‘Major winter storm’ on its way

Published 5:37 pm Saturday, January 8, 2011

Local officials are urging residents to prepare now for what the weather service is calling “a major winter storm” expected to hit Alabama late Sunday and early Monday.

The storm, which could bring up to 6 inches of snow in northern areas of the state, could bring as much as half an inch of ice to Pike County and surrounding areas south of Montgomery.

And with that ice storm come dangerous roadways and the threat of power outages.

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“The main thing that worries me is the meteorologist in charge … he told us it could be ‘devastating’ as far as the ice part of it … that’s the word he used,” said Jeanna Barnes, Pike County EMA director.

Much of the impact on Pike County will be determined by the final track of the low pressure front which precedes the storm. If the front tracks higher across the state, more freezing rain and ice are expected; if the front tracks lower, more snowfall is expected.

According to the National Weather Service, the winter storm will begin early Sunday with snowfall in the southwest and western portions of the state. The precipitation should reach the I65 corridor by noon and Pike County by 3 p.m.

“They’re forecasting the timeframe for the most accumulation for us to be between 6 p.m. Sunday and 3 a.m. Monday,” Barnes said. “And while that is the heaviest accumulation, the event is going to continue into Monday.”

In fact, forecasters warned that ice could remain until Tuesday afternoon, when temperatures are expected to rise above freezing.

Officials are urging residents to stay off roadways Sunday evening and Monday, even though the Pike County Road Department and the Troy Police have said crews will be on standby to address bridges and roadways, as they are able.

“The meteorologists are urging people to prepare for sustained and long-term power outages, as much as 24 hours or more,” Barnes said. Ice on tree limbs often causes them to break and fall into power lines, which will likely cause the outages.

And, Barnes knows that’s an unpleasant thought for local fans planning to watch Auburn play in the BCS national championship game on Monday night. “Let’s hope it’s not out,” she said.

To view the National Weather Service’s 3 p.m. Saturday multimedia briefing, click here.