Monday, November 22, 2010

Iron Bowl Weather History

The annual "Iron Bowl" game between the University of Alabama and Auburn University football teams is widely known as one of the most intense, heated, and passionate rivalries in all of sports. The teams play again this Friday in Tuscaloosa. The forecast for game time is tricky as a cold front is expected to pass through at some time that day bringing heavy rain and then a sharp change to cold weather. This year will certainly not be the first year to feature interesting weather in the Iron Bowl. Here's a look at a few of the most interesting Iron Bowl weather events.

December 3, 1983, Legion Field, Birmingham - Auburn 23 Alabama 20

Original image posted by Dr. Tim Coleman on

The 1983 iron Bowl started under sunny skies but storms were in the forecast. With just a couple of minutes left in the third quarter, dark clouds appeared in the western sky as the wind picked up, blowing the ball off the tee as Auburn's Al Del Greco prepared to kick off after a 71 yard Bo Jackson touchdown run. About that time, the NWS Birmingham issued a tornado warning for Jefferson County and Birmingham. Pepper Simpson, the well-known Legion Field public address announcer informed the crowd that a tornado warning was in effect. No one inside Legion Field moved an inch as torrential downpours and extremely gusty winds pelted the players, coaches, and fans. Here are a few quotes from fans who attended the game as posted on

"I was in the Alabama Million Dollar Band that year. Dr. Ferguson and the Auburn band director agreed that at the start of the third quarter both bands should leave the stadium for their safety."

"I was sitting towards the top of the south end zone. I can distinctly remember the announcement coming over the public address system that a tornado warning had been issued. At that moment, the rain was coming down in buckets and the wind was blowing so hard that it ripped the umbrella out of my hand. The game never stopped and hardly anyone left the stadium looking for cover."

"My dad and I were in the north end zone where Bo Jackson scored. We stayed in our seats throughout. "

"The sky opened up and the winds gusted to 45-55 mph. As the rain picked up the umbrellas came up but the wind turned them inside out." As the tornado warning was read over the PA system nobody made a dash for safety because the score was tight and no one wanted to miss a single play."

I was at that game and it was chilling to hear the tornado warning announced. Frankly, there was nothing fans could have done in the event of an actual tornado.

Meteorologist James Spann worked for Channel 13 in Birmingham at the time. In a post on he related his memories of the game, "Severe thunderstorms formed rapidly by mid-afternoon...the WSR-57 radar showed a classic hook echo signature on a storm headed right toward Birmingham...there is no doubt this was the biggest storm to ever hit during an Iron Bowl."

No tornadoes touched down in Jefferson County but seven touched down in the state, including an F3 tornado which killed two in Oxford, Alabama. It was spawned by the same thunderstorm that earlier moved across Legion Field.

December 2, 1967, Legion Field, Birmingham - Alabama 7 Auburn 3 - "Run in the Mud"

Daniel Moore

"I think those were the worst conditions I've ever seen a football game played in," was how legendary Alabama Crimson Tide Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant described the weather in the 1967 Iron Bowl. Time out was called several times during the game because of raincoats blowing from the stands onto the field. During a thunderstorm, Alabama quarterback Kenny Stabler sloshed 47 yards in the mud to give Alabama a 7-3 lead, which is how it ended.

After the play, John Forney, Alabama's radio voice described the play, "He got on the area of the field where there was some grass, got some footing, and outraced Buddy McClinton...and you would just not expect to see a play like that on a field in the condition Legion Field is in." Sportswriter Jimmy Bryan of the Birmingham News described the Auburn players as, "muddy bloody boys-men who wept openly and unashamed." Thousands of fans remained in the stands through torrential rain, lightning, and high wind.

Other games have been noted for cold weather. According to the NWS Birmingham, the coldest iron Bowl since the series resumed in 1948 was the November 26, 1977 game in which Alabama defeated Auburn 48-21 in Birmingham's Legion Field. The high that day was 39 and the low was 26, for an average temperature that day of 32.5 degrees. This year the NWS Birmingham has posted "Iron Bowl Climate Highlights" featuring the five warmest, coolest, and wettest iron Bowls.


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