Joe’s Weather Blog: Near blizzard conditions Friday night (THU-1/17)

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Really the title of the blog could be “If a blizzard happens in the middle of the night and no one really notices is it still a blizzard” but that title seems a bit too long. Another winter storm will affect the region Friday night into early Saturday morning. High winds, heavy snow, and low visibility are are likely to occur…the window though for this should be short…only a couple of hours and the overall window for snow isn’t like what happened last weekend so this will be more of a quick hitter type event. Then the focus is on the cold, the sub-zero wind chills, and then Sunday’s forecast.

  • Forecast:

Today: Cloudy with temperatures in the mid 30s

Tonight: Cloudy with temperatures in the lower 30s

Friday: Cloudy with some rain developing later in the day. Highs in the mid 30s

Friday Night: A wintry mix developing then snow (some heavy) with winds of 25-35 MPH with higher gusts possible for a brief time. Blowing and drifting snow will be an issue later on…probably after 10-11PM or so.

Saturday: The heaviest snow is over by daybreak…maybe even earlier but some light snow will remain into the mid morning hours. Most of the accumulation will be done quicker though. In the end we should get 2-5″ of snow (updated)…in the Metro area. We may actually get clearing afternoon skies. Temperatures tank to near 10° as the day moves along with sub-zero wind chills.

Sunday: Sunshine (you remember that) and cold. Lows may tank to 0° or so but highs won’t be as cold as earlier thought…probably 15-20°. Sub-zero AM wind chills will improve somewhat in the afternoon.

  • Discussion:

Our next winter storm is the item of conversation. There are subtle changes that need to be addressed but overall, for a 3+ hour period on Friday night…it should pour snow in parts of the Metro at least. The winds will be 25-35 MPH as that happens and we may well have blizzard or near blizzard conditions for a few hours. Technically it may be a blizzard but I don’t think a blizzard warning will be issued. Impacts will be mostly in the middle of the night…while most are sleeping (except me ;) ) and while there is no accumulation guidelines for a blizzard, in the end we’re not looking at a ton of snow. Although it will still be a decent snow for many.

Did you know that there haven’t been 2 blizzard warnings in a winter in KC issued before?

Really this may end up as a Winter Weather Advisory type event, perhaps a Winter Storm Warning thing because of the wind element…despite the blizzard like potential for a few hours. My accumulation thoughts are mostly under 5″ for KC (as an average) and that is below winter storm warning criteria. The faster movement of things (unless we stay in the comma head longer) means it will be tougher to get above 4-7″. IF that changes we could be looking more towards the 4-8″ snows…but right now odds don’t favor that…even with a fluffier snow coming down for awhile.

So where is the system that will affect us…

It’s just offshore of northern CA…the system though hasn’t really come together yet…it’s really just a bunch of strong winds aloft that will come ashore then start digging into the Rockies tomorrow and that’s when there will be something more identifiable to track.

It will dig and strengthen into the TX Panhandle later tomorrow afternoon then move through southern MO tomorrow night into Saturday AM. That is the track of the developing upper level system. At the surface a surface low will be down towards the Red River in TX later Friday and be taking a track towards Little Rock. That’s farther south that what I’d like to see from a bigger storm. Remember a few days ago that was modeled to be farther north towards the MO/AR border. A 100 mile farther south track is VERY important to heavy snow potential in KC…over 6″ at least unless there is some weird localized banding and I hesitate to say there won’t be. Which leads me to this…

Our next issue is how well the “comma-head” part of the storm comes together…that is where the more moisture-laden air comes up from the south and wraps around the storm’s center into the cold air (supporting snow production). IF that is farther east or south of KC…it will be a struggle to get to 4″ and that is certainly on the table. That’s why I’m keeping that lower end number alive in my forecast…as I started with several days ago here in the blog at least.

Another issue is the fast movement of everything as well.

The 2 things that still somewhat concern me are 1) the snow ratios that will be adding to fluff factor and more efficient accumulations and 2) IF there is a little area of lift that comes up from the SW to the NE and passes to the southeast of the Metro…what we refer to as a “vorticity max”. IF that can happen (it’s sort of a needle in a haystack for bigger Metro impacts) then maybe you can get an extra 1-2″ of snow production opening up that higher side number. Those little vorticty maxs can’t really be predicted until they form and you can see the broad rotation on radar loops, so it’s a nowcast issue really instead of seeing it with certainly 2 days away. I see the set-up for it BUT where the exact track on one of those “maxes” go is impossible to predict right now.

What do I mean by the paragraph above…let’s look at the new NAM model that just came out…and go up to about 18,000 feet or so.

Do you see that NE to SW area of red/pink on top of the north side of the Metro…that is one of the vorticity maxs that I was referring to. In reality that could be anywhere BUT these “maxes” represent an area where there is more “lift” to the atmosphere especially to the north of the vort max track. That tells me WATCH OUT for these smaller 20 mile wide bands of more persistent heavier snow that comes down fast and furious. The map above is valid at 12AM Saturday. Somebody is really going to get pouring down snow for awhile…where that little bugger goes will determine the snow jackpots of over 6″ I think. That little disturbance is flying though and will be out of the viewing area before daybreak.

Again I feel confident that this system will have that type of component BUT I don’t have confidence on where exactly that part of the system ends up tracking since that aspect won’t exist till Noon tomorrow or so. 

For those wondering about the broader view of this snow potential…this is through Sunday morning. I might add an extra 1-3″ or so on the north-side into the 36 highway corridor region. I’m NOT as confident in the 4-5″ totals the farther SE you get from KC…towards Sedalia and the Lakes region at this point. A LOT would have to happen since their snow transition is a couple of hours after ours in the Metro I think.

Hello St Louis (again)…

You can see I-70 travel won’t be so great from KC eastwards to OH for that matter. Regionally strong north winds will create lots of blowing and drifting of the snow for east<>west roads so this storm is going to be much more difficult for the road crews to deal with…plus with the tanking temperatures…road treatments won’t be as efficient as opposed to temperatures near 32° with last weekend’s storm. This is another major takeaway from the storm.

So to recap…something that was predicted last weekend is still very much on the table…and really the only part of the forecast that isn’t totally right, at this point, is the extreme cold thinking from a few days ago…but we’ve been coming off that for about 36 hours now. Yes Sunday will be bitterly cold BUT with the data showing the heart of the Arctic high NOT on top of KC and more towards the upper Midwest, as I mentioned yesterday…it’ll still be 15-20° below average just not 30° below average. I can live with that and I think the fans at Arrowhead could too.

Our feature photo comes from Caroline Cheavin Milam of an icicle and a hummingbird feeder.


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