March 22-23 Severe Weather Update

23 03 2013

We pretty much have the forecast wrapped up as all the models are agreeing with pretty much everything. We will first start off with the overall setup of where the low will wind up moving.

Right now the surface low is sitting near Houston, TX. SPC has a warm/stationary front along the Gulf Coast. There is a strong temperature gradient in Central Mississippi and Alabama which is where the low pressure will move along. The low pressure should enter Southwest Mississippi late this evening around 10PM and slowly move into West Central Alabama near 2AM Sunday morning. The low should strengthen some and make its way into Central Tennessee near 8AM. At this time it will hang out in Tennessee for a little bit and strengthen the cold front which will start sweeping through Alabama near 4PM tomorrow. The cold front should pass through Alabama by 10PM tomorrow night.

Now time for the setup of the threats. Right now, there is a tornado watch in Central Mississippi and a severe thunderstorm watch in North Mississippi stretching into Southeast Arkansas and Northeast Louisiana. This makes perfect sense with the current forecast track of the low. As the low makes its movement to the Northeast it will bring with it warm, moist, unstable air along the coast which would be favorable for severe thunderstorms that could produce hail, some possibly large, and damaging winds, but about a mile above us in the atmosphere is a key wind called Low Level Jet that is very weak until tonight when it usually strengthens. Here is the situation with that though, the area where the Low Level Jet or LLJ strengthens will be north of where the rich, unstable air is. The LLJ is a key component for tornadoes to develop as long as everything else is there for the storms. So southern Mississippi and Alabama will have the unstable air while northern Alabama will have the LLJ and a component we call shear which is a difference in wind speed and direction in the atmosphere. This leaves Central Alabama and Central Mississippi which will likely have a mix of the two which is where the main focus is. Now this isn’t to say that southern Alabama and northern Alabama are in the clear as mentioned earlier.

Finally to the threats and the areas. The biggest threats at first will be damaging wind and hail through the rest of today. Once when the LLJ kicks in that will increase the threat of tornadoes. The area for the threat of damaging wind and hail will be our entire viewing area and as the night goes on into the morning the threat of tornadoes shows up for Central Alabama all the way down to the Florida/Alabama state line. Parts of Northern Alabama have a chance as well, but it is lower than the rest of Alabama. This threat does stretch into western Georgia. The timing of all of this is hard to tell, but the tornado threat will be after midnight.

Weekend Severe Weather Discussion

22 03 2013

We are looking at another severe weather event for this weekend and the tricky part has been figuring out what the biggest threats will be and when they will occur.  We have been looking at 3 main forecast models and they all tend to tie together for the big picture, but it’s the small important details that makes this so hard.  Here is what the Storm Prediction Center has for tomorrow:

SPC has the main focus over most of Alabama and Mississippi with the highest risk of 30% chance of severe weather in the southern half of Alabama and Mississippi.  Here is the problem with this though, the forecast models are showing something a little different.  Here is what we are more thinking the biggest threat will be:


This area seems to be more favorable as the more recent forecast model runs are wanting to push the warm front further north than what was expected.  Why is that important?  Where the warm front is helps point out the area of interest where tornadoes are likely to be spotted because they typically like to develop there due to the dramatic change in wind direction as you go higher in the atmosphere.  The area highlighted is the area where most of all the ingredients for severe weather line up.  This includes a lot of complicated stuff, but what it ultimately results in is the region where we could see rotating storm capable of producing tornadoes, strong damaging winds and even large hail.  This isn’t to say that south of this area won’t get anything because that area has other factors that could help in developing some severe storms as well.

So to sum it all up we are looking at an event that could start out as a wind and hail event as it is moving towards us until the cold front catches up to the warm front which will develop a squall line.  As this starts to happen rotating storms are likely to develop.  There has been talk of whether some discrete storms will develop and rotate, but as of right now we are not seeing that to happen because a specific feature in the atmosphere that we look for is very weak to cause storms to rotate.

The timing looks to be late Saturday night when things start cooking, but brought to a boil by after midnight Saturday when all of the features we look for to create severe weather line up.  By this time it looks like it will be in the eastern half of Alabama into Georgia.

Since the forecast models are having a hard time with all of this even with it being just tomorrow we are still watching it all to see what changes might happen as the environment will be very delicate and only the slightest change can make it worse or not even happen.

StormTEAM 4/Gamma 9 Senior Meteorologist Michael Vasquez


Blizzard of 1993: 20 Year Anniversary

13 03 2013

It’s hard to believe that it has been 20 years ago since we had the infamous Blizzard of 93′  that received a number of names such as Storm of the Century and 93′ Superstorm.  It’s wrath lasted from March 12 to March 15 dropping snow in the Southeast, tornadoes in Florida, and feet of snow along the Atlantic Coastline.  Some basic, but interesting facts about the storm:

The highest amount of snow recorded during it’s like was 69 inches or 5 ft and 9 inches in Mt. La Conte, TN.  Its lowest pressure recorded was a 960 millibar low.
Coldest temperature reported was -12 degrees Fahrenheit.
It caused $6.65 million in damage according to 2008 U.S. currency.
There were 310 people who parished from this storm.

We are going to focus on the impacts in our viewing area.  To start it off, here is an image of the snowfall accumulation from the storm in it’s entirity.

It’s always amazing to see that as far as the coastline of Alabama, Florida Panhandle, and Mississippi saw 1-4 inches from this storm and much more further north.  But how much snow really fell?  We found some measurements for how much snow was on the ground specific locations which will vary from where all of you viewers lived, but this is what we were able to pull up:

Alexander City: 7 in.
Auburn Agronomy Farm: 5 in.
Opelika: 4 in.
Wetumpka: 6 in.
Montgomery Airport: 4 in.
Selma: 4.5 in.
near Union Springs: 4 in.
Troy: 4 in.
North Brewton: 3 in.
Chatom: 5 in.
Atmore: 2 in.
Hurtsboro: 3 in.
Mobile Regional: 3 in.
Bay Minette: 3 in.
Robertsdale: 2 in.
Columbus, GA: 1 in.

If you lived in Birmingham then you saw 17 in. of snow with snow drifts much higher than that.

The snow is always fun, but as mentioned before there were several fatalities.  Of those fatalities, 16 of them were in Alabama, 15 were in Georgia, and Florida had 44.

This was a powerful storm and so far we have not seen anything like it.  Could we see something similar in the future?   Very likely.  When?  We don’t know.  What we will always remember from that day is the setup that led to such an event and one picture will be always been meteorologists memories which will help us find it again when something similar happens again.  The famous picture is here:



12 03 2013

Tonight and this week will be a great time to look for Comet PanSTARRS across Central & South Alabama as we will have clear skies as the sunsets. To look for the comet, just look to the western horizon around 30-45 minutes after sunset. You will only be  able to see the comet for about 15 minutes after sunset so have your spot picked out ahead of time.

Sunset time for Columbus, GA/Phenix City, AL (Eastern Time)

Panstarrs Sunset CSG

Sunset time for Mobile, AL (Central Time)

Panstarrs Sunset Mobile

Where To Look









To look for the comet, just look to the west about 10-20°above the horizon and very close to the crescent moon. It’s not going to be as bright as Hale-Bopp in the late 90s, but you will be able to see it with your naked eye & binoculars. PanSTARRS will look like a bright fuzzy star and will have the same brightness magnitude as a star in the big dipper.

A good way to gauge the distance above the horizon is to use a closed fist at arms length from you as seen below.Panstarrs Hand

The forecast for Tuesday night through Friday night should be good to see Comet PanSTARRS as we will see mostly clear skies at the time around sunset for Mobile, Montgomery, & Columbus/Phenix City

Good luck on viewing the comet and if you get any good pics, we would love to see them!

-StormTEAM 4 / Gamma 9 Weather Chief Meteorologist Patrick Bigbie

Alabama Tornado Past

28 02 2013

Tornado season is upon us as we enter March.  March, April, and May are the three months with the highest number of tornadoes per year and, also, the months that are considered as the Meteorological Spring.  The question on every bodies mind is what kind of tornado season are we expecting this year?  That is yet to be determined, but what we can tell you and show you is what has happened in Alabama’s tornado history up to this point.

We have done some digging around and was able to create this interesting image.



This is the number of tornadoes for the counties with the most viewers we have.  These numbers are a cumulative amount of tornadoes since the early 1800’s.  Fascinating to see that since the early 1800’s that Mobile and Baldwin counties have had almost 100 tornadoes compared to the other counties which have had far less than that.  I can already tell what your thinking, why so much more in Mobile and Baldwin counties compared to the other counties?  The best way to answer this question is to look at the highest rated tornado recorded which is in parenthesis.  Notice that Mobile, Baldwin, and Escambia (AL) counties have nothing higher than an F3 in recorded history.  Mobile and Baldwin counties are unique as they are next to very warm water which can make conditions unstable fairly quickly when cold air swoops down.  Majority of the tornadoes in these two counties are either F0 or F1 and are very short lived.  Another interesting thing to point out is to show how the intensity of tornadoes increases as you go further north.  A lot of that has to deal with the famous Dixie Alley and the perfect conditions that can be set up for stronger tornadoes.  There is one unique county and that is Harris Co., GA.  According to an article that was found, an F5 tornado was classified during a tornado outbreak in 1875.  It first started out as an F4 in Lee County, AL and moved into Harris County and intensified.

