Much of the southern United States is cleaning up this afternoon from last night's cute li'l snowfall that produced record-breaking totals from Texas to Virginia. Up to a foot of snow fell on some small towns in northern Alabama we never hear about unless there's a tornado outbreak.
The snowstorm was part of a juicy low pressure system that skirted the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, pushing ample moisture into a marginally cold environment from Dallas to the Delmarva Peninsula. There was enough cold air in place on the northern edge of the storm to produce very heavy snows with an extremely sharp cut-off line. Communities north of Birmingham, Alabama, saw a record-breaking snowfall, while those south of the city saw a cold, miserable rain. It was an extreme, textbook example of the rain/snow line.
While northerners may laugh at us for making so much noise over a relatively small storm, many areas in this part of the country don't usually see this much snow from one storm.
The heaviest snows fell across a stretch of land from the Tennessee River east through North Carolina and Virginia. We received about six inches of snow at The Vane's nerdquarters in central North Carolina, but because the snow fell when temperatures were right at 32°F, it compacted into a thick, condensed slush relatively quickly.
Huntsville, Alabama, saw 8.2 inches of snow on Wednesday, making this the fourth largest snowfall, the second-largest one-day snowfall, and largest February snowstorm on record in the city. Records in Huntsville go back to 1894. A few states to the east, Greensboro, North Carolina, recorded almost an entire season's worth of snowfall in one night, with 6.4 inches of snow at the airport. The city averages about seven inches of snow every winter.
A heavy, sticky, slushy snow, it was great for making snowmen and igloos, but created quite a bit of damage to trees and power lines. Alabama Power reported 71,000 total outages over the course of the storm, and Duke Energy saw about 220,000 outages across the Carolinas as a result of the snow and ice. Crews worked feverishly during and after the storm to fix the lines, and most people who lost power last night have since seen their power restored.
For the most part, people seem to have stayed home for the duration of this winter storm. The effects of the snow and ice were well-advertised by meteorologists and news stations across the region for days in advance of the precipitation, and we largely avoided the flaming snow car incident we saw last year. However, traffic on about ten miles of I-65 near Birmingham, Alabama, did get stuck on the highway overnight as a result of the hazardous road conditions. It's still better than last year's debacle, though.
The lack of major accidents helped keep this storm's injury and death count to a minimum. A student at Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, died at an area hospital on Wednesday after sledding into a street sign. Officials in Greensboro, North Carolina, only reported 25 traffic accidents during the storm, none of which resulted in serious injuries. As of this post, no news agencies have reported any heart attack fatalities from shoveling, but it wouldn't be a surprise if a few people passed away this morning while clearing the slushy snow.
After a brief period of cooler weather, temperatures will rebound nicely next week. Highs in the 60s and 70s will be common across the southeast next week, and if current model trends hold up, temperatures in the 60s could creep as far north as Baltimore on Wednesday.
[Both the terrible image and terrible map by the author]