Could Lake Guntersville Freeze Over Again? How To Be Prepared For This Winter

Posted on: 3:53 pm, November 13, 2012, by , updated on: 10:35am, November 14, 2012

Even though North Alabama and southern middle Tennessee don’t experience the harsh winters like the northern states, we still get all types of winter precipitation (snow, sleet, freezing rain…etc.) and extremely cold temperatures that can impact travel and threaten life and property. Below are two images from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and their U.S. Winter Outlook. The first image shows the temperature outlook and the Tennessee Valley in the region of “equal chances” and the same thing for the image below of the precipitation outlook, so what does that mean?  “Equal Chances” means that there is a 33% chance that the region will experience average temperatures and amount of precipitation this winter, a 33% that there will be above average temperatures and precipitation and a 33% chance that there will be below average temperatures and precipitation.

So basically anything is possible this winter and it is important to be prepared. According to the National Weather Service Huntsville, the Tennessee Valley approximately sees two days every winter where it snows. The average amount of snowfall per winter season is 2.4″ (Dec.-0.3″, Jan.-1.1″, Feb.- .5″, Mar.-0.5″).  The snowiest winter season on record was 1963-1964 where over two feet fell (24.1″).  Only two winters ago (2010-2011) the Tennessee Valley experienced their fourth snowiest season on record, with 14.3″ of snow. Sub-freezing temperatures are not rare across the Tennessee Valley and occur every year, but sub-zero temperatures are rare. Since 1907, there have only been 27 years where temperatures have dropped below zero.

One of the coldest winters on record was in 1940, which is tied with 1920 as the third coldest year on record. Also for two consecutive days, the Huntsville International Airport recorded a temperature of seven degrees below zero, one of the coldest temperatures on record for the area!  Below are images courtesy of J.D. Wall at Top O’ The River in Guntersville, of a frozen over Lake Guntersville in 1940.  The ice was so thick that Howard Powell Sr. drove his 1939 Staudebaker American on Lake Guntersville.

Source: Image courtesy of J.D. Wall at Top O’ The River in Guntersville.

Source: Image courtesy of J.D. Wall at Top O’ The River in Guntersville.

With the recent cold snaps and winter knocking on our door, it is important that you and your family are prepared for what Mother Nature may bring. It is always important to have the below necessities in your car, in case you are stranded somewhere out on the road, because you never know, it could be a few hours or more before help can arrive (List below courtesy of NWS):

–  Batteries                             –  Sand/Cat Litter
      –  Blankets                              –  Ice Scraper
      –  First Aid Kit                         –  Water/Non-Perishable Food
      –  Pocket Knife                       –  Road Maps/GPS Equipment
      –  Tow Rope                            –  Mobile Phone/Charger
      –  Shovel                                 –  AM/FM Radio 

If there is a winter storm approaching, it is also important to fill-up your car with gas and make sure that your cell phone, along with any other technical devices are fully charged.  You want to have most of the same items listed above in a kit for your home as well, in case you are out of power for several days and roads are too hazardous to travel. Stock up on canned food and make sure each member in your household has three days worth of drinking water (one gallon per person, per day). Also if needed, make sure you have baby/pet supplies. Below is a list with more items to include:

–  Batteries                             –  Sand/Cat Litter
      –  Blankets                              –  Ice Scraper
      –  First Aid Kit                         –  Water/Non-Perishable Food
      –  Multi-purpose tool             –  Family/Emergency contact information
      –  Flashlight                            –  Medications (7-day supply)
      –  AM/FM Radio                      –  Extra cash

Always make sure to have copies of personal documents in a water proof container such as; medication list, pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies. Have enough warm coats, gloves/mittens, hats, boots and extra blankets for every member of our household and have them in one place so they are easily accessible.

Below is chart from the National Weather Service in Huntsville on common winter weather terminology that may be used by the National Weather Service if conditions warrant. It is important to review them, so you know exactly what they mean and what to expect.

Product Criteria
Winter Storm Watch At least a 50/50 chance that warning criteria (>2 inches of sleet/snow and /or ice accumulations of 1/4 of an an inch or greater) will be met in the next 12 to 24 hours.
Winter Weather Advisory 1″ to 2″ of snow and/or sleet in less than 12 hours
Freezing Rain Advisory Ice accumulations up to 1/4″
Wind Chill Advisory Wind chill readings between -10°F and 0°F
Winter Storm Warning Greater than 2″ of snow and/or sleet in 12 hours or greater than 4″ of snow in 24 hours
Ice Storm Warning Ice accumulations of 1/4″ or greater
Blizzard Warning Greater than 2″ of snow and/or sleet in 12 hours or greater than 4″ of snow in 24 hours AND sustained winds of 35 MPH or greater AND considering blowing and drifting snow reducing visibilities to 1/4 mile or less for 3 or more hours
Wind Chill Warning Wind chill readings at or below -10°F
Freeze Warning Temperatures at or below 32°F for 3 or more consecutive hours during a climatalogically significant time of the year (first widespread freeze of the Fall or a freeze after the growing season has started in Spring)
Frost Advisory Temperatures between 33°F and 36°F are forecast. (widespread frost in the Fall or after the growing season has begun in Spring.)

For more information on winter weather safety and the different types of winter precipitation, click here: Winter Weather Awareness Week.

- Jennifer Watson

Twitter: @JWaston_Wx

Facebook: Jennifer Watson WHNT