Major winter storm evolving…

What do Lordsburg, New Mexico and Rockport, Massachusetts have in common?  Probably not much.  But according to Google Maps – it would take one day and 18 hours to drive between them.  That would cover the 2,593 miles.

Today’s example however, would have you driving through a Winter Storm Warning or Blizzard Warning for the entire stretch of the way.  Something this Okarche boy hasn’t seen before.

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Major winter storm to soon affect the state…

Final update before onset of winter storm includes increase in snowfall totals.  Other change is to include south central Oklahoma in area of significant weather events.

Most model data is in agreement that a strong upper system will produce widespread precipitation across the state while temperatures are low enough to support snow.  There may be some freezing rain and sleet in portions of south central and east central Oklahoma, but most of the state will experience snow.

The heaviest snowfall will begin in south central Oklahoma between Midnight and 3 A.M.  From there… it will expand northeastward across the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas before ending during the late afternoon on Tuesday.

Very heavy amounts of snowfall are possible.  Winds will also be quite strong producing blowing and drifting snow which is likely to produce near blizzard conditions during the height of the storm.

Temperatures and winds will cause wind chill readings to drop to dangerous levels.

Hang on!  This should be a good one….

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Almost showtime… blizzard conditions possible…

Forecast 24 hours before the onset of this event remains generally on track.  With this update, have twisted the heavy bands of snow a little more north/south and also increased amounts slightly.  It still appears that there will be a period where freezing rain could be an issue – mainly in southeast Oklahoma.

The increase in snow amounts was based largely on the 00z operational GFS/NAM solutions and the 06Z NAM which do not want to come off extremely high totals.  However, bottom line is that 20 inch snow events just don’t happen in Oklahoma very often and it is hard to forecast one.  Still, it would not be surprising to see a band or two exceed a foot of snow – mainly in northeast Oklahoma.  The latest run of the SREF has pockets of eight inch snow in three hours of time.  Needless to say, if this were to verify, some places would be seeing some incredible amounts of snow.

My forecast is still somewhat aggressive – near or slightly higher than official NWS forecasts – and I expect that the major metro areas will stand a good chance of six to eight inch snowfalls.  Strong winds and bitter cold air will cause near blizzard conditions at times and it would not surprise me to see Blizzard Warnings issued if it is recognized that the worst case scenario is starting to play out.

Travel and power grids may take a serious hit with this system and non-essential activities on Tuesday should be postponed.  Even after the storm, bitter cold air may cause the cancellations of activities on Wednesday.  The coldest air of the season – and possibly some time – is poised to move into the state on the heals of the winter weather.

The best advice is to use Monday to prepare.  Make sure that back-up heating systems are in working order.  Make sure points of freezing water pipes are addressed.  Make sure that animals and people that can’t take care of themselves are being checked on.  Areas that see large amounts of snow and high drifting will be hard to shovel.  Use common sense and don’t overwork yourself clearing snow.  Many people die each year from heart related issues which develop during the clearing of snow.

I just got back here at 2 A.M. from WalMart where I find middle of the night shopping to be nice and quiet.  We have food to last days, ice melt, water, and plenty to keep us occupied.  A couple of quick trips to the package store and gas station and we will be ready.  If this is one for the books, we will be watching it unfold from the comforts of home.

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Concern for very cold air increasing…

Please continue to read below for the latest thoughts on the upcoming winter weather event.  This small post will deal with temperature during and after the event.

A few model runs are starting to suggest that we may be soon seeing some of the coldest weather we have seen in these parts in many, many years.

There are several things which require temperatures to get that cold.  First, you have to have a strong arctic airmass that moves straight down the Rockies.  Not just a glancing blow which ends up in the Ohio Valley.  You have to have light winds and clear skies… and you have to have snow cover to start talking about record temperatures and possibly all time record temperatures.

We may have a chance to make a run at that during the middle of the upcoming week.  Most important – which relies on the upcoming winter storm – we need to lay down some type of snow/ice pack.  This part – as referenced in the previous post – is looking more and more likely.

The bottom line is that temperatures this week may very well drop below zero across a large part of the state.  In fact, minus 10+ seems to now be a possibility in local areas. This too is still several days out and subject to changes, but as it appears now, people should be taking as many precautions as possible to prevent damage caused by prolonged, extreme cold.  The all time record low in Okarche is minus 2 degrees set in 1996.  This looks in jeopardy.

We look at outdoor faucets, pipes, hoses.  Consider periods of running the vehicles which are parked outside…. animals, plants which can’t handle record breaking extremes.  Check on others to make sure things are working for them.  The potential cold wave looks serious…. Drip faucets, open doors to faucets.

