Category Archives: Story

One upside to the West’s Wild winter

A low over the North Pacific has been pounding the coast with a relentless barrage of snow and rain. Seattle has seen one of it’s snowiest Februaries on record, while the San Joaquin Valley and Coastal Ranges to the west have endured flash flooding and mudslides.

Fortunately, all this rain is coming to a part of the world that desperately needed it. Furthermore, the rain has been persistent, rather than simply one big shot, which means the moisture has been able to infiltrate the soil. So much rain has fallen that most of the state of California is now out of the drought

This isn’t just a brief respite, either. The state will see more relief in the summer when the abundant snowfall locked away in the mountains starts to melt and feed streams and rivers throughout the region, and more importantly, sustain irrigation systems through the fertile valley.

A broader look at the American west still suggests moderate to severe drought in the Rockies and Pacific Northwest, however this is likely to lessen with spring as well. All this moisture is a long term benefit, even through these short term hassles and dangers.

More and more snow

Let’s take a quick look at the WPC forecast for snowfall accumulation for the next three days. We’ll note a system moving though the Plains, but also persistent snow in the Pacific Northwest and northern Rockies.

We are looking at this with the perspective of “percent chance for over 4″ of snow in a 24 hour period”.

It’s just not going to stop! A feature in the Gulf of Alaska is going to keep churning away, ejecting energy into the Pacific Northwest for as long as the jet stream remains in it’s current orientation. Hope you enjoy shoveling!

How icy was it in the Twin Cities?

The Twin Cities had a dangerous combination of refreezing and freshly falling freezing rain, which created a glaze of ice over everything, particularly the side streets and driveways. Fortunately, Minnesota is a bit flatter than other places that see icing events, but there is some incline, such as in the southern suburb of Bloomington, where this happens.

The Cities saw a warm up over the weekend, thawing out after last weekend’s dangerous cold, and a boundary stalled over the area Sunday night through Monday morning, which not only froze all the snow that had started melting, but produced some light drizzle. A cold fornt plowed through by afternoon, and temperatures are again in the single digits, so that ice isn’t going anywhere. Compounding things are the 2-7″ Minneapolis and St. Paul will see this week.

(Video from Caravan Vet on Facebook)

January Forecaster of the Month

We made it though a harrowing first month of the year, with a bunch of snow in the middle of the country, rain out west and, of course, a ton of cold air, with a mixed bag everywhere else. With as many forecasts as we had in the varied weather we worked through, I think the winner for the month, the National Weather Service, can take a bit of pride in this victory.

As a side note, this year, I’m going to start including the individual forecast win total for the month, as well a the total wins for the year. They won’t always correlate with the FOTM, because sometimes an outlet gets a lot of 2nd places and gets credit for their consistency. This was the case in January. I’ll include the annual total next month, because, well, there is only one month to work with so far in 2019!


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Strong storms not yet a problem in 2019

We can now look back at January with an eye towards the entirety of the month. Of course, we may spend much of our time considering the big snow storms that bisected the middle of the country or the bracing cold that we are just now recuperating from. One other story for the month is the particular lack of severe thunderstorms.

Aside from one strong system which was more noteworthy because it produced a bunch of snow from Kansas City to Chicago from January 18th to 19th, there haven’t been any severe weather watches yet in 2019, and even with this system, there were only a trip of tornado watches that spanned from Mississippi to Georgia.

Granted, we are in January, which isn’t a month that is often rife with severe weather, it is still quite a rare treat to completely avoid severe thunderstorm watches for an entire month. By the looks of things, we may be turning towards a pattern more capable of producing a few strong storms, particularly on Monday in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, with more action on the horizon later in the week. It remains to be seen how our luck can hold.

Before the cold: Snow

I wrote last night about the brutal cold coming Tuesday and Wednesday to the middle of the country. The feature that is going to be bringing that cold down from the Yukon will lead with a bowling ball of precipitation. It’s going to smash into the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes overnight Sunday to Monday morning. Here’s what it looks like via the GFS.

That’s a good way to ruin a commute, as it likely will from Fargo to the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Des Moines. Still, in the long run the big story will be the bitter cold that follows this storm, and this cold with some pretty robust moisture is going to lead to snow totals that will stack up very efficiently. Here is the forecast for Wisconsin.

As you saw from the model guidance above, there will be some tight pressure gradients, which means strong winds and blowing and drifting snow are a significant concern, and then of course, with the cold air trailing all this snow, we could be looking at a dangerous situation.

A first look at the forecast for Tuesday

As I noted in our last full post, a there is a miserable batch of cold air over the north central part of the country. That’s bad enough news, but the region is bracing for cold reinforcements. Tuesday looks to be the coldest of the day. Let’s take a look at those temperatures.

That certainly is chilly. Double digits below zero in Grand Forks and Bemidji are nothing to sneeze at! Still, it was colder than that this morning — Oh, I’m sorry, those are the highs on Tuesday. Let’s look at the lows.

Oh no, that’s cold. Starting at -6 is one thing, but failing to get any warmer than that, as will be the case in Minneapolis, is an entire terrible day. The worst part, though, is that this is a very early, conservative forecast, and it doesn’t take into account the windchill. Not only will these temperatures potentially be colder than this forecast indicates.

Bracing cold strikes the middle of the country

The polar vortex is insinuating itself into the conversation once again this summer. Arctic cold air is flooding into the center of the country, spilling down as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. Just take a look at the upper level analysis. Below normal temperatures are able to drift as far south as that trough.

Cold air is already rushing in, as we can see from the Mesonet temperature analysis.

Making the situation more dire, if that is possible, is the winds across the country. The core of the cold air is in Minnesota and the Dakotas, but backbreaking wind chills are possible further east, in Wisconsin and northern Illinois, where the winds are breezing as well.

The cold will be persistent, and perhaps even reinforced early next week. There may be a bit of a warm up over the weekend, but it is possible that Tuesday morning may see temperatures that match any we’ve seen in the last two years. Bundle up!

It’s easy to be a meteorologist in California!

I count 19 different types of watches, warnings or advisories on the map out of the NWS office in San Francisco, screen capped on Thursday afternoon. It’s not always a slam dunk to forecast in the Golden State!

Another round of wet weather impacting a part of the country with such an undulating terrain, especially in the winter is going to provide an opportunity for a whole slew of inclement weather.

Winter Storm Set to Roar Through US

As the Government Shutdown rolls on into yet another day, the hard-working men and women of the NWS continue to show up and doing their job diligently, and we couldn’t be more thankful for that than a time like the next 3 days. A massive winter storm is taking shape over the Western US and will affect everybody from the Central Plains to the New England states. A northern branch of energy will bring snow to the Dakotas and Upper Midwest, then it will link up with the main area of low pressure ejecting out into the Plains, then start racing eastward over the weekend. Areas of heavy snow are expected from IA/MO/IL through the OH Valley into the Northeast and ultimately into New England on Sunday. Behind all of this will be the first significant push of Arctic air into the Eastern US as well, as MSP may finally see a sub-zero temperature for the first time this season, but not before breaking the all-time record for latest such reading on record (Jan 18th is the record, accomplished in 2012, 2002, and 1889). Places in New England could be reporting snow by the foot by the time it shifts out late Sunday. Here’s a look at the current string of watches and warnings issued by the NWS, who no doubt have their hands full this weekend. We appreciate you!