The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Tornado Outbreak 2011

December 28, 2011

Top Local News Stories of 2011: Tornadoes, immigration, snow

(Continued)

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2. Impact of Alabama’s immigration law

The Alabama Legislature passed a sweeping illegal immigration reform bill in June, and the measure was immediately met with a mix of praise and derision.

Legal challenges from civil-rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice kept a majority of the law from being implemented until Sept. 28. Though Athens and Limestone County does not have the Hispanic population of other cities in the state, including Albertville and Hoover, the effects of the law were felt here, too.

At least two protests were staged in Athens, including one on Oct. 8 and Oct. 18. The latter protest featured at least 300 people walking through downtown Athens carrying signs and voicing opposition to HB 56.

In November, a Pelham-based radio station launched a walking tour from Athens in which radio personalities visited 14 cities in 14 days to talk to those affected by the law and document their stories.

Earlier this month, a political forum at Athens State University turned tense as those who oppose the law asked Republican lawmakers to repeal it. Lawmakers said the law was passed because the federal government refuses to enforce its own immigration law.

For  a more in-depth look at the state’s immigration law, see story under Local News.

3. January brings rare snow storm

Every few years, North Alabama experiences a rare snowfall. While flakes may fall from time to time, accumulations are unusual. Accumulations of as much as 9 inches of snow are freak occurrences. When that type of snow fell on Jan. 9, 2011, Limestone County was brought to a standstill.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Huntsville said it was the third-largest snowfall on record for North Alabama: first was New Year’s, 1963 and 1964 with 17.1 inches; second was Jan. 7 and 8, 1988, when 9.6 inches accumulated.

On Jan. 10, a state trooper said all roads in Limestone County were considered impassable. Schools were closed and residents were encouraged to remain home.

The snow had other fallout: Many events scheduled across the state for watching Auburn play in the national championship game were cancelled. Auburn played in Arizona and won the title.

Limestone Countians who were still awake watching the snow at 11 p.m. Sunday witnessed a rare phenomenon called “thundersnow,” in which a thunderstorm produces snow. Thunder and lightning were seen and heard in Limestone and Madison counties. This caused snow to accumulate more rapidly, a forecaster said.

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