** Anyone using posts from this blog to make decisions that could have life threatening consequences – shouldn’t. This is only the weather as I see it – keep updated with the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service.
A powerful storm system will pound Oklahoma between Saturday and Monday. The system will bring flooding rainfall and severe thunderstorms to the southeast third of the state – areas of freezing rain and sleet across central and western Oklahoma – and heavy snow with blizzard conditions to western Oklahoma and the Panhandle.
There are many uncertainties early this Saturday morning. A strong upper trough is digging southeastward across Arizona at this time, and the wave should close off over southwest Texas by Sunday morning. The GFS has been the most consistent model concerning the future track of the system, but solutions have wobbled north/south across a 100 mile area over the past several runs. It appears that the upper low will be somewhere near the Arkansas/Oklahoma border along I-40 at sunrise on Monday.
There are a few things that can be said with greater confidence. Showers are beginning to develop over southeast Oklahoma and a rapid increase in coverage and intensity is expected through daybreak on Saturday. Training thunderstorms are likely to generate several inches of rain over a broad area southeast of a Duncan to Jay line through Sunday afternoon. Localized rainfall may reach 5 to 8 inches, and the threat of flooding will be high. In addition to the flooding threat, the Storm Prediction Center has painted south central, southeast, and east central Oklahoma with a slight risk of severe thunderstorms. At least low chances of all facets of severe weather will be possible.
A strong cold front is pushing southward across the High Plains. This front is expected to pass through Okarche by early afternoon on Saturday. There is high uncertainty concerning the thermal profile over central Oklahoma after the frontal passage. In all likelihood, there will be warm layers / mostly missed by model guidance / that wrap around the north side of the storm system, spreading from eastern Oklahoma into central sections of the state. The profile through the early morning hours of Sunday will likely be one favorable for sleet and freezing rain. However, low level warm air advection may very well keep precipitation a cold rain through at least Midnight on Monday. At that time, freezing or frozen precipitation is likely to begin in Okarche.
A mix of freezing rain, sleet and snow is expected from Midnight on Monday to around daybreak. Near sunrise, precipitation should transition to snow and heavy snow will be possible until about Noon on Monday, tapering off as the upper system lifts away from the state. Across western Oklahoma, snowfall amounts may reach or exceed 8 inches. In Okarche, 2 to 4 inches are possible.
Another aspect of this storm that can be predicted with higher confidence is the wind. By late morning on Saturday, winds will be increasing out of the north across the Panhandle and northwest part of the state. These strong winds will spread into central Oklahoma by sunset on Saturday. From that point through Noon on Monday, winds will be sustained between 30 and 40 mph, with gusts to between 50 and 60 mph possible. This wind will lead to several issues. 1) For areas that see snow, blizzard conditions are expected. The National Weather Service defines a blizzard as having sustained winds of 35 mph, with a visibility below 1/4 of a mile for at least a three hour period. It appears these conditions will be met. 2) For any area that sees freezing rain, it will become very easy to bring down power poles/lines – or trees onto the lines. 3) Across central and western Oklahoma / in areas that saw damage from the Thanksgiving ice storm / there are likely compromised poles/lines and trees that have yet to fall. These will become susceptible in the high winds, and widespread power outages will be possible even if new ice accumulation hasn’t occurred.
Almost every part of Oklahoma will be adversely affected by some part or product of this storm. In some cases it could be life threatening. People are strongly encouraged to keep up with weather forecasts and heed warnings. Anyone planning travel on Sunday or Monday / especially across western Oklahoma and the Panhandle / should reconsider those plans.