.” He said a key point for those living in Alabama to remember is: “Regardless if it is a winter weather advisory or warning, dangerous conditions may exist for both, especially while driving.” (National Weather Service)

The ground was relatively warm when the snow began falling, but then the temperature plummeted and that melting snow quickly became a sheet of ice on roadways. And it stayed put for a while in the sub-freezing temperatures, paralyzing travel for days.

Also out of the norm were 20:1 snowfall ratios — which were “almost unheard of” in Alabama with this event, according to the weather service (10:1 is more typical).

“The colder and drier the atmosphere is — especially near the ground — (it means) it would take 20 inches of snow to make 1 inch of rainfall,” Stefkovich said. “In summertime thunderstorms you can get one inch of rainfall. This is the thing that’s amazing. If you melted the snow that occurred — that 1 and a half to 2 inches — that basically came out to 0.08 inch of rainfall. That’s a light shower during the summertime over your house.”

According to the weather service, snow totals in ranged from nothing in the northwest part of central Alabama to up to 3 inches in an area from Chilton to Randolph counties. Some other areas in the southeast part of central Alabama also got up to a quarter-inch of ice.

“We really had the freezing rain/snow/sleet line pretty well figured out. We were off by about 40 or 50 miles as far as believing where any accumulation would occur,” Stefkovich said. “We had it just south of Shelby County and it went all the way up into Jefferson and St. Clair counties.”

But winter weather in Alabama hardly ever follows the script.

“First of all, nobody can beat us up any more than we beat ourselves up as forecasters. Because we want to be perfect,” Stefkovich said. “Our families live in Alabama too. And the bottom line is we know that there are millions of dollars at play here whether it’s the loss of business time or people getting stuck on the roads or school closings. We’re really trying our hardest to be as exact as possible.

“The easiest thing in the world we could do would be to just say 1-3 inches everywhere and be done with it, but that doesn’t serve a purpose either because that’s crying wolf and you have businesses closing that don’t need to. … It’s just a daunting task.”


By Leigh Morgan on

How did Birmingham win the 2021 World Games? Meet the man behind the vision and the victory

How did Birmingham win the 2021 World Games? Meet the man behind the vision and the victory

Birmingham’s successful grab of the 2021 World Games is largely the result of one man’s curiosity after a sports excursion with his wife and a friend.

When Scott Myers traveled to the 2013 World Games in Cali, Colombia, his only intention was to enjoy the sporting event.

He ended up with much more.

“We took our wives down there to see the games and have a good time,” he said. “Upon our return to Birmingham, I started talking and thinking about all the venues we have and all the opportunities.”

Myers is executive director of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and a longtime fixture in Birmingham and regional sporting circles.

His experience in Colombia evolved into a mission to bring the international gaming event to his hometown. Myers was joined on the Colombia trip by David Benck, vice president and general counsel of Hibbett Sporting Goods and board member for USA Gymnastics.

Myers said the nature of the World Games made the possibility of bringing it to Birmingham more palatable.

“I saw the games going not to the biggest cities in those countries. We knew we had the facilities and we knew we had the capacity for a first-class event,” Myers said. “And here we are today.”

Myers spoke to while sitting on a train through the Swiss Alps. He’ll return home as a victor, being the chairman of the committee that applied for and won the games for the Magic City.

The road to success has taken more than a year as Myers assembled a team that included Edgar Welden, businessman and chairman of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

“We immediately went to Edgar Welden, and he loved the idea,” Myers said. “Across the board, everyone was universally supportive of the idea.”

It is estimated to cost about $75 million to host the games, a figure that includes both cash and in-kind services.

Myers and his team now face the task of securing the funding. The city of Birmingham had already committed to $3.5 million as part of the bid package.

An effort well worth it

If he has any trepidation about the next phase of his mission, Myers isn’t showing it.

“The corporate community in our community has always been solid for these types of events,” he said. “When you talk about leaders in our business community, all of them were supportive in our bid.”

While Myers noted that the cost is substantial, he said it will be well worth the reward.

The World Games could have a $256.5 million economic impact to the Birmingham region, according to estimates.

The event will bring about 4,000 athletes from 100 countries. The last World Games in Colombia drew 500,000 spectators. Myers was among them.

About 10 cities were interested in presenting the 2021 games, and the list was then whittled to three finalists. Birmingham prevailed over Lima, Peru and Ufa, Russia.

How Birmingham won:

Myers said there are several factors that led to Birmingham’s winning bid.

Unlike the larger, more popular Olympics, the World Games caters to smaller cities and focuses on existing venues, rather than requiring massive redevelopment or new facilities.

A look at Birmingham and surrounding areas shows that facilities already exist to meet the needs, he said.

“We have significant venues,” Myers said, noting the Crossplex, Boutwell Auditorium, BJCC and nearby college campuses.

The campuses will provide housing and a village environment for the athletes, in addition to extra training and performance venues.

Myers said other positive factors included the solid team of Birmingham bid committee members, early corporate support, and government endorsement on local, state and federal levels.

City officials are already touting the potential the World Games could have regarding local, regional and state collaboration.

Birmingham Council members, along with Mayor William Bell and senior staff are all noting the potential of the games, both long-term and short-term.

“It goes beyond being a sporting and entertainment destination to being a global destination,” said Chuck Faush, Bell’s chief of staff. “People have always wanted to; the mayor has talked about it, and now people are starting to see some of the fruits from it. It is happening all across the board.”

Faush underscored the sentiments of World Games supporters, who say the impact could touch a cross-section of the city and region.

“Not only will they be using city facilities, they will be using private facilities. Certainly, from one-man-band entrepreneurs to the large corporations will see across-the-board benefit,” Faush said. “That’s why you see a harmonious spirit.”

Myers is modest about his contribution to the city’s new found success, preferring to list others who should receive credit.

“There are so many that put in a lot of time and did great work for us,” he said. “On a personal level, to have the opportunity to expose our home to the world is just exciting. It’s just a significant privilege.”


By: Joseph D. Bryant of

Teen drivers have a hard time accurately judging location, distance and speed.

Teen drivers have a hard time accurately judging location, distance and speed.

How Teen Drivers Judge Distance, Location and Speed

Teens see the world differently than adults. The challenge of driving among other cars requires the brain to do more than 100 complex visual-spatial calculations a minute.

Teen brains aren’t quite there yet. They haven’t fully developed the ability to accurately judge location, distance or speed.

Teen drivers have trouble determining:

  • Location of their vehicle in a turn lane
  • Distance from other cars in the turn
  • Turning ratios
  • Speed of oncoming cars
  • Speed needed to enter traffic
  • Speed of traffic ahead — how fast they are speeding up or slowing down
  • Distance to other cars, curbs or lines on the road

That’s why it’s important for parents to help teens understand why they should follow cars at a safe distance, maintain their concentration and remain aware of their surroundings.

– See more at:

How to share the road safely

How to share the road safely

Fatal traffic crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists are on the rise. Follow these best practices to reduce the risk of an accident.

It’s getting dangerous out there for pedestrians and bicyclists, which means drivers should keep three simple words in mind: Share the road.

In 2012, there were 726 bicyclists killed in crashes involving motorists, according to the most recent annual statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That’s up from 682 in 2011. (The fatalities include anyone who died on a pedal-driven vehicle, which include tricycles and even unicycles.) There were 4,743 pedestrians killed in crashes in 2012, compared with 4,457 the year before, according to the NHTSA.

See more at here

Share the reoad


Did you know

Did you know

that your ability to drive while texting is similar to your ability to drive after drinking 4 beers? Protect yourself and others on the road — save the text for after you’re done driving: