Courtesy of the National Weather Service BHM
Jan 2017 Winter Weather
As school children and adults alike anxiously wait to see if activities will be canceled Friday, the National Weather Service and local meteorologists are hard at work trying to pin down what to expect from the season's first winter weather system.
With winter weather in Alabama notoriously tricky to predict and some weather modeling systems disagreeing, meteorologists were still hesitant Thursday afternoon to say exactly how much snow Birmingham and surrounding cities should expect.
However, National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Westland said that the office was still expecting at least slight accumulation of snow for most of Birmingham, with a mix of snow and ice/freezing rain possible as well.
On Thursday afternoon, the NWS also upgraded Jefferson and Shelby counties from a Winter Storm Watch to a Winter Storm Warning. Additionally, Gov. Robert Bentley signed a state of emergency declaration effective 7 a.m. Friday morning.
The Shelby County and Hoover school systems closed all of their schools Friday.
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said all city offices will be closed Friday, plus the Hoover Recreation Center, Hoover Public Library, Hoover Senior Center and Aldridge Gardens. City offices will resume regular hours on Monday, weather permitting, the mayor said. Other city facilities could reopen over the weekend with regular hours if weather permits, city spokeswoman Lori Schommer said.
Westland said that over the last 24 to 48 hours, the models had been disagreeing on the exact path of the line of moisture moving into the state, and where the freezing line would fall, and that the NWS was still waiting for more confidence.
"You just can't predict when they'll lock into something," he said.
He did say that most of Birmingham can expect around 1 inch of snow accumulation, with cities to the south seeing 1 to 2 inches, and up to 3 inches possible further south into Shelby County. Ice, another major concern, was expected to be up to 0.1 inches in most of Jefferson county, with possible higher accumulations in Shelby County.
As for timing, Westland said the first flakes could fly as early as 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., with the major line of snow settling in between noon and 10 p.m.
"That's all subject to change," he said, because the line of precipitation is relatively thin, and any major shift north or south in its path would make a big difference.
Still, Westland suggested Birmingham metro residents act as if there would be accumulation.
"Get what you need done tonight, and if they do cancel schools or whatever else is going on tomorrow, if you don't need to get out and the snow starts flying, certainly don't get out on the roads," he said.
When the snow does start falling, Westland said they can't predict specifically where traveling will be dangerous, but that motorists should use extreme caution and consider making changes to travel plans if possible.
Whatever does end up making its way through the area is not expected to cause major power outages and shouldn't hang around for long, Westland said, and sunny skies on Saturday should help with any freezing or major road hazards.
Westland encouraged people to still use caution Saturday, especially in shady areas which may remain slick.
Computer models generate data every six hours, he said, so the NWS expected to have an even clearer picture between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday evening.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates and any school closing announcements.