CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

January 5, 2014

Coldest air in a decade may cause black ice, delay schools

By Tiffeny Owens
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — The chance of light snowfall tonight followed by bitterly cold temperatures in the single-digits Monday threatens to ice roads and bridges and delay schools, officials said.

Meteorologists predict the arctic chill will bring the coldest air to hit the area in the past 10 to 15 years. The forecast of near-record low temperatures the beginning of next week may create hazardous road conditions from tonight through Tuesday night when the mercury will not get above freezing. 

Rain today, with highs near the mid 40s, will quickly change over to snow as temperatures plunge down to around 10 degrees at night, according to the National Weather Service. 

Meteorologists’ tentative forecast shows accumulations of a half inch or less west of Interstate 65 with a half-inch to an inch possible to the east. The greatest accumulations will be at higher elevations of Sand Mountain and Lookout Mountain in Alabama and Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee.

After the snow, black ice will likely develop overnight and into Monday morning, with a high temperature of only 15 degrees expected. However, the wind chill in Monday morning will make it feel like 5 to 15 degrees below zero.

The hazardous road conditions and bitterly cold weather has local school administrators concerned for students’ safety as they are scheduled to begin the second semester Monday. Cullman County Schools Superintendent Billy Coleman said he will watch the weather closely tonight and hopes to make a decision whether to delay or close school before Monday morning.

“We’re going to take a hard look at it because our two concerns are the possibility of icy roads and also the really cold temperatures,” Coleman said Friday. “We’ve got kids planning to get on buses at the time.”

Cullman City Schools Superintendent Doreen Griffeth said due to the rain and snow, she will be evaluating conditions this  afternoon to determine whether to close or delay schools.

As bitterly cold air continues to pour into the region from Canada, the low temperature Monday night is expected to drop to around 5 degrees. Lows Tuesday morning will remain in the single digits, and possibly down to below zero at higher elevations, according to the NWS. Wind chills will linger around 5 to 15 degrees below zero.

The Alabama Department of Transportation will take measures to pre-treat problems areas on roadways —notably U.S. 31 on Lacon Mountain — as well as bridges and overpasses, said Cullman County Emergency Management Agency Director Phyllis Little.

“The city street and county road departments will spread sand where there are icy spots, but people need to be aware of  the winter weather and the road conditions,” Little said. “Hopefully, the wind will blow and dry up portions of the asphalt that have residual moisture.”

The frigid temperatures will affect livestock and other outdoor animals, and officials advise residents to take precautions to try to keep them warm. Cullman County Extension Agent Tony Glover advised owners of livestock to check their water frequently and break up ice when possible. Additionally, outdoor animals will need more calories to stay warm so owners should double up on food portions and toss out more hay.

Cullman County Cattleman’s Association President Steve Lake said cows need grain or some other supplement to boost cattle’s energy to stay warm. Glover and Lake said owners should be mindful the arctic temperatures will threaten calves and to watch closely any cows that are close to birthing so not to lose a calf due to freezing temperatures.

The NWS expects temperatures to slowly rise beginning Tuesday, with substantial warming into the 30s and 40s on Wednesday. A slight chance of light wintry precipitation could fall Wednesday night into Thursday.

Go online to www.srh.noaa.gov/hun for weather updates and to www.cullmanema.org for local road conditions.



* Tiffeny Owens can be reached by email at towens@cullmantimes.com or by phone at 256-734-2131, ext. 135.