Wednesday, January 31, 2018

North Alabama Ice Storm February 1-2, 1985

View of Huntsville from Bankhead Parkway on Monte Sano

Huntsville Times February 2, 1985

The worst ice storm in decades in North Alabama, if not the worst in recorded history, began in Northwest Alabama during the early morning hours Friday February 1, 1985.  It began as a mix of freezing rain and sleet in Lauderdale County. By the time it finally ended early Saturday February 2, 11 inches of sleet had accumulated in Florence and the entire North Alabama region was covered in heavy ice.

Maysville Road in Northeast Huntsville
On February 1, 1985 the NWS Huntsville issued a Special Weather Statement saying, “A damaging ice storm is ahead for NW Alabama. The National Weather Service emphasizes that this will be an ice storm of damaging proportions. There will be potential major damage to trees and utility lines and numerous highways will become impassable. There will likely be numerous and extended power outages. Early this morning, power lines were already falling in Southern Lawrence County and on Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville.” This prediction was spot on. The video below is an actual recording from the Huntsville NOAA Weather Radio From the NWS Huntsville.

Sleet and snow fell in northwestern parts of the state, accumulating to 11 inches. All roads were closed in Florence. In Huntsville, the precipitation was mostly freezing rain. It was by far the worst ice storm I’ve ever seen. In Northeast Huntsville, power was out for five days due to the heavy freezing rain and resulting damage to power lines.

Near East Huntsville Baptist Church on Maysville Road.
West and southwest of Huntsville, sleet piled up in amazing amounts. This ice storm came after one of the biggest cold snaps of all time when the temperature dropped to -11F in Huntsville on January 21, 1985. The streets were like ice skating rinks. When the sun came out, it melted the very top layer, making it impossible to even walk. I literally had to crawl part of the way to our neighbor’s house it was so slick. We were very fortunate to have a wood burning stove. The video below is my description of what I witnessed during the storm.

Cullman roads iced over by noon Friday and that evening, 600 motorists were stranded between Birmingham and Cullman on I-65, forcing travellers to spend the night in shelters.. Hundreds of traffic accidents were reported across North Alabama.Roofs collapsed on three businesses in the Florence area and numerous carports and awnings fell victim to the weight of the sleet and snow. For the first time in recorded history, roads were closed in the Florence area. Most Huntsville television stations were off the air. The video below contains local radio coverage of the historic ice storm. Stations include: WBHP 1230 AM, WAAY 1550 AM, WZYP 104.3 FM, and Q104 FM.

Additional photos I took during the ice storm in Huntsville, Alabama:

Bankhead Parkway, Monte Sano

Wooddale Drive, NE Huntsville

Near Chapman School, NE Huntsville

Oak Park, NE Huntsville

Oakwood Avenue, NE Huntsville
Here is the NOAA Storm Data publication write-up about the event from February 1985:


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