Spring storm shows we are only 1 month behind now

Yesterday, Anthony discussed a spring system that’s headed for the Plains, and he focused particularly on the threat for snow in the Upper Midwest. Run to run, it’s been pretty speculative as to where and how much snow would fall. I tend to hedge towards the lower end of the spectrum, of the opinion that more warm air will surge north because April Gosh Danged 12th. Some people are more pessimistic, and they have every right to be, given some of the model runs and how depressing this spring has been so far.

There is quite a bit of uncertainty over the amount of snow or where it will happen, but the storm is showing signs of looking extremely springlike in at least one manner. We are looking fairly locked in for a broad severe weather outbreak this weekend, as the cold front moves across the  south central US. Already there is an enhanced risk of severe weather, and I would be surprised if there isn’t a moderate risk as we approach the valid period.

The outlook for moderate storms presently stretches from Kansas City to College Station for Friday. A sure sign of trouble ahead is the expectation of severe weather on the 3 day outlook, which has an outlook for a triangle from Clarksville, TN to Tallahassee and Lafayette Louisiana. The threat for severe weather is far more tangible than the snow expected.

There will be no primary threat out of this system – The trifecta is possible, from tornadoes to strong winds and large hail, thanks to the layout of the storm, with a tightly wound area of low pressure to the north to a strong, active cold front in the south.

Having a bunch of strong thunderstorms in the southern US, tied to an active snow storm is a very typically March pattern, and is a sure sign of the seasonal transition. The problem is that the season should have already transitioned at this point.

Spring Storm On Horizon

Last week I wrote a post about a strong spring system that simultaneously dropped several inches of snow across the Upper Midwest while further off to the south, a severe outbreak swung from the Mid-MS River Valley into the Ohio Valley. A similar setup is shaping up for this weekend, with the chance for even more prolific snowfall totals.

An strong cold front is set to push over the West Coast during the day Wednesday bringing plenty of rain to the Pacific northwest down to the Sierra’s as well as high elevation snow. As the system works into the Great Basin, a new area of low pressure looks to develop and push through the Central Rockies while it intensifies, which is also expected to bring high winds to the Intermountain West. As the low pressure pushes out over the Central Plains on Friday, it will tap into plenty of Gulf moisture for it to transport northwards. This looks like another heavy snow setup for the Dakotas into the Upper Midwest while the MS River Valley gets targeted for some severe weather. While the models are still a bit too far out to get an accurate idea of just how much snow the north will get, it looks like SOMEwhere is going to get hit with a bulls-eye of 12-18″. Where will it land? Stay tuned!

The cold builds west

The story of the spring so far has been the relentless cold, marked at times by strong systems moving through the northern US, leaving unseasonably snowy tracks through the region. This story, however, was confined largely to the part of the country that lies east of the Rocky Mountains. Points to the west were actually in the throes of warm, even unseasonably hot weather.

A great example of that is Phoenix, where Tuesday’s high will be 100 degrees. That’s significantly warmer than normal. We’ve been stuck in a standing wave pattern,  with a trough in the west and a high amplitude ridge in he west.  Expect that to change by week’s end.

A trough waiting just off the coast will move inland around Thursday, bringing quite a bit of precipitation to the western US. That will certainly be a big part of the story as the weekend approaches, but don’t miss out on this other component: Most of the country will see temperatures that are below normal, at least for the weekend.

March forecaster of the month

Is it summer yet? No? The longest winter in some time is continuing unabated, with systems plowing the East Coast and cold weather entrenched in the Plains, March was lion all the way through. April hasn’t been that great to start off either, but it seemed to work out well for Victoria-Weather, who forecasted like the cold didn’t bother them. Even if the weather doesn’t turn around, we will certainly hope that that the forecasting skill continues at the same pace.

Back when forecasts were good

After such a cataclysmic verification for Rapid City yesterday, let’s step back in time, to the middle of September. The weather was dry in northern California, and the forecasting was easy. Sacramento was the scene of one of those forecasts, and while forecasts were a bit warm, they were only a handful of degrees, and not 10-15 degrees over the mark, as they were in South Dakota. Yes, these were indeed better days. Back then, we even let Weatherbug win a forecast every now and again. Crazy times I tell you.
Actuals: September 13th – High 79, Low 63
September 14th – High 78, Low 62

Grade A-B

Memphis, Tennessee

As snow showers plague much of the northern US, we head down to the lovely city of Memphis to see what kind of weather they’ll be greeted with to start the weekend. It’s gotta be warmer than up here!

At 1054pm CDT, the temperature at Memphis, TN was 54 degrees under mostly cloudy skies. A weak disturbance is kicking up some rain showers and spotty thunderstorms already over eastern Arkansas which looks like they’ll drift over the Memphis area in the pre-dawn hours Friday. By daybreak this activity should dissipate and shift off to the east, however, as an area of low-pressure develops over the Red River Valley, it’ll set up a warm front over eastern OK into western AR, sparking a wide area of showers and thunderstorms ahead of it. Best chance of seeing this activity roll through will be in the late-afternoon and evening hours before activity starts to push south of the area late-evening. Some light showers look to linger in the area through midnight but then dies out early Saturday morning. Clouds remain throughout the day until a nose of high pressure pushes into the region in the afternoon, clearing out the remaining clouds and making for a very nice rest of the weekend.

Friday: Scattered rain showers and possible thunderstorms. High 61, Low 45.
Saturday: Few isolated pre-dawn showers, clouds decreasing through the day. High 48, Low 37.

TWC: Friday: Rain. High 58, Low 47.
Saturday: Morning clouds, afternoon sun. High 50, Low 33.

AW: Friday: Heavy rain and a thunderstorm. High 60, Low 47.
Saturday: Breezy with clouds breaking, spotty morning showers. High 50, Low 35.

