Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A couple "plowable" events

Washington D.C. has already seen nearly 30" of snow, 18" above average to-date, and another 10" is on the way by Saturday. Keep in mind that an INCH is a big deal in our nation's capital, capable of instilling dread, closing schools - inciting a run on area grocery stores in a mad-mass panic. I'm really not exaggerating. There is nothing more baffling (and on some level, humorous) than being in D.C. before a snow "event". The locals just go nuts. Imagine how they're feeling tonight, doing everything but barricading the doors and retreating to their basements. Imagine how safe they'd feel up here on the tundra, where the snow will fall lightly, in reasonable dribs and drabs. No mega-storms in sight, but a couple of minor "plowable" events are shaping up: Friday, again on Sunday. No headline-generating storms, but the local newscasts will still have a reporter stationed outdoors in the first 5 minutes of the newscast, reporting on icy conditions, assorted fender-benders, turning a minor snowfall into "breaking news". I know of what I speak. Been there. Done that. I'll be the first to admit that a lousy inch of slush, falling at the wrong time and the right place can cause a world of hurt. An inch! That's why NOAA has started to rate snowstorms, just like tornadoes and hurricanes, on a similar scale, from 1 to 5. The ratings are based not only on the AMOUNT of expected snow, but the presence of ice, high winds, low visibility, cold temperatures (which make it tougher for road crews to melt snow on major highways with salt & sand) and the time of day the storm actually hits. It's not a bad idea, and it may even catch on over time, something we've been considering adding to our daily forecasts.


Clipped again. Here is the latest (NAM) model prediction for snowfall through Friday night. Much of the area is forecast to pick up at least 2" of wet, slushy snow, with a few 3"+ amounts south/west of I-94. Extreme southwestern MN may see as much as 3-6" of wet snow from Friday's fast-moving clipper.

Advisories and watches. The latest from NOAA, showing a winter weather advisory extending into southwestern MN, where some 3-6" snowfall amounts are possible by Friday night. The farther north/east you travel across Minnesota the lesser the snowfall amounts. Check out the winter storm watch posted from Indianapolis to Columbus and Washington D.C., where some 6-12" amounts are possible by Saturday. Want to see a (big) pile of snow? Drive southeast - quickly. To check out an interactive map with the latest watches/warnings and radar check out this (very cool) URL from Ham Weather (a division of WeatherNation). Yep, I'm a little biased.

It's probably a better idea, a bit more practical than NAMING winter storms. The newspaper up in Grand Forks did that back in the 70s and 80s, naming winter storms after famous hockey players and local politicians. The thought behind this gimmick: make the storms more "memorable", easier to track - avoid confusion when there are multiple storms in the forecast. Not sure if people would respond to "Winter Storm Bubba" but it sure is a fascinating idea. For now we'll that one pass...

America the snow-covered. Check out all the snow on the ground, as far south as northern Texas, Arkansas and the hills of northern Georgia. We feel their cold, crystalline pain, don't we?

The rumors are true: a little freezing drizzle may fall later today as temperatures climb through the 20s to near 30. A period of steadier snow is likely Thursday night and Friday, with a potential for 2-3" of wet, slushy snow from St. Cloud to the Twin Cities by the dinner hour Friday, enough to gum up traffic and complicate your Friday commute. But with temperatures approaching 30 most freeways and major roads will probably be wet/slushy, while side streets could be snow-covered and very slippery. The mercury drops steadily through the teens over the weekend; a reinforcing clipper, marking the leading edge of subzero air, whipping up light, powdery snow - similar to what fell on Monday. Another inch or two of fluff may accumulate Monday, but cold sun returns for much of Monday-Tuesday of next week, with at least 3-4 subzero nights and daytime highs 10-15 degrees below average. Terrific. The good news: the next outbreak of Canadian air won't stick around for long. A Pacific breeze kicks in the latter half of next week, meaning a quick rebound into the 20s by Wednesday or Thursday.

An icy scenario? A think layer of warm air aloft may turn light snow over to a period of freezing drizzle for a time today, drizzle freezing on-contact with cold surfaces. Any treated roads/freeways will probably be mostly-wet, but watch the secondary roads - they may be quite icy by afternoon/evening, followed by a changeover to mostly snow by tonight.
An end to the temperature honeymoon. Two more days of highs in the upper 20s to near 30, and then a temperature-tumble kicks in this weekend, stabilizing by early next week with some single digit highs and at least 3-4 subzero nights from Sunday through Wednesday. One step forward, two steps back...
A couple of "snow events." Disclaimer/caveat: clippers are notoriously fickle, but the models are in fairly good agreement that we'll see at least a couple inches of slush by Friday, another inch or two of powdery snow on Sunday as much colder air arrives.

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Overcast, a little freezing drizzle may ice up some roads. Winds: SE 5-10. High: near 30

Tonight: A period of wet snow likely, 1-2" by morning. Low: 25

Friday: Light snow, totals of 2-3" slush possible by Friday afternoon. High: 29

Saturday: Better travel, mostly cloudy and colder with flurries. High: 18

Sunday: Steadier snow (light/powdery). Potential for 1-2" of additional snow. High: 15

Monday: Cold sun returns. High: 7

Tuesday: Numbing start, blue sky - dry sky. Low: -7. High: 8

Wednesday: Mostly cloudy, "milder" again. High: 25

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