Other than what has been said, all this map really tells us is that within the past 200 years nothing strong than an F3 has hit the Southwest Alabama area and a variety of intensities hit Central Alabama into extreme West Central Georgia.

Moving forward closer to present time.  Last year was one of the most inactive tornado years in recorded history.  This map shows the number of tornadoes that affected our entire viewing area with the intensity.


There were 19 tornadoes that occurred within our viewing area with most of those being EF1 and the strongest being an EF2.  Throughout the state there were 55.  Two of the most memorable tornadoes were the ones that hit Mobile.  One of the counties we watch over, Lowndes County, had 4 tornadoes last year ranging from an EF0 to an EF2.

So what does all of this mean for this years tornado season?  Not much can be determined just by looking at all this, but what can be said is that Mobile and Baldwin counties are more likely to see tornadoes, but fairly weak ones.  As for the rest of the counties, they are more likely to see stronger tornadoes, but not as many tornadoes will likely occur.

Severe Weather Threat Tonight

25 02 2013

Looking at the latest data coming in, the atmosphere is starting to destabilize as the warm front moves on shore. The atmosphere is already unstable in LA & SW Mississippi and that will be moving into our area later on tonight.

SEVERE RISK: The main threats will be watching for are Damaging winds, Large Hail, & Heavy Rain / Flooding. The tornado risk is smaller than the others risk but is still valid.

SVR Threat

In fact, the SPC has placed areas south of US Hwy 84 including Mobile and the Florida panhandle under the greatest risk for tornadoes as we go into this evening and into overnight. The risk gets smaller to none as you move north of US 84 so Central Alabama won’t have to worry about any type severe weather aside from flooding.


TIMING: We will be looking for two rounds of weather moving through. We will first look for individual cells to form out in advance of the cold front later this evening. This is where the greatest risk of tornadoes would come from for our area tonight. The second round will move though tonight as the squall line associated with the cold front moves though.

Well be here all day and night keeping you updated on the latest watches and warnings. You can also get alerts sent to your phone through the MyWarn app and out Twitter feed by clicking here.

-Patrick Bigbie, StormTEAM 4 / Gamma 9 Weather Chief Meteorologist

2012 Precipitation

3 02 2013

Now that we have seen another year, have you ever wondered how much rain we got last year?  We did!  So we went through and gathered 96 points in our entire viewing area that reported precipitation most of the year and since we added some counties recently we haven’t even added them yet.  This is just a rough draft of what we had before adding the new counties.  Some areas are very sparse in data so we had to fill in what we thought matched the general pattern and it turned out great!  Here is the full year of 2012 precipitation for Southwest Alabama.


This map was handmade since no computer program we have could do it to this precision.   You can tell the two areas that got over 90 inches of rain that is in South Mobile County and East Greene County.  The driest for this area was in Escambia County, Alabama in the Pollard area.  You are probably wondering why George County in Mississippi has been left blank.  That’s because there wasn’t enough data for that county so we had to leave it alone to try to keep the map as realistic as possible.

Now here is the map for Central Alabama.


Big difference in this area with the cooler colors.  The place with the most rain was over towards Plantersville in West Autauga County that had over 60 inches of rain.  The driest place is in the Auburn area in Lee County with about 31 inches.  That is pretty dry for one year.  Grand Bay in Mobile County triples that amount.  Stewart and Chattahoochee Counties were left blank because of the same reason as George County in Mississippi, there wasn’t enough data to make the map realistic.

Speaking of places with the most and the least amount of rain, which month had the most precipitation and which one had the least?  If you guessed the driest was in the summer and the wettest was in the winter then think again.  The month with the most precipitation, on average, is March.


That month received a little over 6 inches when you average all the locations out.  The driest month is the same month kids love to go Trick-or-Treat, October.


The average precipitation for this month is around 3 inches.  Pretty dry esp. when some locations got less than an inch of rain that whole month!

March being the wettest month and October being the driest month is very typical and is seen every year.  With that, things can be planned ahead of time depending on what you are wanting to do.

Severe Weather UPDATE

29 01 2013

The air over Alabama has been warm and juicy all day long with temps in near 80 and dewpoints in the mid 60s. This is priming the atmosphere for tomorrow’s Severe Weather event. Since last night, we have had a few changes. The models are now slowing down the squall line and having more CAPE (energy) on hand. This is NOT what we wanted to see happen as this will further destabilize the atmosphere tomorrow.

