Near record breaking snow

This is one of the snowiest Februaries on record in western Washington. There were successive rounds of heavy snow surrounding the weekend, and we were lucky enough to forecast for Olympia for the second one. Temperatures were wild, as they often are when looking at mountain snow storms, and the precipitation was very heavy. There were 2 inches of liquid precipitation over the course of Sunday and Monday, though the airport didn’t address total accumulations. The Seattle NWS office had a report of over 9 inches 4 miles north of Olympia, though, indicating that this storm was a doozy (and that Victoria-Weather may have been on to something with our aggressive precipitation forecasts). Unfortunately, it came down to temperatures, and WeatherBug ended up rounding up a victory, as their typically cold bias paid off.
Actuals: Sunday – .24″ of precipitation, High 34, Low 5
Monday – 1.72″ of precipitation, High 38, Low 31

Grade: C-D

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!

Ithaca, New York to Olympia, Washington

After a couple of short trips around the Great Lakes, we’re headed on a long trip through the northern US. It’s going to take us 5 days to cover 2,776 miles, which is a pace of 67.7mph, which will allow us to cover 541.6 a day. The weather looks like it will be pretty messy, which might make 5 days seems like 10. Route.

DAY ONE (Monday)

There is a tendril of moisture weaving through the Great Lakes today, bringing snow and colder air to the Eastern Great Lakes. It’s a cold front sinewing its way through the region from an area of low pressure moving into Eastern Canada, and meeting with a warm front attached to a low at the base of a trough in the Southern Plains. That boundary is going to start to back up tomorrow, and warm fronts and slow moving, nearly stationary fronts are bastions of ice and freezing rain. What I’m saying is, if they clear out the snow tonight in northern Ohio, it will pave the way to chemically treat the Ohio Turnpike ahead of a nasty bit of ice. It will snow everywhere on our route today and tonight, so it may make things a bit difficult in the early going, but life will turn miserable somewhere around Elyria, west of Cleveland, as snow will restart, joining rain, sleet and graupel to make for a terrific remainder of the day. We’ll make it to Hoyt, Indiana in the northeastern part of the state, befoe we call it a day.

DAY TWO (Tuesdsay)
If you thought it would get better on Tuesday, I am sad to say that you are mistaken. Enough warm air may infiltrate that we will leave Hoyt in the rain, but the center of low pressure itself is going to make a hard charge through Chicago, which means that cold air is going to wrap in, marking a quick change to snow, likely somewhere between South Bend and Chicago. We plan for 8 hour days, but I can assure you that driving through the Windy City in the grips of a nasty snow storm will take an extra couple hours on its own. What makes matters worse for us, after driving through the windy, snowy mess in Chicago, we will follow an inverted trough extending to the northwest. Not just follow it a little bit, but be under the gun for snow nearly all the way to the Twin Cities. Heavy to moderate snow will fall between Chicago and Madison, with light to moderate snow continuing through western Wisconsin. Fortunately, the demographics and the fact that the wind won’t be up will alleviate the traffic bugaboos of Chicago, but driving in the snow is a pain, even in a city familiar with it, like St. Paul. We will stop in Vadnais Heights, north of St. Paul, and it will probably be very late, if we persevere through the whole drive. Sleep well, it’s got to get better, right?

DAY THREE (Wednesday)
There will be quite a bit of churning in the atmosphere as we go through the Upper Midwest, but there won’t be a notable reflection at the surface. Thankfully, we are on the interstate the whole time, which means it will be totally plowed, and roads will get better and better with the drive. The day will end in Fryburg, North Dakota, which is right by Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

DAY FOUR (Thursday)
We are going to grow to hate the term “inverted trough”. One such feature angled northwest from a lee trough in Colorado will make things snowy across eastern Montana. Even through there isn’t much of a pressure gradient, and thereby likely not much wind, but the topography of the aea means that even with the slightest bit of wind, visibilities will be difficult. Guidance suggests that this is going to be a flatland type of feature, so when we start hitting the terrain in western Montana, we should be in the clear. Bozeman to our day four destination of Galen, Montana.

DAY FIVE (Friday)
Do you know what we need? A nice, clear driving day. We will get a nice clear morning and early afternoon. Is that good? Another tail attached to the snow we see on Thursday will bring a little bit of flurry activity, which will lay south of the Snake River. Yet another strong feature moving off the Gulf of Alaska will be moving into western Washington through the day. Snow on the western exposures of the Cascades will eventually turn to rain as we get closer to Puget Sound. Finally, we made it to Olympia.

