2020 was the 5th wettest year in Birmingham history

Legion Field Birmingham Bowl Ark
Graphic of an Ark on the Legion Field scoreboard at the Birmingham Bowl on January 2, 2020. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

On the second day of 2020 I had a premonition.

Back on January 2, 2020, while covering the Birmingham Bowl between the Cincinnati Bearcats and Boston College Eagles at Legion Field, it rained so hard that day, when we entered the “Gray Lady” the PA announcer started playing Burt Bacharach’s infamous song  “raindrops are falling on my head.”

I even recorded it on my phone.

Then and there, I was certain 2020 was destined to be a wet one. I was right.

According to the National Weather Service Birmingham Office, 2020 was the 5th wettest year in recorded Birmingham history. By December 30th, a total of 73.05 inches fell on the Magic City. The record for annual rainfall in a single year for Birmingham happened in 1929.  In that year, which also marked the beginning of the Great Depression, 81.82″ of rain drenched Alabama’s largest city. 

Record Rainfall in January and February 2020

UAB Flooding
Flooding near the UAB campus on 8th street and 6th Avenue South on February 10,2020. Photo by Jon Eastwood for Bham Now

2020 definitely started off rainy. As reported by Bham Now, the National Weather Service Birmingham Office declared the first months (January 1, 2020 to March 3, 2020) the wettest in Birmingham since NWS started keeping rainfall records in 1895. 

How much rain did we get at the beginning of the year? 23.03 inches in January and February! The previous rainfall record in Birmingham? 19.50 inches in 1903. 

Not only did we shatter the rainfall record in the Magic City, but neighboring Tuscaloosa and Anniston set new rainfall records as well.

Two Hurricanes

NWS Birmingham
NWS Birmingham graphic from March 2020

Adding to Birmingham’s rainfall totals in 2020 were remnants of Hurricanes Sally and Zeta. The NWS also documented 35 tornadoes throughout the year in Central Alabama.

Hurricane Sally was the worst hurricane to strike Alabama since Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Enki Research, which tracks tropical storms and models the cost of their damage estimated in September $8-$10 billion in damage to coastal Alabama and Florida.

Nationally, weather-wise, 2020 will be known for having one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons in memory with 30 named storms and 12 landfalling storms in the continental U.S. 


What kind of weather should we expect in 2021? Lately, Alabama seems to go from one extreme to another

Let’s hope we have a mild weather year. Meanwhile, be prepared. This is Alabama.

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Pat Byington
Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.

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