Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Snowpocalypse?

* Alberta clipper drops 1-2" snow south/west of I-94, under 1" north/east of I-94
* East coast digs out from the biggest snowstorm in decades, 1-2 FOOT amounts common from Washington D.C. and Philadelphia to Cape Cod with near-blizzard conditions.
* Travel conditions slowly improve out east later today, from south to north, as nor'easter pushes out to sea.
* Potential for a major Christmas snowstorm here in Minnesota/Wisconsin by Christmas Eve, models hinting at some 10-20" amounts close to home.

Snow Totals from East Coast Blizzard

Washington D.C. Mall.......16"
Great Falls..........................21"
Old Lyme, CT.....................20"
Holtsville (Long Island).....25"
Central Park, NY...............10.9"
JFK Airport........................14.2"
Providence, RI...................7"
Mansfield, MA....................19"

Snowy Hurricane! From space the east coast blizzard has an uncanny resemblance to a hurricane, with what appears to be an "eye" in the center of the storm. It's not a hurricane, but I've observed that especially intense/severe low pressure systems have a region of clearing near the center of the storm. I'm sure there's a research paper here for some aspiring meteorologist - there has to be a good explanation, right?

Annapolis, 10" into the storm. My son, Brett, a sophomore ("youngster") at the U.S. Naval Academy snapped this pic yesterday, halfway into the storm. He told me the city was shut down, paralyzed, NOTHING moving on the highways.

The "Big Dump" is winding down out east, where shell-shocked, stranded residents are counting snow not by inch, but by the foot. Forget the ruler, drag out the yardstick to measure some of these extreme amounts! In the D.C. area some people are comparing yesterday's snow-blitz to the infamous Knickerbocker Snowstorm of Jan. 27-28, 1922, which buried the nation's capital under 2 feet of snow, causing the collapse of the Knickerbocker Theater, killing 98, injuring 133 in D.C.'s greatest tragedy. The storm was well-predicted days in advance - people had time to prepare, stock up, and then ride out the storm yesterday, barricaded in their homes and apartments. Only the brave and foolish actually attempted to hit the roads. Let's just say that snow removal is not the "artform" it is here in Minnesota. If you've ever been out east you know I'm not making this up: people really, truly PANIC when a major snowstorm is brewing, with a run on grocery stores and hardware stores. A mere inch can paralyze the DC area. One can only imagine what 1-2 FEET of snow are doing: 3-6 foot drifts, stranded motorists, canceling thousands of flights, power knocked out to entire counties, and a dearth of customers on what his (historically) the busiest retail weekend of the year. A boom for on-line, I'm told. We'll see. The ultimate indignity of it all: Washington D.C. has officially picked up TWICE as much snow as we have (officially the Twin Cities area has seen 12.4" of snow so far this winter season). Good grief, that's almost embarrassing.

Saturday night's clipper dumped an astounding, earth-shattering 1-2" of snow, generally south/west of I-94, with lesser amounts north/east of the interstate, generally under 1". Just enough to freshen up the snow in your yard, not enough to complicate travel plans much today.
A few flurries are possible Monday as a frontal boundary sags southward across the state, a dusting/coating of snow over far southern Minnesota late Monday into Tuesday morning. Any snowfall should be in the nuisance range through midweek. No nagging travel headaches through Wednesday. If you have an option I'd get my travel out of the way by Wednesday, if possible, because conditions may deteriorate rapidly on Christmas Eve. The timing, the amounts, still very much up in the air. The storm is still out in the Pacific - it will weaken a bit as it crosses the Rockies, then redevelop over the southern Plains before churning north toward the Great Lakes, throwing a shield of potentially heavy snow and ice into the Upper Midwest.

Hints of a major snow event? The last 2 GFS model runs, 06z and 12z (midnight and 6 am) show remarkable consistency, continuity from run to run, hinting at a long-lasting snowstorm, starting Christmas Eve and lingering nearly 2 days, into Saturday morning, suggesting the storm may (temporarily) stall. Will we really wind up with 16-20" of snow? Don't rule it out. Yesterday's blizzard on the east coast is proof positive that the atmosphere over North America is primed for major action, with enough pent up energy and moisture to count snow by the FOOT. A similar scenario may play out for the Upper Midwest by Christmas Eve. Stay tuned!

We were brushed by a blizzard December 8-9, the brunt of the snow, wind (and chaos!) was just to our east, across far southeastern MN and Wisconsin. Every storm is different, with its own unique characteristics and challenges - I have a hunch we'll all be doing some heavy-duty shoveling within about 4-5 days. All I want for Christmas is a 10"+ pile of flakes!

A very, bright white Christmas for Minnesota? Here's the latest GFS model output, showing a big, snowy bulls-eye over northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. It's too early to panic (or get excited for that matter) but a southern storm may push heavy snow into the area Christmas Eve, with a potential for some "plowable", 8-12"+ amounts close to home in time for Santa's triumphant arrival Friday morning.

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Intervals of sun, improving travel conditions. Winds: W 5-15. High: 24

Tonight: Patchy clouds - quiet. Low: 12

Monday: Mostly cloudy, a bit colder with very light snow/flurries, a dusting or coating possible. High: 20

Tuesday: Lingering clouds, flurries possible (especially south/west of St. Cloud). High: 21

Wednesday: Calm before the storm? Periods of sun, good travel weather. High: 24

Christmas Eve: Cloudy with snow developing. High: 26

Christmas Day: Snow, potentially heavy, enough to shovel/plow? High: 22

Saturday: Snow tapers to flurries. A very substantial snowfall is possible by Saturday, the heaviest amounts over the southern half of Minnesota. High: 19

Sunday: Some sun, better travel day as we dig out statewide. High: 25

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