Winter Storm Watch – Snow & Ice Accumulations


The National Weather Service in Huntsville has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the entire Tennessee Valley starting at 3:00 pm Monday – 12:00 pm Tuesday.  A strong cold front will move across the region today, with an area of low pressure forecast to develop in the Gulf of Mexico and ride up the front as it stalls to our south Monday.  The low pressure will track east-northeast across the lower Southeast United States along the front between Monday and Wednesday, with several upper-level disturbances passing overhead which will allow snow showers to develop, with sleet and possibly some freezing rain/rain.


Today will be mostly cloudy and mainly dry, with a dry passage of a strong cold front this afternoon.  We’ll see a wind shift this afternoon and evening from the southwest to the northwest, ushering in colder air.  High temperatures today will likely range from the mid to upper 40s and possibly low 50s.  A few sprinkles/drizzle cannot be ruled out overnight, with a possible transition to freezing rain/freezing drizzle, but the majority will remain dry and little to no accumulations are expected.  Temperatures tonight will fall into the low to mid 30s.

Winter Weather Timing:

We start off the Monday mainly dry, but cloudy.  Snow showers and possibly sleet and freezing rain are expected to develop to our west in Mississippi and Tennessee in the morning, moving east into north Alabama and southern middle Tennessee during the late afternoon and evening.

Model guidance has come into better agreement, but question marks on precipitation type and accumulation still remain, which makes this forecast very difficult.  It is not possible to pinpoint exact locations that will see snow, sleet and freezing rain.  Expect the farther north you live, especially north of the Tennessee River, to see predominately snow, with the best chance for a mix south of the Tennessee River.  Along and south of Highway 278 to around Birmingham, have the greatest potential for freezing rain.  With that said, keep in mind EVERYONE has the chance to see a wintry mix of snow/sleet/freezing rain.  It does not take much freezing rain to get a thin glaze of ice on surfaces, causing major travel issues.  This is one of those scenarios that we will have to watch the precipitation develop to our west as this winter storm unfolds Monday morning, as well as temperature profiles here in the Tennessee Valley.

Below is the latest in house model run of snow/wintry mix moving into the Tennessee Valley Monday afternoon, with the majority moving through Monday evening, overnight into Tuesday.  Blue is indicative of snow, pink/purple is a mix of sleet/freezing rain, with green a cold rain.  Keep in mind this is just one model and this system may not play out exactly as shown below, this is just supposed to give you a general idea of what to expect.


The image below shows the potential of at 0.10″ of ice accumulation or greater by midday Tuesday.  This clearly shows everyone has the potential to see some freezing rain, but the areas at greatest risk will be south of the Tennessee River, southwest of Huntsville.  Farther west in Mississippi and Arkansas are expected to see the highest ice accumulations.


Expect travel impacts, with snow accumulating on the roads and slick spots developing.  Ice remains the big concern, especially across north/central Alabama, including Birmingham, which have the greatest potential for freezing rain.  Snow totals by late Tuesday morning could range between 1-3″+.  Highest snow totals will be south of the Tennessee River.  Sleet/ice accumulations between 0.25-0.5″ are possible as well, depending on where freezing rain and sleet develop.  If more sleet/rain is observed than expect snow totals to be less, with higher ice accumulations.


So what do you do?  Be prepared for possible power outages and potentially hazardous road conditions could develop by Monday evening, worsening overnight into Tuesday.  Travel will likely be dangerous Tuesday, so know it may be in your best interest to stay off the roads.  Expect hazardous road conditions not just in the Tennessee Valley, but areas west and south of the Tennessee Valley.  Have your winter weather safety emergency kits ready in your home and your car in case you lose power/heat, or you are stuck/slide off of the road.  It can also never hurt to fill up your gas tank in case you are stuck in traffic.  After what happened to our neighbors just to our south in Birmingham and Atlanta the last week of January, it’s better to prepare for the worst than be unprepared.

We will be fine tuning the forecast throughout today and start a live blog Monday, with frequent updates on where precipitation is and type.

– Jennifer Watson

Twitter: @JWatson_Wx

Facebook: Jennifer Watson WHNT