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Elevations rise to 1,800 feet (550 metres) in the more rugged eastern portions.The Great Appalachian Valley forms another marked division to the east.Most of the thick forests are in the north and northeast.
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.
The plain has a number of subdivisions: in the north lie the rolling Fall Line Hills, while farther south the pine and hardwood belts add irregularity to the flat landscapes.
Arcing into the heart of the lowlands of Alabama, the Black Belt has been distinctive because of its association with the cotton production that long dominated its rich soils—though little cotton is grown there now.
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.
The soils along the coast of Alabama consist of sandy loams and deep porous sands.
The Alabama climate is temperate, with an average annual temperature of about 64 °F (18 °C), mellowed by altitude to some 60 °F (16 °C) in the northern counties and reaching 67 °F (19 °C) in the southern counties, although summer heat is often alleviated somewhat by the winds blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico.
Precipitation is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year, with an annual average of 56 inches (1,420 mm) and a concentration on the coast. These favourable conditions have given the state a long growing season, ranging from about 200 days in the north to some 300 days in the south.
Alabama is subject to severe weather, especially during the warmer months.
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.