Update 7:37 am–The “warm nose” of air aloft never relented over our area overnight resulting in liquid precipitation for our area only. Temperatures finally did plummet to a wake up temperature of 20 degrees. Some patchy ice remains and roads to the north are still closed. Areas north of Sylacauga to Oxford have closed roads and significant weather impact. We are in store for frigid temperatures and the coldest air we’ve seen this year. The current wind chill is 7 degrees and the projected high is just 34. This cold air mass remains in our area until Monday morning.
Update 2:30 pm–The National Weather Service 2 pm briefing just concluded. The forecast has not changed for the area. The “freezing line” is still north of Opelika and expected to reach the area around 7 pm. Bridges and overpasses could be affected and people are encouraged to be home or where they can stay overnight by that time. Temperatures will not rise significantly through Sunday when the high is expected at just 22 degrees. Please stay weather aware as heavy precipitation is now in the area and conditions may change.
Update Friday, 10:00 am–The National Weather Service continues to keep Opelika in the Winter Weather Advisory category. All eyes are on the “freezing line” as it sinks southward while precipitation moves in from the west. Expectations are that somewhere between 3 and 6 pm temperatures will reach freezing and Opelika will see a changeover from rain to freezing rain/sleet and some snow. Stay weather aware. Should any closures be announced we will post them on our FB page and in this story. Below is the latest weather discussion from the National Weather Service as of 6 am.
Today and tonight.
An Arctic airmass continues to ooze southward this morning while
precipitation expands across southern MS into Central AL. It seems
unlikely that temperatures will rise much today and most areas
north of I-59 are already below the freezing mark. Models have
converged on a solution that features several waves of
precipitation starting now and continuing through 06z tonight. A
fairly sharp cutoff in the moderate to heavy precipitation is
expected near I-59 with high impacts mainly from sleet and to a
lesser extent freezing rain and snow. This is a result of a warm
nose at 750mb which has complicated matters. It appears that
precipitation will fall as freezing rain or sleet in the northern
part of the watch/warning area this morning and continue that way
through much of the afternoon.
The first significant wave of precipitation should develop across
MS later this morning and impact the Tuscaloosa to Birmingham
areas between 15-18Z with sleet and freezing rain. Brief lulls may
occur along I-59 behind the first wave, but this should be
temporary as the precipitation shield should become better
defined around 21Z. Between 21Z-06Z tonight the transition zone of
freezing rain and sleet should make slow progress toward the
southeast with bright banding and heavy rates along the back edge
of the precipitation shield. Any of these bursts will probably
contain moderate to heavy bursts of sleet mixing with snow
especially along and just south of I-20. Temperatures are expected
to fall into the upper 20s as this occurs, and accumulations
appear very likely. Our forecast “snow totals” of up to 3 inches
also include sleet accumulations which are expected to account for
50-75% of the total amounts in accumulation zone.
Update 3:23 pm-The National Weather Service has included Opelika in the latest Winter Weather Advisory. Latest reports adjust the timing of wintry precipitation into our area by Friday afternoon. Forecasts now include Lee County and Opelika in the “Up to 3” category of snow. Conditions are changing rapidly, please stay tuned for weather updates. From the National Weather Service forecast discussion:
**Winter Weather Advisory**
Counties: Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery
…WINTER WEATHER IMPACTS POSSIBLE FOR CENTRAL ALABAMA FRIDAY AND
.A STRONG COLD FRONT IS EXPECTED TO DIVE SOUTHWARD EARLY FRIDAY
MORNING BRINGING TEMPERATURES IN THE UPPER 20S TO LOWER 30S TO
PORTIONS OF CENTRAL ALABAMA. AT NEARLY THE SAME TIME… A WEAK
GULF SYSTEM WILL FORM SPREADING MOISTURE NORTHWARD ON FRIDAY
MORNING THROUGH EARLY SATURDAY. SNOW, SLEET, AND FREEZING RAIN ACCUMULATIONS
ARE LIKELY IN THE WARNING AND ADVISORY AREAS. PLEASE STAY TUNED
TO LOCAL MEDIA PARTNERS FOR ADJUSTMENTS TO THE FORECAST AS THIS
EVENT GETS CLOSER. SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS ARE LIKELY.
…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM FRIDAY TO 9 AM CST
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BIRMINGHAM HAS ISSUED A WINTER
WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN…WHICH IS IN EFFECT
FROM 6 AM FRIDAY TO 9 AM CST SATURDAY.
* TIMING…FRIDAY MORNING THROUGH SATURDAY MORNING.
* LOCATION…IMPACTS FROM A MIX OF WINTRY PRECIPITATION WILL BE
POSSIBLE ALONG AND NORTH OF THE I-85 CORRIDOR.
* ACCUMULATIONS…LIGHT SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN ACCUMULATIONS ARE
LIKELY…AND IMPACTS COULD BE SIGNIFICANT.
Weather Update for the Opelika City Schools:
Based on the latest EMA briefing information, the Opelika City Schools plan to be open for regular school hours on Friday, January 6. If conditions change, we will send out an automated message to parents and post the information on the school website, Facebook and Twitter.
Update: 1 pm-The Lee County Emergency Management Agency held a briefing with the National Weather Service today at 11 am with the latest information available. According to the NWS, the expectation for Opelika is a freezing rain and/or sleet event. Accumulations are still up in the air, but the impact will begin after midnight Friday. The concern is that ice is more hazardous to travel and power lines than snow. The forecast is changing and while predictions are for greater than 3″ of snow just north of Opelika, any movement in that forecast area could mean more winter weather for us here.
“Opelika Power Services is already preparing with crews on call in the event power outages are reported and city crews are standing by with sand for bridges and overpasses should reports of ice occur,” said Leigh Krehling, the city’s community relations specialist. Krehling said they believe the city is well prepared but encourages everyone to watch the weather and take precautions and stay off of the roads should the weather become hazardous.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Watch for parts of north central Alabama with the timing bringing wintry precipitation into the state Friday night into Saturday morning. This has the state abuzz with will it or won’t it and where discussions with no clear answers as of Thursday morning. To be on the safe side, the consensus is there will be some wintry precipitation perhaps has far south as Dothan and Mobile, but where it will be hazardous and accumulate is still up in the air.
What does that mean for us in Opelika? Well, it really means the coldest weather of the year this weekend is a definite. Overnight lows will be in the low 20s and highs will struggle to get out of the 30s for us. With or without any rain/snow/sleet/freezing rain that is not a great weekend forecast. Remember to protect your pipes and pets and to check on the elderly this weekend!
While the current watch area does not include Lee County or Opelika, the National Weather Service discussion still includes a probability of freezing rain and/or sleet accumulation in our area overnight Friday. Forecast models are in agreement that there is a high probability of this weather sinking southward across our area. So, stay tuned and pay attention in case the weather changes.
The Lee County Emergency Management Office will hold a briefing at 11 a.m. and we will stream that live on our facebook page.
Check back here for updates as the weather arrives.