Touch-and-go weather conditions are expected to continue this morning, meaning residents could awaken to anything from ice to flooding or simply a cold, rainy January morning.
Officials said Monday evening roads mainly remained free from ice but they are worried that could change depending on how far temperatures dip and how long the dips remain below freezing. The National Weather Service office in Huntsville cautioned there could be a period this morning when rainfall gives way to frozen precipitation.
In addition, there is concern surrounding ice that started forming Monday afternoon on trees and power lines in some areas.
"It's typical winter weather in the South," said George Grabryan, director of the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency. "It's tough to forecast in this part of the country."
Temperatures are expected to warm enough by mid- to late morning that any precipitation will come only in the form of rain, officials said. Local school superintendents plan to determine by early morning whether to further delay opening schools.
Even after this system comes through, trouble is on the horizon in the form of flooding. An already saturated Shoals continues to receive rainfall, and a flood warning was issued Monday afternoon for the Tennessee River at Florence.
Weather service meteorologist Brian Carcione said locations like McFarland Park could flood because the river is expected to exceed flood stage. Regions upstream of the Shoals also are experiencing flooding and those waters will flow this way.
"Right now we're looking for a crest right at flood stage Wednesday around midday," Carcione said.
The river's flood stage at Florence is 18.3 feet, according to the weather service. It reached 14.43 feet and was rising by 3 p.m. Monday, when the flood warning was issued.
Carcione said the Shoals had received more than 5 inches of rain in January, not counting Monday's totals, which had exceeded .41 of an inch by mid-afternoon.
"On top of that, we're so saturated by rainfall the past month," he said.
The area had received 10.59 since Dec. 1, heading into Monday, Carcione said. "Both of those values are around 3 inches above normal," he said.
Carcione said wintry precipitation was hitting the Shoals harder than other areas because the cold front that came through Sunday arrived at the Shoals first. Still, the area could avoid accumulations, especially if roads and bridges maintain some of the warmth the area experienced before the front passed. Temperatures were in the 70s early Sunday afternoon ahead of the cold front.
In addition, temperatures Monday evening were in the 40s at about 2,000-feet elevation and Carcione and that could have kept temperatures above freezing overnight.
Colbert EMA Director Mike Melton said trees and power lines were glazing with ice in various regions of the county Monday afternoon.
"Colbert Heights, about three-fourths of the way up the hill, looks like you're going into a winter wonderland," Melton said. "But there's nothing accumulating on the ground yet."
Melton said weather service officials forecast it could warm up overnight before dropping by morning.
"As warm as it got (Sunday) on the pavement, we're hoping roads will not glaze over, but that will be a wait-and-see," he said.
Franklin EMA Director Roy Gober said he had not received reports of icing on roads by early Monday evening. "We've got some icing on trees and we're keeping an eye on it," he said.
Grabryan said about one-fourth of an inch of ice was reported on trees in Rogersville, and about one-eighth of an inch on trees in Elgin early Monday evening.
"We're worried we'll get some of this weight up in the trees and the wind will keep up, and that's not a good recipe," he said.
In the event of power outages, Grabryan recommends having food at home that doesn't need to be cooked, and having a manually operated can opener.
He recommends having sand in vehicles to add traction if needed and having clothes and a blanket in the event you are stranded.
"Also, let someone know where you're going if you're traveling."
Roger Peck, of Peck Ace Hardware in Florence, recommends placing weather stripping around windows and doors.
"If there's an opening, you can really feel it in this kind of weather," he said.
Peck also advises having caps that fit over outdoor faucets.
"That's $2 to $3 that can save you a lot of money," he said. "That has been one of the hottest things we carry."
Small electric heaters also have been popular, Peck said. "We also still sell some kerosene heaters. That turns out quite a bit of heat, rather inexpensively. One gallon of kerosene carries heat for 12 to 14 hours."
Peck also recommends having emergency supplies of items such as flashlights and batteries, as well as ice-melting products.
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.
All public schools in Colbert, Lauderdale, and Franklin counties will open at 10 a.m. Colbert County schools will open at 10:30 a.m.