By now, you might have heard about a winter storm headed our direction. It still indeed is. The National Weather Service (NWS) in Memphis, St. Louis, and Paducah has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the entire Heartland (Southeast Missouri, Southern Illinois, Western Kentucky, Northwest Tennessee). The watch is in effect Monday evening through Tuesday evening.
There are still a lot of uncertainties with the storm.
- What will temperatures be at different heights of the atmosphere?
- How much moisture is there to work with?
- What type of precipitation will we have?
Here is an example of what one of the computer models is suggesting for Monday/Tuesday. It allows us to see the cross section over Cape Girardeau.
If you click on the graphic you can see a larger version. I want you to notice the yellow lines on the screen. At around 5k to 10k (5,000 feet to 10,000 feet) see the 0 line? That is the freezing line at different heights above the ground. Notice all around the outside of the 0° line there is colder air. Inside there is warmer air. That means that anything falling through that area of the atmosphere will warm up and probably melt to liquid.
Also notice how it then gets below 0° near the surface. That is when the moisture would refreeze. In that situation we would probably be talking about freezing rain. Freezing rain = ice = yuck!
When you look at the graphic, you see different colored vertical bars. That is how much precipitation and the precipitation type. Green=rain Red=freezing rain Orange=sleet Blue=snow. (Also, when looking at the graphic, the time runs from right to left. I know it is backwards, but I didn't write the program. haha)
This particular model is indicating mainly freezing rain. Not just a little freezing rain, but a lot! On the order of over an inch. That would definitely not be good!
When I look at one of the cross sections from this model for Farmington, Missouri it indicates mainly snow. And a lot of it! This specific model is trying to suggest 8.1" of snow.
Again, this is just a model. A suggestion. When I forecast I look at a minimum 5 computer models. For major snow storms, I might take a look at 8 models.
If you were watching Heartland News at 10pm Saturday night you might have heard me say that I had a gut feeling this could be a bigger ice storm than snow storm. My gut still feels that way. (Although, I am also hungry, so it could be telling me to eat something.) As is usually the case, we are going to see the dividing line between freezing rain, sleet, and snow over the top of us. I think some people could get some heavy snowfall out of this. I think some could get a decent amount of freezing rain.
Here is a map showing what one of the computer models is calling for with regards to freezing rain.
Here is what the forecasters at the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (or HPC) are forecasting. (This forecast was updated Sunday morning.)
Like I mentioned before, there are still a lot of uncertainties with the storm. Some of the models are trying to bring only a tiny bit of moisture through the area. If that were to be the case, then the numbers would be held down drastically.
I'll be looking over the models this afternoon while I try to put together my forecast. Hopefully, I'll feel strongly enough about a snow/sleet/freezing rain amount forecast to have it on TV tonight at 10pm.
I now need to go find my colored markers. Even though we have all kinds of computer technology to do things, I still like to take out a map (on paper) and mark it up with the colored markers while putting together the forecast.
So all of that said, what are you hoping for out of the storm?