Sleet and/or freezing rain is likely by Thursday morning across Alabama and parts of the Fox6 viewing area will be significantly impacted. The challenge right now is figuring out where. As new model data begins to arrive, we are getting a better idea on the where and when. The GFS model gave us our first hint at this possibility last week and now as the more reliable (at least this Winter) NAM data rolls in we'll take our first real attempt at breaking down the highest impact areas. This is the NAM out for 6am Thursday. The green is rain, the orange is sleet, and the blue is snowfall.
The Bufkit sounding for Northwest Alabama (Russellville) supports sleet over rain or freezing rain. The orange columns indicate sleet. The bottom axis is the time scale. Bufkit indicates a changeover from rain to sleet sometime before midnight and last through at least 7am.
HIGHEST IMPACT: Marion, Winston, Cullman, Lamar, Walker, Fayette, Pickens, and Tuscaloosa Counties. Some of these places will see wintry precipitation fall for a duration of 6-7 hours. The sleet will likely be a long enough duration to result in some travel problems as temperatures fall into the upper 20s Thursday morning. It's possible we could see power outages in these areas.
By 5am Thursday morning, it looks like the threat will shift south and east based on the NAM. This means Etowah, Jefferson, St. Clair, Calhoun, Blount, and Jefferson Counties will be impacted during this time. This will be a shorter duration precipitation event with rain and sleet mixed for a bit becoming all sleet at times. Travel problems are possible during this time, but not as severe as our counties to the north and west. Many issues in these counties will likely be on elevated roadways and higher terrain.
The Bufkit sounding for Birmingham shows the peak time between 7am and 10am. The rain should end by 10am leaving us with cloudy skies and temperatures around 32 degrees.
WHAT TO EXPECT: As with any Winter weather forecast, we'll have a lot tweaking to do before now and Wednesday. We have a few limiting factors with this event that will play a huge role in minimizing icing on roads. We will be coming off several days of temperatures above freezing. In fact, Tuesday we'll reach the lower to mid 70s in many areas. Despite that, because of the the long duration of possible Winter weather West of I-65 and North of I-20/59 - it's possible we can overcome that and see some roads ice over. The general theme is the farther south and east you go the better your situation. The farther north and west in Alabama and the situation worsens. Just like some of the previous events - some of us will only have a cold rain while others will have some significant issues. There is significant model variation on the placement of the freezing line.
I would expect widespread travel issues in some places and likely another day with delayed schools in others. Temperatures on Thursday will likely stay below freezing and with water still on roadways from the previous day's rain - it's likely we could see that freeze as well.
As always, stay close to weather information this week. We'll have plenty of updates on this weatherblog and on Fox6.
Fox6 Chief Meteorologist