Autumn in Birmingham

The first day of fall arrived in Birmingham. It came frighteningly quick. Yesterday it was summer, hotter than the hinges of hades. This morning it was cold as gumballs.

But that’s Birmingham weather for you. At least that’s what everyone has been telling me since we moved here.

“Birmingham has all four seasons!” they all say while cheerfully bailing floodwater from their basements.

Well, it has been my experience that Birmingham undergoes more than four basic seasons. It’s more like eight or nine seasons. You probably think I’m exaggerating, but that’s only because you live somewhere else.

The first week we moved to town, Birmingham underwent every major meteorological event known to Wikipedia, with the exception of subtropical waterspouts.

That first day, it snowed and the streets were covered in rock salt and emergency crews. Then there was a hailstorm that lasted for the 24 hours. After which, Birmingham experienced “glaze frost,” wherein all vegetation was covered by a homogeneous coating of ice. And all this was just on the Fourth of July.

Then, only one day after the freak snow, came a snap of hot weather. Suddenly, people were wearing flip flops, doing yardwork. All was well. Two days later, it rained so hard it flooded downtown and a man trying to get into his car drowned on 24th Street.

The VERY next afternoon, shortly after lunchtime, ominous, black clouds gathered above the city while I was cutting the grass. Then tornado sirens started howling. People were hurrying indoors. Neighborhood kids ditched their bicycles and sprinted home. The world began to rumble.

Perky TV reporters told us to hide in the basement and wear protective articles of clothing. Within minutes, my wife and I were huddled in a closet wearing bicycle helmets and baseball catcher’s facemasks.

That was my first month in Birmingham.

And if Birmingham weather doesn’t get you, the sinkholes will. Yes, sinkholes.

They happen all the time. Just last year, a large geological hole opened up in Midfield. This occurred in the parking lot of Auto Professional Car Sales on Bessemer Superhighway.

The ground reportedly made noise, “like a belching sound,” and the earth opened. The hole swallowed two automobiles.

And yet, here’s the thing. Nobody seemed surprised by the incident. “This is Alabama,” said one local witness. “If you don’t like sinkholes, you’re in the wrong state.”

Like them? We love sinkholes in Alabama. I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s exactly what attracted me to move to the Twenty-Second State.

Alabama happens to be home to one of history’s most famous sinkholes. According to many geologists, Alabama has the largest sinkhole in the United States.

The Golly Hole, in Shelby County, Alabama, near County Road 84. The hole has a diameter of 350 to 400 feet, larger than a football field. The depression is 120 feet deep—about the height of a municipal water tower.

“It’s like staring into hell,” said a local man who remembers when this sinkhole happened in 1972. “It swallowed everything, even forest. It was like the end of the world.”

Consequently, every house in my neighborhood has sinkhole insurance. Seriously.

The salesman who sold us this insurance came knocking only two days after the tornadoes. He carried an official binder and briefcase, not unlike a dutiful representative of the Watchtower Society.

“Excuse me sir,” his speech began. “Do you know what you’d do if your house was swallowed by the earth?”

Something else nobody in Birmingham tells you about are the bears. There have been record numbers of bear sightings near Birmingham within the last few years.

Biologists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources say the uptick in sightings is due to a combination of factors. “The bears are getting annoyed with humans,” says one expert.

According to scientists, bears are irritable for many reasons, including habitat fragmentation, forced migration, delayed summer mating periods, and the recent Alabama-Texas game.

A few weeks ago, I called a zoologist shortly after my neighbor swore she saw a bear in her backyard, eating birdseed.

The zoologist said, “Well, it’s not likely, but it’s definitely possible that she saw a black bear. Someone recently videoed a black bear wandering around the Waffle House in Leeds.”

This expert stressed that bear sightings are rare occurrences. He says most spring and summer bear sightings in Alabama are just juvenile males being pushed out of their territories by mothers and adult males.

There’s nothing to worry about, the zoologist says. “Bears will not kill you unless they’re hungry.”

So as autumn approaches, and leaves begin to fall, I count myself fortunate to reside in Birmingham. A magic place where many colorful changes occur within the natural world.

As it happens, I’m okay with change. Change keeps life vibrant. Change makes life wondrous. Which is why I love the first day of fall. Because I don’t want to live in a world where there are no Octobers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the tornado sirens are going off.


  1. Penn Wells - September 24, 2022 7:33 am

    Plus, beware – because we are in the middle of a Mercury Retrograde (I kid you not). This might be particularly troublesome in Birmingham!
    Go Dawgs.

  2. Debbie - September 24, 2022 7:42 am

    Sean, you’re so funny; what an imagination you have! It’s nice to laugh.🤗

  3. Nell Thomas - September 24, 2022 9:39 am

    Sounds like there is never a dull moment in B’ham.

  4. Ed (Bear) - September 24, 2022 9:59 am

    I partially agree with the zoologist. Bears won’t kill us unless they’re hungry. They’re well fed as long as we humans don’t take over too much of their natural habitat. But bearly on the bright side, there’s plenty of us humans to go round.

