KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The month of February is usually quite the rollercoaster in our part of the country, with temperatures historically ranging from -22 to 83 degrees.
So it should be no surprise to you when temperatures are in the middle 60s Tuesday that a rapid change is on the way.
This satellite loop above illustrates the storm’s entry to the United States over the last 24 hours. That’s going to be responsible for the mess we’re expected to receive as our temperatures rapidly fall as well.
But how exactly is that going to impact us locally? That remains to be seen. If you’ll recall with our last winter storm, some of the early signals were incredibly aggressive in regard to snowfall amounts. They obviously didn’t pan out.
As we are around 60 hours away from this event, let me show you just how far apart the forecast is in some regard. I’ve selected just four of the major computer models — seen above and below — as a guideline to highlight the vast differences we’re currently experiencing two days ahead of this storm.
At 6 a.m. Thursday, you have a pretty big gap between them. Almost no snow for a couple of them, a major winter storm for one, and lots of sleet and freezing rain for the remainder.
One thing is pretty similar during this time: temperature. Temperatures will absolutely be cold enough to support what’s falling to stick immediately.
But how come there is such a big discrepancy and we don’t know exactly what’s going to fall overnight Wednesday?
One of the main reasons is the type of precipitation that falls will limit our snowfall potential severely. Remember that satellite loop I showed? That storm is barely on land.
Once it’s over land and better measured with surface observations, it will allow some of the above model data to get a better handle on the storm track and therefore a better forecast for the upcoming storm.
One of the current challenges is the introduction of freezing rain and sleet. Temperatures on the surface are pretty uniform, but they’re not just a few thousand feet above the surface. This warm layer of air creates issues with which type of frozen precipitation is falling.
As a result, snowfall totals can really be cut down with just a few hours of ice.
So as of Monday afternoon, here are the things we’re most confident about at this particular hour. There will absolutely be a significant cold front during the day Wednesday, which is likely to drop our temperatures 30 degrees in a matter of hours.
This will also start as rain for several hours. There is plenty of moisture with this system as well, especially for February standards.
Some things that we’re in the middle of the road, confidence wise, would be that all of us are impacted by wintry precipitation. It’s possible this tracks further southeast and people on the north side of town don’t get much of anything. The freezing rain and sleet may be brief, so they also might not fully cut down snow totals.
The lowest confidence is certainly the track of this storm and snowfall totals. If you’re seeing a snowfall map today, ignore it! It will absolutely change as this storm moves closer to the United States…and eventually the Midwest.
We’ll keep you posted with an update on Tuesday as we have a better idea of our impacts expected.