Olympia, Washington

This is the rare situation where we head to a location when they are about to see a round of nasty weather. Usually, we get there when it’s just finished.

At 954PM, PT, Olympia was reporting a temperature of 26 degrees with mostly cloudy skies. The first round of nasty weather with the latest system is through as surface low pressure has sunk from western Washington to northern California where it will melt away in the presence of a strong upper level ridge. The pattern is still quite active as the polar jet is encouraging progressive activity from the typical low in the Gulf of Alaska.
The next round is coming tomorrow evening, with the development of a small area of low pressure near Vancouver Island. That low will start bringing precipitation to the Puget Sound area while it is reinforced by a trough diving southeast from the Gulf of Alaska. Surface low pressure will deepen just off shore through the day, pumping more and more moisture into the area. Precipitation will be at its heaviest on Monday night.
Tomorrow – Increasing clouds, with snow late in the afternoon to evening. High 34, Low 18
Monday – Snow through the day, heavy and wet. Storrm total 7-10″. High 34, Low 27

TWC: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy in the morning then becoming cloudy with a mix of rain and snow later in the day High 37, Low 13
Monday – Cloudy with snow. High 35, Low 28

AW: Tomorrow -Mainly cloudy, cold; a little accumulation of snow late in the afternoon High 35, Low 13
Monday – Cloudy, cold; afternoon snow of varying intensity, 1-3″; untreated surfaces will be slippery High 36, Low 25

NWS: Tomorrow – Snow, mainly after 4pm. High 34, Low 14
Monday – Snow before 4pm, then snow, possibly mixed with rain. High 35, Low 25

WB: Tomorrow – Mostly sunny, a chance of snow in the afternoon, High 34, Low 12
Monday – Snow likely in the morning, then rain and snow in the afternoon. High 35, Low 28

WN: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy with snow, High 34, Low 19
Monday – Cloudy with a light wintry mix, High 35, Low 25

FIO: Tomorrow – Snow (1–2 in.) starting in the evening. High 37, Low 16
Monday – Snow (3–6 in.) starting in the morning.High 33, Low 26

That’s a lot of snow for a low lying city on the West Coast. Western Washington just had a bunch of snow last week, so they are likely near their wit’s end. Here, radar shows some flurries on the way south and out of the Puget Sound, giving us the current break.

A sloppy day in Iowa City

Last week was a messy one in the Upper Midwest. In Minnesota, there was a whole lot of snow, followed by plummeting temperatures, but in Iowa, there wasn’t as much overall precipitation, and what fell was much more complicated. Official observations reported mixed precipitation both Wednesday and Thursday in Iowa City, with a bent towards snow on Thursday, but mixed with little ice. Given how gnarly the weather ended up being, the forecasts were ultimately not so bad. The forecasts were all unanimous in their prediction for mixed precipitation, and for the most part the temperatures were pretty ok. The one thing that was the same in Iowa as Minnesota was the precipitous drop in temperature when all was said and done. That’s tough to forecast, but it was done well, and no better than by WeatherBug
Wednesday – .03 inches of precipitation High 32, Low 28
Thursday – .25 inches of precipitation, High 33, Low 4

Grade: B-F

Muskegon, Michigan to Ithaca, New York

We’re going to turn around and quickly depart Muskegon on the very rare trek that takes us through Canada. bring your passport for this 9 hour trip, covering 574 miles (924km). we’ll cover ground at a pace of 63.7mph (101km/h). No telling if that includes time waiting at customs. (embedding issues continue)

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Muskegon,+Michigan/Ithaca,+New+York/@42.2634889,-83.6181527,7z/am=t/data=!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x88197cc3a93d9ed9:0x247e359134f72540!2m2!1d-86.2483921!2d43.2341813!1m5!1m1!1s0x89d08182e0af88f7:0xae52768a56ece74!2m2!1d-76.5018807!2d42.4439614

While high pressure is moving into the Great Lakes all the same as it has moved into the Upper Midwest, that high pressure is chasing out a strong area of low pressure moving through the Canadian Maritimes and northern Quebec. Resultant westerly flow will exacerbate some lake effect snows between Rochester and Syracuse, but they will likely be winding down by the time we arrive back in the US. Still, if the roads aren’t cleared completely by the late afternoon tomorrow, that will slow us down. There won’t be many problems in the Finger Lakes, and Ithaca promises to be a Winter Wonderland, but an easily managed one.

