We are 48 hours away from yet another wintry headache across the Valley. From a forecasting standpoint, this one is somewhat “easier” than the system that shifted south on us 8 days ago. The storm track with this one is not exactly “locked in” yet but we have enough of a consensus among the various computer models that we can start giving you more detail than we could a few days ago.
Precipitation will arrive before sunrise Wednesday morning in the form of RAIN, or at least a mix of rain and wet snow. Roads will be wet pretty much everywhere until 9:00 on average (perhaps turning slick a bit earlier than that in northern Trumbull, and somewhat later from Route 30 south). Notice the projected temperatures locally at 8:00 Wednesday morning: This shows readings still near freezing, and I could see where it is even a few degrees higher than this at 8:00. Especially from Route 30 south.
Then, a changeover to heavy, wet snow will occur from north to south. Travel conditions will likely deteriorate pretty quickly. It is March, the snow is falling during the day, the sun angle is much higher than a couple of months ago, and it will be very MILD right before this storm. It takes a HARD thump of snow at this time of the year under these conditions to get the roads to get slick quickly. But I do think that will happen.
Snow will taper off very late in the afternoon and early in the evening. The afternoon/evening “rush” will be a mess.
How much snow?? A few forecasting challenges here.
1) Final snow totals will depend a lot on how quickly the changeover to snow occurs at the start of the storm Wednesday morning. The more moisture “wasted” on rain or a mix, the less snow accumulation. The changeover will happen last and the atmosphere will cool slowest from roughly Route 30 southward. So I think snow totals will be appreciably less in places such as East Liverpool and East Palestine compared to our far northern communities.
2) The snow-to-liquid ratios will be changing. At first, the ratios will be low, perhaps 7:1 (typical is 10:1). This means the snow will be wet and will not accumulate as efficiently AT FIRST. The ratios will quickly get higher though, perhaps 12:1 or so by the end of the afternoon. So it will take less liquid to produce more snow toward the end of the storm.
3) The storm will be strengthening as it pulls east of the Valley, leading to the possibility of some very hefty snow totals in northeastern Trumbull and northern Mercer counties. Especially in Mercer, heavy snow may persist well into the evening.
Here’s the SREF model for around the airport in southeastern Trumbull County: Out of the 21 “members” of this model, each represented by a colored line, there is a range from about 0″ to 15″. Throwing out the extremes and focusing on where most of the lines are clustered, a reasonable range there is 5-8″. The mean, the dark black line, is about 6″ or so.
Other models, such as the GFS, European and Canadian generally jive with this idea (there are differences, yes, but they are not HUGE at this stage of the game).
We will put our “official” snow forecast out this afternoon. But I suspect it will look something like this: 2-4″ southeastern Columbiana, 4-8″ most everywhere else in viewing area, with perhaps an area of 8″+ in northeast Trumbull and northern Mercer. Stay tuned!!!
Thanks for reading!
You may or may not have heard rumors and/or have seen images being shared on Facebook about a potential HUGE storm next week. Some have blaring headlines that speculate that if there were to be a storm, it could be comparable to the Superstorm of 1993.
I am not going to dive too deep into the meteorology yet today, but will show you a few things demonstrating why the uncertainty at this stage of the game is quite high.
The pattern IS ripe for a storm of some variety. But, will everything come together for a BIG storm? Or will the pieces not line up and all we have is “small potatoes”. That’s the big question. IF there were to be a sizable storm of some kind here, it would be in the Wednesday-Wednesday night time frame. Here’s what the latest models say:
The GFS model is a bit more interesting: It has a storm tracking south of the Ohio River and by Wednesday evening (shown here) it is getting set to head off the coast. This track is one that can bring us a light to moderate snowfall. Perhaps on the order of a few/several inches.
The rumors of a BIG storm are courtesy of the European model. If you are new to this, the European model is *generally* regarded as superior to most other models, for many reasons. BUT, it has it’s fair share of “busts” too. Here’s the European look for Wednesday evening: A much healthier looking system, and farther north than the GFS. In fact, this run has it far enough north that if it were to be exactly right we would have some concern for mixed precipitation in parts of the Valley (as opposed to all snow).
So, pretty big differences between these 3 models right? A Meteorologist’s Instant Headache.
Why is the European model idea more than just a little credible? Two reasons. 1) It’s the European, which again…in a general sense is superior to the other medium range models. 2) The “operational” run, shown here, has quite a bit of support from the European “ensembles”.
Wha?? Again if you are new to this blog you may be wondering what in the world I am talking about. Here’s the quick and dirty answer: The “operational” run is the high-resolution version of a model that is widely available and seen and used by many. Ensembles are lower-resolution versions of the the same model, run multiple times with the initial meteorological conditions changed somewhat each time. This is done to account for the fact that the data fed into any ONE run of a model is never going to be perfect. Changing that data a bit multiple times helps account for those inevitable errors. Sometimes, these small changes in the initial data result in BIG changes to the model “solution”, or what it does with all the weather systems on the map. Sometimes, the changes are small. When the changes are small, the confidence in that solution, or forecast, is higher.
ANYWAY (still with me?), there are over 50 members of the European ensemble model. The mean, or average of all of these is not tooooo far from the idea of the operational model. So, confidence in that operational solution is higher than average.
For Youngstown, right now the operational model (blue) gives us 7 inches of snow. The ensemble mean (green) has 4 inches: Keep in mind that the model output will count ice/sleet as snow, so if the model is “seeing” mixed precipitation, the snow numbers will be inflated to a certain degree.
So, bottom line 5 days out: Next week will start mild but there is potential for a Winter Storm Wednesday-Wednesday night. Right now it’s nothing more than potential. I think odds favor accumulating snow in the Valley, but does that mean one inch or much more? No idea yet.
As always, will keep you updated! Have a good weekend and thanks for reading.