  5. LarryFromKansas - September 24, 2022 10:05 am

    Your weather discussion may be why the nation’s fastest growing meteorology programs are at places like Mississippi State, LSU, and Alabama. Hurricanes in the fall, and tornados just about any other time. It’s like Mother Nature turned that Waffle House with the smaller menu into a weather buffet.

  6. Diana - September 24, 2022 11:03 am

    I hear you. We have the same issues here in Tampa minus the snow and ice plus a few more. In fact, this weekend we’re doing hurricane prep. Yeah!

  7. Sue - September 24, 2022 11:05 am

    If you want to see black bears, come to Saraland, Al. People see them in their yards all the time.

  8. Martha - September 24, 2022 11:27 am

    As a native of North Florida I understand. Our season are a bit off too. No snow this year (yet) but rain, drought , heat, cold but not all at appropriate times. And we have bears, deer, panthers, coyotes. And don’t forget hurricanes. We are watching one right now. And also sink holes. So I do understand.

  9. Cheryl Newsome - September 24, 2022 11:29 am

    As someone who has lived in Birmingham all her life, let me caution you–don’t get attached to Autumn. It’s my favorite season, but we only get about two weeks worth–scattered at odd intervals. You’ll be enjoying the crisp cool…then suddenly it’s back to the 90s–and BAM!–you wake up the next day and flip your A/C to heat because it’s icy cold. On the bright side, I guess that’s when the bears go hibernate… Keep writing about our city, Sean–I love your observations!

  10. Joy Jacobs - September 24, 2022 11:31 am

    My parents lived in Birmingham for about 5 years. Yes the weather is weird there. I remember my kids sledding using cafeteria trays (don’t ask me where my mom got cafeteria trays). My dad died there and my mom could hardly wait to move back to Texas where they only have 2 seasons… hot or cold.

  11. Peggy Berg - September 24, 2022 1:34 pm

    Hey Sean, You need to be careful. If you tell too many people about “beautiful Birmingham”, then all sorts of people want to move there and enjoy it with you. That’s what happened in Montana! Plus we have bears, garbage and grizzly. Thank you for writing your stories. I have been a 69 year old widow now for 11 long nights. Your stories are helping me get through it all. Did you know IPad screens are tear-proof? Did you know that tears are a good cleansing agent for IPad screens?

    • Debbie - September 24, 2022 1:51 pm

      God bless and comfort you, Peggy. ❤️

    • Jack - September 24, 2022 4:19 pm

      May the Good Lord bless you through these difficult days. I read the Psalms in times of trouble.

  12. Rickey - September 24, 2022 2:16 pm

    Ok, remind me, why did you move there? 🙂

  13. Sean of the South: Autumn in Birmingham | The Trussville Tribune - September 24, 2022 2:43 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  14. Julie Hall - September 24, 2022 3:06 pm

    Good grief!! This made me laugh out loud. I moved to Alabama from Indiana., where we enjoyed all 4 seasons – with winter trying to hog most of the year. I was shocked at the weather’s mood swings when I moved here!! Thanks for the laugh.

  15. sjhl7 - September 24, 2022 3:18 pm

    Welcome to Birmingham, Alabama! Lived in the suburbs of Birmingham all my life and I wouldn’t live anywhere else!

  16. Stacey Wallace - September 24, 2022 3:23 pm

    Sean, I love you. If you were an Auburn fan, you would be darn near perfect. However, only Jesus is perfect, so I’m okay with you being a Bama fan. Please give my love to Jamie and Marigold.

  17. Lyla - September 24, 2022 3:27 pm

    So, why’d you move from Florida? We have all that and more! 🤣🤣🤣

  18. Steve McCaleb - September 24, 2022 3:33 pm

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the bears….the durn coyotes will probably keep them run off. But you still have to worry about breaking your leg stepping in an armadillo hole in your back yard. And to all those forward thinking public servants who insisted on building the pedestrian walkways along beside every major river river bridge twixt here and Texas……GOSH THANKS GUYS!!! Now if we can just institute a “ADOPT A DIAMONDBACK” program here in Bama we can officially change our name to TEXAS LITE”. Thanks for nuthin’.

  19. cajebay - September 24, 2022 4:30 pm

    Great post, Sean. And sooo Alabama!

  20. Finie Higgins - September 24, 2022 5:19 pm

    Loved your wildlife & meteorological descriptions! Whew! I Moved to Birmingham, AL from New Orleans 44 years ago! Have lived also in North & South AL & back for third & final time in Birmingham. Whew! New Orleans would be thrilled with only bears & sinkholes & Bham weather patterns! Please continue to let the good times roll & write!

  21. Linda Moon - September 25, 2022 2:44 pm

    Yesterday I was too busy out in the beautiful Autumn of Birmingham to post on the post about it! October…yes.

  22. Carol J Pilmer - September 26, 2022 3:57 pm

    Wishing you lots of luck in your new home! May you never need the sinkhole insurance!

  23. Peggy G.Wright - October 14, 2022 1:38 pm

    Sean, it my makes my little heart happy that you and Your sweet wife live here in my hometown…..somehow, it makes things seem right in this crazy world.


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