Iowa City, Iowa to Muskegon, Michigan

I consider myself someone who is pretty good at geography. It turns out I’m not as good with Michigan as I thought, as I had envisioned the town in the Saginaw Bay area, but its actually on the shore of Lake Michigan. That makes our drive a little bit easier, actually, and we can look forward to a drive slightly longer than 6 hours, and covering 390 miles. Expect a pace of about 64mph, delayed significantly by Chicago, though fortunately probably not by fresh snow. (Map embedding is currently not cooperating. Feel free to follow the link below for our route)

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Iowa+city,+Iowa/Muskegon,+Michigan/@42.4039332,-89.7411553,7.25z/am=t/data=!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x87e441c16a208817:0x6d711867870582b0!2m2!1d-91.5301683!2d41.6611277!1m5!1m1!1s0x88197cc3a93d9ed9:0x247e359134f72540!2m2!1d-86.2483921!2d43.2341813

After a week that saw the Upper Midwest get pummeled by a couple of successive snow storms, this weekend looks to be extremely drivable. Of course, there is the cold to contend with. It might actually be cold enough that lingering latent moisture could refreeze on I-80 in eastern Iowa, but temperatures will gradually warm with increasing southwesterly flow in the area. The flow will also be more apparent aloft, rather than at the surface, which nips another concern in the bud. There isn’t likely to be any lake effect snow for the drive up the lakefront.

Warm air succeeds

Lancaster was in the midst of a cold air damming situation when we looked at the city last weekend. A wave was moving into the Great Lakes, promising an influx of warmer conditions, but only if you believed one of the model outputs. Most every did believe the warming scenario, but perhaps not as passionately as the GFS. The GFS, it turned out, was on to something, as that model was close to the Monday high, but none of the outlets felt confident enough about forecasting that warm. Victoria-Weather was the closest, and won the forecast with ease.
Actuals: Sunday – High 44 Low 16
Monday – High 54, low 27

Grade: B-D

Iowa City, Iowa

Happy Tuesday, everyone! Let’s take a swing through Iowa. I actually have in-laws around Iowa City, so maybe I should forward this on to them, huh?

At 1253PM, CT Iowa City was reporting a temperature of 25 degrees with overcast skies. A line of snow was moving into Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, though it looks to be a quick moving feature at the leading edge of a trough spun off from a much broader system over the Rockies. The larger jet trough at the root of this system is split over the Upper Midwest, allowing for a bit of surface instability and more atmospheric support for a pendant trough than would usually by typical.
The discrete circulation moving into the Great Lakes will also pipe in a bit of stabilizing cold Canadian air through the Upper Midwest. This should buy a fairly tranquil Wednesday morning, however as the broader low moves into the Plains, it will overwhelm the feature that will be moving into the Great Lakes by Wednesday night. Precipitation will build quickly, but a surge of midlevel warmth will lead to a period of freezing precipitation as well on Thursday morning. Cold air will wrap back in for Thursday afternoon, and blustery, snowy conditions will take the rest of the day.
Tomorrow – Mixed precipitation with ice more prevalent late High 34, Low 25
Thursday -Ice turning to snow, before wind increases and clouds clear, High 34, Low 11

TWC: Tomorrow – Cloudy with light rain developing later in the day. High 37, Low 25
Thursday – Rain and freezing rainthen becoming windy and mixing with light snow and sleet in the afternoon High 34, Low 16

AW: Tomorrow – Cloudy, a little rain, beginning after temperatures rise above freezing High 37, Low 25
Thursday – A bit of freezing rain in the afternoon; otherwise, a little morning rain; cloudy, windy High 35, Low 7

NWS: Tomorrow – Rain likely, mainly after 5pm. Cloudy,  High 36, Low 25
Thursday – Rain and freezing rain, possibly mixed with snow before noon, then a chance of snow and freezing rain between noon and 4pm, then a chance of snow after 4pm High 35, Low 9

WB: Tomorrow – Cloudy. Light rain likely in the afternoon. High 36, Low 26
Thursday – Blustery. Mostly cloudy. Light rain possibly mixed with freezing rain and snow in the morning, then a chance of freezing rain and snow in the afternoon. High 34, Low 6

WN: Tomorrow – Cloudy with light rain. High 36, Low 27
Thursday – Mostly cloudy with light wintry mix. High 35, Low 30

FIO: Tomorrow – Overcast throughout the day (brief rain). High 36, Low 27
Thursday – Snow (< 1 in.) starting in the morning, continuing until afternoon, and breezy starting in the afternoon. High 35, Low 8

There is a good chance that the middle of the day will be nasty. I think there will be more wintry weather than other outlets, and I am very sure WeatherNation will regret not having hourly forecasts out through Thursday.

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