Pre-Blizzard Assessment

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Watches Warnings_02.07.16_3
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A blizzard is imminent for parts of the region late today into tomorrow. Late last evening, the National Weather Service upgraded the blizzard watch to a blizzard warning and winter storm warning in anticipation of this storm. The latest watches and warnings map reflects these warnings, which you will see off to the left. Let me outline the hazards I expect in each warning and advisory.

For those who are under the blizzard warning, I expect widespread whiteout conditions late this evening thru late tomorrow morning. Travel will become extremely difficult to potentially impossible by sunrise tomorrow. In addition, widespread road closures are a possibility due to severe blowing and drifting snow. For those in the winter storm warning, widespread blowing and drifting snow with periods of whiteout conditions can be expected as well. Travel will become very difficult with at least some road closures possible by tomorrow morning. That is something I’ll be watching as well. Despite the technical title of the event in your county, I expect winds to gust as high as 55mph in the warnings which will not only create severe blowing and drifting of the snow, it may also cause scattered power outages and tree damage.

While conditions will deteriorate in the advisories as well, I don’t expect conditions to be as poor as in the warnings. For those in the winter weather advisory, low visibility to one-quarter of a mile are likely with substantial blowing and drifting snow possible. For both the winter weather advisory and the wind advisory, I expect wind gusts to approach 50mph at times, which will create poor travel conditions at times, especially in falling snow.

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Now, with all of that said, I am still concerned with the condition of the snow on the ground. Temps early this morning warmed above freezing, and have been above freezing since, which has allowed a crust to form on the snow-pack. This will potentially limit the amount of snow available to be lofted by the wind. However, I am still concerned for widespread whiteout conditions, and here’s why… We have had setups like this in the past with an encrusted snow-pack, but yet had widespread whiteout conditions anyway. With wind of this magnitude, Mother Nature has a way of eroding the crust on the snow-pack and exposing the loose snow underneath to the high winds. In addition, I am still expecting 1-2 inches of snow over much of the region tonight into tomorrow. Even this light amount of snow combined with winds of this magnitude can absolutely create blizzard conditions.

The bottom line here folks is that even with the negating factors, it looks very likely that we will see widespread blizzard conditions develop later today into tomorrow. It is very much-so a wait and see type of event, but my gut says that we will see a significant blizzard underway by late this evening and into tomorrow morning. Of course, the potential certainly exists that if the snow-pack holds it’s own and the new snow accumulations end up lighter than expected, that this blizzard event could bust. Unfortunately there is no way to tell in advance how this type of scenario will pan out, it’s best to plan for the worst and hope for the best!

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