If we do see temperatures fall to as low as 5 degrees below zero…. It would be some of the coldest temperatures we have ever seen in our lifetime.

Roller coaster ride on temperatures – Major storm still on the way…

The high temperature in Okarche reached 76 degrees on both the 28th and 29th.  These temperatures set a record high on both days.  One extreme deserves another… and our change back to winter is just around the corner.

With regard to the approaching winter storm, we are still two to three days away, but the model data has been coming in with rather tightly arranged solutions.  Confidence has increased further that at least part of the state will see extreme winter weather conditions on Tuesday.

Some of the solution changes include shifting the track of the main system further to the southeast.  This places more of the central part of the state in position to receive heavy snow.  A much colder system is now forecast with a rapid influx of deeper cold air as it arrives late Monday evening and early Tuesday.  This may result in a quicker transition to snow with a lesser chance of significant freezing rain.  In addition, model solutions now support rapid and deep cyclogenesis in a position southeast of Oklahoma that is a more typical heavy snow producer for our state.

Cold air will begin rapidly moving southeast into and through Oklahoma on Monday.  The freezing line will make it into southeast Oklahoma by late afternoon.  During the overnight Monday into Tuesday, temperatures will steadily fall as the cold air deepens.

Widespread precipitation will begin to break out just before Midnight, Tuesday in response to an approaching strong mid level storm system.  This system will also be responsible for rapidly deepening surface low pressure near the Texas gulf coast.  This surface low will move rapidly northeastward reaching western Tennessee by late Tuesday.  This track is one which has produced heavy Oklahoma snowfalls in the past.  Snowfall rates are expected to increase dramatically as the system further organizes and moves away from the state.  Therefore, the heaviest snowfall totals are likely to occur in eastern Oklahoma.

Freezing rain may still be a problem along and behind the freezing line where the depth of the cold air is not sufficient to allow the precipitation to be in the form of snow.  This zone is likely to be quite narrow and as with the overall forecast… it has shifted southeastward a bit over the past 48 hours.  Areas that do see freezing rain will also see a change-over to snow before the precipitation quickly ends during the late afternoon on Tuesday.

Besides the travel issues associated with freezing rain and accumulating snows, some power issues are likely as well.  These will be enhanced by north winds of 20 to 30 m.p.h. which will be gusting to 40 m.p.h.  The areas receiving the heaviest snow and strongest winds will experience near blizzard conditions.

During and after the winter precipitation… very cold air will filter into the state.  When combined with the gusty winds, wind chill temperatures may fall to below -10 degrees.  There is likely to be an extended period of bitter cold conditions, especially in areas with a deep snowpack.

We are still many hours from the onset of the event, and there are going to be forecast changes along the way.

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Major winter storm still appears possible…

I have been out on a limb for several days, and see no reason to come back in now.  In fact, confidence is increasing that a major winter storm will pay a visit to the state beginning late Monday/31st and continuing through most of Tuesday/1st.

This event is still several days away, but close enough that we can start putting down some broad initial guesses where significant events are possible.

Very cold surface air will begin pushing southward through Oklahoma during the afternoon Monday.  A combination of warm air advection just above the surface and strong frontal forcing is likely to result in widespread light precipitation developing during the day.  As temperatures steadily fall below freezing from north to south… this precipitation will change to freezing rain/drizzle and sleet.  Initial amounts on Monday are not likely to be excessive, but could cause issues with travel and possibly power.

Precipitation will increase through the night with freezing rain becoming a problem as we approach Tuesday morning.  Some significant amounts of ice build-up on power lines and trees may start to cause more power issues.  As the cold air deepens, a changeover to sleet is expected and heavy amounts of sleet are likely in a corridor from southwest to northeast Oklahoma.

Eventually, precipitation over the northwest half of the state will changeover to all snow – and is likely to become heavy as a strong upper storm system ejects northeastward over Oklahoma.  Widespread amounts of four to eight inches with local amounts to near a foot appear possible in some areas.  Strong northeast winds will cause a considerable amount of blowing and drifting which will have major impacts on travel where the heavier snow occurs.

We are still over 100 hours away from the onset of this event and many changes in the forecast are expected over the coming days.  Not only will changes be necessary with regard to timing and location, but amounts of ice and snow as well.  In fact, at this time there are about equal chances of this being a non-event as a significant event.  Confidence is increasing however and it will be interesting to watch trends over the next few days.

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Cold January / Major winter storm coming?

Through the first 23 days of January – the average low temperature in Okarche has been 19.2 degrees.  The forecast for each of the remaining days of the month is for low temperatures to drop to 32 degrees or below.  If this occurs, it will be the first time ever that every single day of a month had temperatures at or below freezing.

