Thursday, January 20, 2022
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Winter alerts stretch from Mississippi to Maine. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect

The West has hardly seen a break over the past several weeks after being pummeled by record-breaking rain and snow from Washington down to California. The cumulative effect of all that rain and snow will increase the threat for river flooding and avalanches.

The Northwest Avalanche Center in Seattle is warning that large natural avalanches will occur at all elevations of the Cascades, Olympics and Mount Hood. The center warns that backcountry travel is not recommended at this time.

The rain and snow are very helpful in terms of mitigating drought conditions, but too much in a short period of time is far from helpful.

“All in all, this rain, combined with the snowmelt from the coastal mountains and to some degree, the lower slopes of the Cascades, will push many rivers upward, some potentially reaching near flood stage,” the National Weather Service office in Portland, Oregon, said.

Southern snow equals travel troubles

After a very mild Christmas week across much of the southern US, the new year is trying to give winter a comeback.

“Today, a wave of low pressure is forecast to develop along the arctic front draped across the Deep South,” the Weather Prediction Center said Thursday morning. “The combination of snow and ice may cause hazardous road conditions through tonight in this region.”

“As the low tracks through the Southeast today, heavy snowfall is expected to develop across parts of the Tennessee Valley into the Central Appalachians, with some ice farther to the south across portions of southern/eastern Tennessee and northern Mississippi/Alabama,” the prediction center added.

This won’t just be a light dusting of snow either. Some cities in the mid-South may end up with half a foot of snow before this system moves out.

“An area of heavy snow, with rates on the order of 1-2+ inches per hour, may develop and overspread parts of western through middle Tennessee, including much of the Greater Nashville metropolitan area,” the Storm Prediction Center said Thursday.

Generally speaking, areas in a winter weather advisory will see between 1 to 3 inches. Locations in the winter storm warning areas will likely see between 4 to 7 inches.

The main timeline for the snow in the mid-South will begin Thursday morning and continue through the late afternoon. Some flurries may continue through the evening hours as the winds pick up along the storm system’s exit.

By Thursday evening, the system begins to shift into the Mid-Atlantic region.

“Either way, with cold temperatures in place and accumulating snow, conditions will deteriorate once precipitation begins,” the weather service office in Baltimore said. “Even though it is a short duration event, snowfall rates around 1 inch per hour (due to the banding snow) are likely, and this will cause snow covered and slippery roads to develop quickly for most areas. Snow may mix with a little sleet/rain at the beginning across our extreme southern zones in central VA and southern MD, but if there is a mix it will change to snow.”

Even more snow up north

By Friday morning, the low-pressure system will move off the Mid-Atlantic coast and begin to rapidly deepen offshore, causing accumulating snow to spread from the Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast.

“The storm track for an approaching coastal low pressure system is beginning to become more clear,” the NWS office in Boston said. “At this time it appears as though this system will pass just south and east of the 40N/70W benchmark. This will support accumulating snowfall for almost all of southern New England.”
There are some uncertainties, though. The NWS office in New York points out that any shift in the track of the storm will modify snowfall amounts. For example, if the track shifts slightly closer to the coast, that could increase amounts, especially across Long Island and southern Connecticut, but a track slightly to the east out to sea, could result in lesser amounts.
Another question mark with the forecast will be whether any heavier snowbands develop, such as snow squalls.

That same low pressure system will generate gusty winds across the Northeast as we head into the weekend.

It may be January, but the Great Lakes don’t know that. They are still quite warm, relatively speaking, and that means lake effect snow will also be in full gear as another low pressure system slides by the region.

“A low pressure system lifting into eastern Canada will allow for heavy lake effect snow as chilly westerly winds blow over the still relatively warm lakes,” the WPC said. ” Favorable locations downwind of the lakes could see 6 to 12 inches of snow by Saturday morning, with locally higher amounts.”

The polar plunge

In the Southeast, the snow usually melts as quickly as it arrives, so you don’t have long to enjoy it. In this case, the snow will be lingering thanks to the temperatures taking a polar plunge.

“Sub-zero daytime highs will engulf the northern Plains today while temperatures as much as 20-25 degrees below normal will overspread the central Plains, parts of the southern Plains, and eastward into the Midwest and Ohio Valley on Friday,” the WPC said.

Even cities as far south as Atlanta, Memphis, Tennessee, and Huntsville, Alabama, will barely get above the freezing mark for high temperatures on Friday.

East of the Rockies, the below average temperatures will extend all the way from the Canadian border down to the Gulf Coast, except for Florida.

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