Big freeze real story

Published 10:40 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Up to 2 inches of snow is possible during the day Thursday, but the real weather story of the week is how cold it will be and for how long.

Weather forecasts call for temperatures to drop below freezing sometime around dusk Thursday, and they may not reach above 32 F again until lunch Monday.

National Weather Service predicts overnight lows in Clanton of 22 Wednesday, 16 Thursday, 13 Friday and 9 Saturday. Daytime highs are forecasted to only reach 39 Wednesday, 35 Thursday, 31 Friday and 30 Saturday.

The story isn’t so much the daily temperatures we’ll have this week. While they are below average, they are nowhere near record breaking.

The low Tuesday morning in Birmingham was 14 degrees. The last time central Alabama saw temperatures that cold was just a year ago in January 2009.

The main concern is how long it will be cold. Central Alabama could be below freezing for potentially 90 hours, longer in some places. Wind chills during Thursday and Friday morning could fall below 0 F.

The record for most days in which the maximum temperature was at or below 32 degrees is four days, set back in January 1978 — a record that, may well be in danger this weekend.

Another record that may be broken is the number of consecutive days Birmingham has dropped below 25 degrees.

The current record of 11 days was set in January 1940. The city is already five days into a new 2010 streak, and current forecasts predict lows of at least 25 through Jan. 11, which would total 10 days.

There is a chance of snow across the area Thursday into Thursday night. Accumulation on the ground will be generally an inch, with higher totals across Western parts of the state.

Chilton County remains under a hard freeze warning through 10 a.m. Wednesday, which means conditions are imminent for a hazardous freezing event.

The hard freeze warning includes most of Alabama, from Hamilton and Sulligent all the way down to Troy and Eufaula, and from Tuscaloosa to Auburn.

The weather service encourages people to check on anyone who may not have adequate heating, especially seniors and those with young children.

Some other tips from the National Weather Service:

People should also be mindful of outdoor pets and make sure they have adequate warmth.

Bring plants and the pets you can inside and make sure they have unfrozen water.

They also advise people to wrap exposed pipes in insulation, and let water faucets drip a little. It does waste water but may prevent freeze damage.

People should also know how to shut water off coming into the house. As a last resort, you may have to shut off the main valve and drain all pipes to keep them from bursting.

For updates on the winter weather, check throughout the day Wednesday and Thursday.

Additional tips on protecting yourself and your property during the cold weather snap can be found in the staff editorial on Page 4 of today’s paper.

For more information from the National Weather Service, visit