James Spann: Rain returns to Alabama over the weekend

WONDERFUL WINTER AFTERNOON: Temperatures are mostly in the mid 50s across Alabama this afternoon, right at seasonal averages for Jan. 12. The sky is partly to mostly sunny, and fair conditions will continue tonight with a low in the 30s.

Dry weather continues through Friday with partly to mostly sunny days and fair nights. Highs will be between 55 and 59 degrees, with lows in the 30s.

WEEKEND WEATHER SYSTEM: Clouds roll into Alabama Saturday ahead of a system that will push rain into the western counties of the state by afternoon. Rain will be widespread statewide Saturday night, with potential for amounts of one-half to 1 inch. Model data shows no surface-based instability, so thunderstorms are not expected for now. The high Saturday afternoon will be between 56 and 60 degrees.

Rain will end early Sunday, and much colder air will roll into the state. Temperatures fall into the 30s Sunday following the rain with a brisk north wind. Scattered snow showers are possible in the cold air Sunday over about the northern half of the state. The grass could become white in a few spots where heavier snow showers form. Probabilities of 1 inch of snow remain less than 50% for most of north Alabama, however.Travel impact is generally not expected Sunday afternoon where snow showers develop, as temperatures should be above freezing. Some patchy black ice can’t be ruled out Sunday night as the sky clears and temperatures go below freezing. The main winter-weather impacts from this system will be northeast of Alabama, where very significant amounts of snow and ice are likely for parts of the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia.

But, remember, the forecast could still change as we approach the weekend, so be watching for updates.

NEXT WEEK: Monday will be cold and dry; after a low in the 20s we expect a high in the mid 40s. We are looking at highs in the 50s daily for the rest of the week. Some rain could return by Thursday.ON THIS DATE IN 1982: A catastrophic ice storm unfolded across much of Alabama. After a period of very cold air with single-digit temperatures, a winter storm brought some snow, but mostly freezing rain to the state. The precipitation arrived about eight hours earlier than anticipated in the Birmingham area and quickly changed over to a mix of freezing rain and sleet that turned roads into skating rinks. Thousands of motorists had to abandon their vehicles on roads and hike home or spend the night in shelters. Brookwood Village mall became a huge shelter. So many wrecks occurred that the Birmingham Police Department could not answer the calls for accident investigation.

As temperatures hovered near the freezing mark through the night, freezing rain created a thick coating on all exposed objects. Trees snapped, pulling down power lines and putting as many as 750,000 Alabamians in the dark. A state of emergency was declared in Alabama and National Guard Armories were opened to serve as shelters. Some people had no power for weeks; timber damage in the state was extensive.

Twenty Alabamians were dead and another 300 injured, and damage totaled $78 million.

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