Ala. weatherman takes heat for wrong snow call

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James Spann admits he was wrong.

When a freakish combination of weather events down South turned roads to ribbons of ice, hundreds of motorists were stranded in their cars overnight Tuesday. By Wednesday, some were still far from home.

Mr. Spann, the chief meteorologist at ABC 33/40, which covers the Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Ala., viewing area, took a lot of grief via social media. A brisk devotee of Facebook and Twitter (117,000 followers), he said the experience of the past two days should bring any forecaster "to his knees."

"It's a high-impact weather event that caused human suffering," he said. "I've been here for a long time [35 years] and [missing the forecast] was just a poor job on our part."

Posting to his blog, Mr. Spann noted: "Yep, over the last 12 hours lots of social media vitriol has been directed at me, and it is deserved."

Mr. Spann's mistake might seem minor by Pittsburgh standards: "This would be like, a joke there."

Mr. Spann called for a "dusting" of snow Tuesday but instead from .3 to 2 inches of dry powder fell. Historically in Alabama, lower temps and dry snow generally don't pose a problem.

Not this time. Thousands became stranded in schools and offices, cars slid off roads and into each other.

Mr. Spann, on his way to talk to schoolchildren that day, had to abandon his car and walk a mile to the station.

"At one point, we had 5,000 kids [stranded] at Alabama schools, and the teachers who stayed are the unsung heroes. We didn't do a good job of warning them."

Maria Sciullo: or 412-263-1478.

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