Volume 7, Number 6 - March 2017
March wasn't all that much to talk about. It was generally warmer and drier than normal, but there were few extremes.
Russellville and Fairhope recorded their warmest March days on record — 85.3° in Fairhope of March 22 and 85.9° on March 21 in Russellville.
The mid-month freeze was a real shock to all of the vegetation that budded and blossomed in the warm late winter weather — and to those of us who had put away our sweaters. Mobile dropped to 34° on both March 15 and 16, while on the 16th temperatures in Montgomery and Dothan dropped to 28°, 27° in Tuscaloosa, 26° in Birmingham, 25° in Troy, 22° in Anniston, 21° in Huntsville, Decatur and Albertville, 20° in Russellville, 19° in Cullman and 16° in Valley Head.
What is most interesting about March is that for most of the state it was part of the warmest (or nearly warmest) first three months in the year since at least 1948.
For Huntsville and Montgomery, the first three months were the warmest on record, while Mobile tied for its warmest start to the year. Birmingham saw its second warmest January-March. Huntsville, Mobile and Birmingham all averaged more than 6° warmer than normal for the first three months, while Montgomery's average temperature was 7.5° warmer than normal.
Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville are each slightly behind on rainfall since Jan. 1, while Montgomery is 2.54 inches ahead of its normal rain for that period despite being almost two inches below normal in March.
The state tornado database maintained by the National Weather Service office in Birmingham reports no tornadoes in Alabama in March, although there were widespread reports of damaging winds and hail associated with thunderstorms.
But severe weather seems likely during the rest of April, which is Alabama's most tornado active month of the year. The litany of deadly Aprils is chilling: 1903, 19 killed by tornado; 1908, 35 killed; 1920, 92 fatalities; 1974 ... 1977 ... 1998 ... and, of course, April 27, 2011.
We've been harping and nagging about this for a bit, but it is worth repeating: If you haven't made your severe weather plans and preparations, do it now. Know where to go in case of tornado warning. Be alert and be prepared.
We are hosting scientists and students from across the U.S. for the next several weeks. They are here to help us study the unique traits of tornado-spawning storms in the southeast. But what they learn and pass on to the forecast community is less useful than it could be if the people out in our communities aren't prepared and don't know how to react in the event of severe weather.
Let's be safe out there.
- John Christy