Potential Blizzard Assessment

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Blizzard WatchHere we go again, friends! The second blizzard watch in less than one week has been posted for roughly the western two-thirds of the region. While this system will involve some snowfall, we are not going to see significant accumulations with this one. However, with the expected light snow accumulations and the pre-existing snowpack, the concern for whiteout conditions is growing for tomorrow into Monday. As with every potential blizzard event though, there are several factors negating the event as there are positive factors for a high-end blizzard event. So I want to take a few moments and discuss the potential for and against the blizzard tomorrow afternoon into Monday.

Watches Warnings_02.07.16_2
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So let’s start out by looking at the latest watches and warnings across the region. If you will take notice to the image on the right, you’ll see that roughly two-thirds of the region is blanketed by a blizzard watch. I can actually see arguments for this watch, and eventual warning, to be extended yet another tier of counties eastward either this afternoon or tomorrow. This will be something to watch over the next 24 hours.

While I am absolutely concerned that we will see a significant blizzard event, I have a fair amount of concerns as well. Temps today and tomorrow, prior to the arrival of the Arctic front, will rise above freezing and begin encrusting the loose, powdery snow underneath. If this was not the case and temps were to stay below freezing, this would be a slam-dunk blizzard event for most of the region. While this is certainly a negating factor, we have seen many instances in the past where the warm temps don’t melt the snowpack enough to hold itself in place given the strong winds that were present. So in the end, it may be a moot point.

ndfd_snow_minnesota_10
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Perhaps one of the biggest “pros” for this event, despite the condition of the existing snow-pack, will be the potential for light snow to be occurring in tandem with the high winds. We have seen many events in the past where blizzard conditions occur with less than an inch of new snow. This system is expected to bring with it widespread new snow accumulation of 1-3 inches, as shown in the image on the left. This alone is a great enough factor to be concerned for blizzard conditions to develop, hence the blizzard watch being posted so far in advance.

The bottom line here is that the potential exists for a high-end blizzard event tomorrow afternoon into late Monday morning. Yes, there are a few limiting factors present, but all-in-all, this is shaping up to be a potentially major event for a good chunk of the region. The reason I am so cautious right now is that it will only take one of these negating factors to hinder the blowing snow and create an event worthy only of a winter weather advisory. However, given the expected snowfall of 1-3 inches and winds potentially gusting to or in excess of 50mph, it looks more and more likely that a significant winter weather event is about to unfold.

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