Santa brings in freezing temperatures for the holidays

A man walks on an icy street.

Snow isn't in the forecast, but there is a risk of icy streets and roads.

Florian Steinbock, EyeEm

The winter solstice starts Wednesday and soon after the shortest day of the year, on Thursday night, we’ll feel a cold blast of air and temperatures will plummet to the teens. 

Birmingham National Weather Service meteorologist John De Block says it’s been a while since it’s been this cold. 

“The coldest air we’ve seen since, I believe, was 2018. And certainly, for December it’s going to be the coldest December that many places in Alabama have seen since 1989,” said De Block.

WBHM’s Cody Short talked to De Block for tips on how to stay safe during the cold weather. But first, she asked a more pressing question. 

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Is there any chance of it snowing this weekend? 

Depending on which side of the fence you’re on, that’s either fortunately or unfortunately, no. You might see some flurries in some locations, but at this point in time, we do not expect any accumulations.

Do you have any tips on how people should dress for this kind of weather? 

Got to be layered up. Cover your hands. Make sure your feet are well covered. If you’ve got those boots sitting in the back of the closet for that once-every-so-many-years cold weather that hits Alabama, pull out those boots. Your heaviest coat that you have in the closet. Your best mittens or gloves that you have. If you’re like me in that you’re follicularly challenged on the top of your head, you want to cover that up because you don’t want to lose the heat through the top of your head. 

A sign in the early morning winter sunshine reads, "caution freezing conditions."
If you’re traveling north for the holidays, De Block recommends bringing extra blankets and emergency supplies.

Any tips for driving conditions? Is there anything that people should look for as they are traveling? 

Any water that is on the roadways could freeze. And while we’re not expecting anything to fall from the sky, there could be some drainage, or perhaps pipes leaking and bursting is a possibility. So there could be a source of water that we don’t anticipate and that water gets on the road and it could freeze over. So pay a little bit extra attention and make sure if you see something that looks wet, chances are it’s going to be frozen. 

The health of your vehicle as well. Antifreeze, most winter wiper fluid is not good for below 32 degrees. So you might have to get some of that other windshield wiper fluid into your vehicle so that it doesn’t freeze. 

And then in the coming days, if you’re traveling north, certainly you need to be more prepared for traveling into the cold weather and bringing extra blankets, extra clothing available in your vehicle, some emergency supplies, and perhaps a shovel to dig out some snow, maybe a bag of kitty litter to get some grit if you’re on ice. It could be sand, whichever your choice is. 

It looks like the weather is going to affect the entire southeast region, specifically Mississippi and Louisiana. What does this mean for them as well? 

The conditions will be very similar in Alabama. For folks that might have housing that’s not well insulated — and [it’ll be] particularly dangerous for folks that are homeless, or shelterless — some people will try to get creative and put fires in their fireplaces that don’t usually have them there. If the heater says do not use it in enclosed spaces, don’t use it in enclosed spaces.

You need to think of this as a severe weather event. You need to protect yourselves and be prepared ahead of time. Know what you’re going to do. What happens if the power goes out? My goodness, we’re going to have some pretty strong winds when that cold front comes through. There’s a possibility there could be some power outages. If you should lose power, make sure you close those doors to any of your rooms, maybe get into a small room in the center of the home and huddle up and do the best you can to stay warm. I’m afraid that when this weekend is all over we may see some injuries or fatalities related to the cold weather. 

The City of Birmingham is working with Jimmie Hale Mission and the BJCC to provide a 24-hour warming station at the BJCC South Exhibition Hall. The shelter will open on Thursday, December 22 from 7 p.m. through Sunday, December 25.


An inside look at an AP African American Studies class

As Southern political leaders continue to take aim at critical race theory in education, students at Baton Rouge Magnet High call the AP pilot class empowering.

Volunteers are driving in to offer hot meals, necessities to Mississippi tornado survivors

The gym of a Rolling Fork school has become a makeshift hub to get much-needed emergency aid, meals and hope for thousands affected by the tornadoes.

UAB tops Utah Valley, sets up Conference USA showdown in NIT

UAB beat Utah Valley 88-86 in overtime to set up an all-Conference USA final in the NIT. UAB will face North Texas for the fourth time this season on Thursday for the NIT championship.

As midwifery evolves, this Mississippi museum is preserving the history of granny midwives

Granny midwives were some of the first to universalize the practice of midwifery in the South. A permanent installation hopes to share their history.

In Rolling Fork, a congregation comes together to save a century-old church

After a deadly EF-4 tornado, a Mississippi town finds hope in the hands of volunteers.

‘We’re going to help them’: How Mississippians are banding together after a devastating tornado

Officials, aid organizations and volunteers sprung into action on Saturday to help Mississippi begin rebuilding in the aftermath of a powerful tornado.

More Environment Coverage