Timing: With the squall line slowing down, we are now looking for the threat to being in Mobile & west Alabama around 4-6 am/CT and leave our eastern counties around Phenix City / Columbus around 4pm/ET (3pm/CT).


What to Expect:  Since the squall line is slowing down and more CAPE will be available, the damaging wind risk will remain High since we will have very strong winds only a few thousand feet above Alabama. The threat for storms developing in advance of the line has now come into play due to the increase in CAPE and warmer temperatures expected. In this type of environment, these are the storms you have to watch for Tornadoes. With that said, we are increasing the Risk of Tornadoes across the area to Moderate.

Severe Threat

East Alabama: We are going to have to watch what happens in East Alabama/West Georgia very closely. Any breaks in the clouds will further destabilize the atmosphere. Since the squall line is expected to move in later, the air in this part of the state will be richer. This could lead to not only having cells developing in advance of the line but, the squall line re-intensifying as it moves over the area. With all this said, we & the Storm Prediction Center have placed an “enhanced risk” over East AL/West GA

Right now is a great time to go over your safety plan and make sure you have a properly working NOAA Weather Radio with fresh battery. If you don’t have one, you can get one at your local Walgreen’s or Wal-Mart for only $30.00 You can also download our MyWarn app that can wake you up in the middle of the night right here.

Stay tuned to us throughout the evening and all day tomorrow for the latest. We’ll have the whole team here to keep you updated during the Severe Weather.

-Patrick Bigbie, StormTEAM 4 / Gamma 9 Weather Chief Meteorologist

Stormy Wednesday

28 01 2013

It’s been warm for the last several days and when we enjoy the warm temps this early, we have to pay the price. That price is severe weather & all signs are pointing in that direction. The Storm Prediction Center currently has us under a Slight Risk for Severe Weather on Wednesday.


What to Expect: It appears at this time the main threat will be a squall line moving through the area with damaging winds being the main threat but a few spin-up tornadoes are still possible. We are currently thinking that the threat will begin early in the morning on Wednesday around 4:00am/CT for Mobile and last through the afternoon for East Alabama / West Georgia. This timing may change as several of the models are trying to bring it in a few hour on either side of this.


We are fairly confident on the damaging wind threat for the area as strong winds aloft will only be a few thousand feet above the ground. The one thing we are not sure on yet is will we have enough CAPE (energy) available for storms to develop in advance of the line. At this time, we do not but, should we have just a little bit more CAPE become available or we have breaks in the clouds that morning, we would have the risk of storms forming in advance of that line and that would increase the risk for tornadoes across the area.

Here is what we think the threat risk will be for our area on Wednesday but this may change as time goes on.

Severe Threat

Regardless of the threat and timing, right now would be a great time to go over your safety plan and make sure you have a properly working NOAA Weather Radio with fresh battery. If you don’t have one, you can get one at your local Walgreen’s or Wal-Mart for only $30.00 You can also download our MyWarn app that can wake you up in the middle of the night. You can download that here.

Stay Tuned, We’ll know more tomorrow as more data becomes available.

-Patrick Bigbie, StormTEAM 4 / Gamma 9 Weather Chief Meteorologist


Christmas Day Tornadoes

31 12 2012

Tornadoes are fairly common in the Southeast during the month of December due to surges of cold air moving into the region.  Unfortunately, one of the strongest tornadoes went through the heart of Mobile.


Here is the path courtesy of the National Weather Service in Mobile.  The area of Mobile that was hardest hit is indicated where the yellow is which is where EF-2 damage was found.  Within that damage area is where Murphy High School and the Trinity Episcopal Church are.

MurphyHS TEChurch

This was around 5:00 PM where the storm was at it strongest as indicated from the radar at the Mobile Regional Airport.


The classic hook echo is clearly defined and the area where the tornado is with the tightest circulation is circled.  At this time, the tornado had roughly 135 MPH winds which is a high end EF-2 tornado.  So far, the estimated dollar amount for Mobile is $140 to $150 million.  The tornado path was 5.7 miles long and the tornado had a width of about 200 yards.

This wasn’t the only tornado that went through Mobile County.


This tornado went South and East of Wilmer as an EF-1.  It traveled 6.8 miles and had a width of about 100 yards.  It was weaker than the Mobile tornado, but it caused a lot of damage to the Wilmer area by damaging homes and demolishing mobile homes like this one.


Nobody was killed in any of the tornadoes that dropped down on Christmas day.  Some minor injuries were reported in Mobile, but other than that it truly was a Christmas miracle that no lives were lost.