In late summer and early fall, southern areas can be hit by strong tropical storms, including hurricanes as they sweep northward from the Gulf; Hurricanes Camille (1969) and Katrina (2005) were especially devastating to coastal areas.The northern half of the state lies in the southern range of the country that is most affected by tornadoes.Occasionally, large-scale outbreaks of multiple tornadoes have turned particularly deadly and destructive in the region, as they did in April 1974 and in April 2011.
The rest of the state is drained southward through broad valleys.
The Coosa and the Tallapoosa rivers join north of Montgomery to form the Alabama River, which meanders southwestward until it connects with the Tombigbee River, which drains the state’s western portion.
Their waters are discharged into Mobile Bay through the Mobile and Tensaw rivers. In the far north the Tennessee valley contains dark loams and red clays that add vivid dashes of colour to the landscape when exposed.
Farther south lie the varied soils of a mineral belt, and these are succeeded by the rich limestone and marl soils of the Black Belt.
Although Alabama continues to reside in the lower segment nationally in many significant social and economic rankings, there has been improvement in some areas, particularly in ethnic relations, including the integration of schools and the election of African Americans to political offices.
Nevertheless, Alabamians and outsiders alike tend to agree that the state retains a distinctive way of life, rooted in the traditions of the Old South. Population (2010) 4,779,736; (2017 est.) 4,874,747. Although the average elevation of Alabama is about 500 feet (150 metres) above sea level, this represents a gradation from the high point of 2,407 feet (734 metres), atop Cheaha Mountain in the northeast, down across the Black Belt to the flat, low southern Gulf Coast counties.
It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, and Mississippi to the west. The rich agricultural valley of the Tennessee River occupies the extreme northern part of the state.
The Florida panhandle blocks Alabama’s access to the Gulf of Mexico except in Alabama’s southwestern corner, where Mobile Bay is located. In northeastern Alabama the broken terrain of the southwestern fringe of the Appalachian Mountains begins and continues in a southwesterly progression across the northern half of the state.
The landscape of Alabama has been the scene of many of the major crises in the settlement of the continent and in the development of the country.
It was a battleground for European powers vying for the lands of the New World, for the fights between the European settlers and the indigenous communities, for the struggles between North and South during the American Civil War, for the civil rights movement, and for other forces of economic and social change that have extensively altered many aspects of the Deep South in the years since the mid-20th century.
Sweet gum and black walnut are also common, while the colourful red cedar is most abundant in the Tennessee valley and the Black Belt, with stately black cypress clustering around rivers and ponds.