Medium range models are now strongly hinting toward a change in our weather pattern which may include a major winter storm around the first of February.

Forecast rule number 27 says that one should never predict precipitation during a drought.  This would qualify as going out on a limb just about as far as one could go out… however, there have been many runs of the GFS which suggest that a very wet system could be affecting Oklahoma around the first of next month.  There are also strong signals that enough cold air will be involved to cause snowfall over the northwest part of the state.  We are well too far out to be able to pin down the locations and amounts… but it does appear that significant snowfall may occur in the state.

The biggest thing we have going for us right now is that this weather pattern has been in place far too long not to be breaking soon.  Time will tell… but this may very well be the break that we are looking for.

Heavier amounts of precipitation expected with approaching storm.

A strong vort max is diving southeastward through the Pacific Northwest this morning… this will help carve out a positive tilted deep trough of low pressure from Minnesota to New Mexico by Thursday morning.

By midnight tonight… cold air will be spilling into northwest Oklahoma… reaching the southeast part of the state by early Thursday.

The combination of strong frontal forcing and lift associated with the approaching mid-level trough will result in widespread precipitation breaking out in Kansas near sunset this evening.  This area of precipitation will spread and expand southeastward into Oklahoma during the overnight hours.

Initial precipitation in the Panhandle and northwest is likely to be in the form of snow.  Over a large area of Oklahoma centered over the central part of the state… initial precipitation will likely be in the form of freezing rain/drizzle, changing to sleet and eventually snow – especially north of I-40.

Freezing rain amounts are not expected to be heavy enough to cause significant power issues… but are likely to cause travel problems, especially on bridges.

Many previous model runs suggested that snowfall amounts in the northern half of the state would not be excessive… generally in the one to three inch range.  This was still expected to cause some travel problems when combined with strong north winds which would cause blowing and drifting.  Forecast snow amounts on recent model runs have increased with the suggestion that an east/west band of moderate to heavy snow will spread across portions of northern Oklahoma.  The 06z GFS was the most aggressive with the increase of snowfall amounts indicating that as much as 8 inches of snow could fall.  This outlying model run is considered far too high given the speed of the system and the fact that this is not a classic heavy snow producing pattern for Oklahoma.  Still, it was probably warranted to increase the snow amount forecast for a large part of northern Oklahoma to two to four plus inches and spread accumulating amounts into the OKC metro area.

The morning drive period could be quite messy for several of the heavier populated areas of Oklahoma.  A combination of freezing rain and sleet will likely visit Oklahoma City and Tulsa before changing to snow.  Snow – possibly heavy – will be seen in the Stillwater, Ponca City, Enid and Woodward areas.  A winter mix of precipitation will work into areas south of Oklahoma City near and just after sunrise.

Even after the precipitation ends – Thursday will be a cold day with strong north winds and temperatures in the 20’s causing wind chill temperatures to fall into the single digits for most of the state.

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Next round of winter precipitation approaching…

Another winter precipitation event is heading toward Oklahoma.  Model data has been remarkably consistent over the past many runs with regard to the system approaching the state.  Cold air should start pouring into the panhandle and northwest before Midnight Thursday – reaching central Oklahoma by 3 A.M. and the southeast part of the state not long after sunrise.

Lifting associated with a strong mid level trough of low pressure sweeping eastward through the plains will begin to break out precipitation in the panhandle by late Wednesday which will spread across the northern half of the state during the overnight/morning hours before ending in the east by mid-afternoon.  It does not appear that the precipitation will be very heavy… combined with the short duration… snowfall amounts should not exceed two inches except for the northeast where amounts may reach about three inches.  Strong north winds will create blowing and drifting in these areas which will impact travel.

Across a large part of central Oklahoma… and to a lesser degree… south central and southwest Oklahoma… a mix of light freezing rain/drizzle, sleet and snow is likely for a few hours which may cause travel issues during the morning rush on Thursday.

By mid-afternoon… precipitation is expected to come to and end and we will be left with blustery conditions.  High temperatures on Thursday will not get out of the 20’s and north winds of 20 to 30 M.P.H. will drop wind chill temperatures into the single digits.  Overnight lows Thursday night will drop to between 10 and 15 degrees in central Oklahoma.

Expected precipitation Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

Expected precipitation Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

No measurable rain… but…

Model data suggested that if we did get precipitation today, it wouldn’t amount to much.  And, that turned out to be the case.  We had some brief showers just before sunset which didn’t manage to tip the bucket for anything.  However, sitting in the house as the showers passed by, we noticed the sun breaking through.  I headed out back and up on the railroad tracks for a view of a pretty rainbow which became quite brilliant and lasted for almost 20 minutes.  It was nice to get something out of the day… even if the drought continues.

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