NWS: Friday: Showers likely then showers (huh?). High 60, Low 44.
Saturday: Slight chance of showers. High 49, Low 36.

WB: Friday: Thunderstorms. High 57, Low 47.
Saturday: Some early morning showers, then mostly sunny. High 47, Low 37.

WN: Friday: Cloudy with showers. High 60, Low 44.
Saturday: Partly cloudy with isolated showers. High 49, Low 36.

FIO: Friday: Rain overnight and in the morning and breezy starting in the evening. High 56, Low 46.
Saturday: Isolated morning shower, breezy until morning and mostly cloudy until evening. High 47, Low 33.

Some shower activity is already developing over Eastern Arkansas and looks to continue expanding eastward during the early morning hours Friday. Better bring your umbrella cause it’s gonna be a soggy day.

Cold was expected, then it was even colder

The Northern Plains are in a vicious cycle, with waves of inclement weather sweeping into the area, bringing more cold and more snow to an area that doesn’t need it. Of course, in early April, what part of the country DOES need it? With that premise in mind, it’s even more frustrating for residents of western South Dakota that it was even colder than expected. A system moved through Rapid City and brought temperatures below freezing for almost the entirety of of the 48 hour verification period. There was also a nearly 5″ snowfall accumulation, which nobody needed, certainly. This snow, and these cold temperatures took everyone off guard, and forecasts were as terrible as the weather. Forecast.io barely had the best forecast, but it wasn’t particularly good.
Actuals: Monday – 2″ of snow, High 34, Low 16
Tuesday – 2.3″ of snow, High 21, Low 9

Grade: F

Sacramento, California to Wichita, Kansas

OK, we get it. It’s cold out east. There will be record breaking cold temperatures this weekend in the wake of strong thunderstorms yesterday. Not only that, there is snow expected as far south as the Tennessee Valley and Washington DC. That part of the world is already getting headlines. What of the rest of the country? We’ll figure that out on a three day trek from northern California to Kansas. The drive will cover 1678 miles, which will be evenly divided at 559 miles a day, or the briskly paced 70mph. We’re going to find out what’s going on out west rather quickly.

DAY ONE (Thursday)

The weather out west is significantly more seasonable than it is in the eastern part of the country, though a not insignificant part of the reason for that is an area of low pressure over the Gulf of Alaska that is generating some nice warm flow out of the Mexican deserts. There may be some mid layer clouds to mottle the sun, but otherwise, the landscape will be stark, and our drive easy. We’ll end the day in the Bonneville Salt Flats of northwestern Utah, which is perhaps the most desolate seeming place on the planet.

DAY TWO (Friday)
Clouds will be building over Bonneville overnight, threatening some rain along the Idaho border, but the warm front associated with that low in the Gulf of Alaska will snake its way southeast to the northern Rockies and High Plains, where the baroclinic set up will feed off the descending air of the Rockies and start to churn into its own separate system. For our purposes, a big slug of moisture is going to make a hard charge through Wyoming, threatening our route with some very heavy snowfall, particularly from Rock Springs to Laramie. The good news is, the snow won’t be as intense as we are driving, but the bad news is that it will have recently fallen, and throughout the day, our expedience will rely on Wyoming DOT clearing the roads. Assuming we can maintain our pace, the best chance for snow continuing to fall as we drive through will be around Laramie, though when we are on the dry side of the Rockies, I think the snow showers will be a memory. A very visible one, because we will likely be able to see the snow falling in the Colorado Rockies. Wyoming will see the heaviest snow, we might not see any in Colorado, and I haven’t mentioned Utah, where we will begin our day. From Salt Lake City to Rock Springs, Wyoming, the higher passes may see some snow showers, but it will be cloudy and driveable beforehand. We’ll end the day in Berthoud, Colorado, west-southwest of Greeley.

DAY THREE (Saturday)
Behind our newly developed system, the same that brought snow to Wyoming on Friday, cold high pressure will build into the Plains. Very cold high pressure. Many locations will break records for lows, as well as low maximums. For April. Not just the day, for the entire month. But it won’t be snowing! That can be your solace in the ice box of Wichita.

Aerial of the Downtown Skyline of Wichita, Kansas with the Arkansas River and the Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in the Foreground

Snowy and Severe Spring Startup

We’re a full fortnight into Spring now and people are itching to get outside and start doing fun outdoor things. Mother Nature, however, especially for us in the Upper Midwest, refuses to let us escape Winter’s frigid grip. A strong low-pressure system working through the Central US over the last 24 hours has brought a swath of snow from the Dakotas through MN into WI and continues eastward through the Great Lakes. Areas around the Twin Cities got 6-10″ today and continues to pile up in WI. Meanwhile, on the warm side of this system, strong to severe thunderstorms rumbled their way from Indiana/Ohio all the way down to coastal TX. Strong winds accompanied severe storms from Columbus, OH down to Eastern TX into MS, and while that was the most widespread severe effect from this sytem, over 110 reports of large hail were also reported.

Storms like this aren’t rare for early Spring however. On this date in 1974, a similar but stronger low pressure system was making its way through the Central US. Over the Upper Midwest, a swath of snow fell across MN and WI accumulating up to 6-12″ (7.3″ specifically in the Twin Cities). What this system is more well-known for, however, is the widespread tornado outbreak that hit the Midwest down to the Deep South. 148 tornadoes happened over a 24-hour span in what became known as the Super Outbreak, the largest tornado outbreak on record in the US. This would remain the US record until the 2011 Outbreak which more than doubled that number! Luckily, no historic tornado outbreak will develop from this system, but we do have to be wary of all kinds of inclement weather this time of year!

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