February 14, 2019

Flash Flooding Is Likely In Central And Southern California On Thursday

Flash flooding is likely across parts of California and Arizona on Thursday as an approaching storm system threatens to bring several inches of rain in a short period of time. Flood watches stretch from northern California to southeastern Arizona in anticipation of the heavy rain. It doesn't take much heavy rain in this part of the country to cause significant flooding problems.

A potent upper-level trough moving toward California this hour is responsible for the low-pressure system that will cause all of the headaches on Thursday. The latest forecast from the Weather Prediction Center calls for several inches of rain across most of the state, save for some of the rain shadows and the southern half of the Central Valley.

Accordingly, flash flood watches (that light green Mr. Yuk color) and flood watches (dark green) are in effect for much of California and parts of Arizona. Urban flooding, overflowing waterways, and flash flooding in rough terrain is likely during the heaviest rain. Mudslides are also possible on burn scars.

There's a ton of moisture in the atmosphere for the developing showers and thunderstorms to work with. Southwesterly flow around the southern end of the low is dragging deep tropical moisture north toward California. This ribbon of moisture, known as an "atmospheric river," is usually what's responsible for the intense rain events we see on the West Coast.

Source: CIMSS

You can see the atmospheric river approaching southern California in the image above, which shows precipitable water (PWAT) across the eastern Pacific. Precipitable water is the amount of rain that would fall if you condensed all the water vapor in a column of the atmosphere. If the PWAT over your house is 1.15", it means that you'd get about 1.15" of rain if you condensed all of the water vapor in the atmosphere above your town. PWAT isn't the whole story, of course, but higher PWAT values indicate a better opportunity for heavy rain—it's a deeper reservoir of moisture for showers and thunderstorms to tap into.

It's not just the heavy rain you have to look out for. Some of those thunderstorms could be on the stronger side. The Storm Prediction Center says there's a marginal risk of severe thunderstorms in the Central Valley between Sacramento and Fresno. The agency's late-night forecast on Wednesday said that any thunderstorm that can get strong enough could produce gusty winds, small hall, or even a brief tornado. Tornadoes aren't all that uncommon in California, and this area is exactly where you'd expect to see them develop.

Source: NOHRSC

Also: snow. Lots of it. Not only is this good for ski resorts, but this kind of snowpack will help replenish bodies of water downstream once it all starts to melt during the warmer months. The above analysis from NOHRSC shows seasonal snowfall accumulations between 10 and 20 feet near the mountain peaks, with some areas seeing seasonal totals closer to 30 feet. The latest snowfall forecasts easily add 3+ feet to those totals through this weekend.

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February 8, 2019

The Southeast Just Saw An Exceptionally Warm First Week Of February

This has been an exceptionally warm week for parts of the southern and eastern United States, where record highs fell on Thursday—some in resounding fashion—as daytime high temperatures climbed 30°F or more above normal in spots. The spring preview came to a dramatic end on Friday as a potent cold front returned temperatures to what they should feel like at the beginning of February.

It's something else to see such a stark contrast on a nationwide temperature map. That's about as sharp of a difference between north and south as you can get. The temperature on Thursday afternoon at 2100 UTC—which is 4:00 PM Eastern—was in the 80s across parts of the Carolinas and Georgia while northeastern Montana was mired in the -20s. Temperatures dropped as much as 40 degrees in the Mississippi River Valley when the cold front passed through.

Here's what that setup looks like in the upper levels:

Source: Tropical Tidbits

That upper-level trough is the force behind those bitterly cold temperatures in the north-central part of the United States. It made it up to a whopping -16°F on Thursday afternoon in Glasgow, Montana, while Rapid City, South Dakota, saw a balmy high of -1°F. While that high in Glasgow was a record low maximum (the lowest high temperature) for the date, there have been multiple days in February that didn't get out of the -20s since the station's records began in the late 1940s.

Farther south, that strong ridge over the southeastern states, along with warm, humid winds blowing some evaporated paradise straight from the Gulf and Caribbean, allowed temperatures to soar into record territory today, the climax of an exceptionally warm week for the beginning of February.

The temperature at the airport near my tiny North Carolina town hit 81°F on Thursday. The official co-op station down the street from me recorded 79°F, which was a record high for the date. In fact, if you include today's warmth, 11 of the 29 record highs for the month of February for the nearby observing station were recorded in 2017, 2018, or 2019.

Some more records across the Southeast:
  • Danville, VA, saw a high of 80°F, the second-warmest on record for February.
  • Greensboro, N.C., reached 79°F, beating the previous daily record of 73°F.
  • Raleigh, N.C., reached 79°F, beating the previous daily record of 76°F.
  • Charlotte, N.C., also reached 79°F (see a pattern?), 5°F higher than the old record.
  • Fayetteville, N.C., managed to get up to 81°F, also a daily record.
  • Wilmington, N.C., reached 83°F, tying February's second-highest temperature.
  • Columbia, S.C., hit 83°F, falling 1°F shy of tying the all-time record for February.
  • Charleston, S.C., set a daily high temperature record of 80°F today.
  • Greenville, S.C., saw 77°F today, 7°F higher than the previous daily record.
  • Augusta, GA, reached 85°F (!), the daily record and second-highest for February.
  • Macon, GA, saw a high of 81°F, two degrees higher than the previous daily record.
(Note: I compiled the highs from NOAA's obs pages and the records from xmACIS2.)

It's worth remembering that this is the first week of February—it wouldn't be too out of the ordinary to see temperatures like this on February 28, especially farther south, but that's three weeks from now. Three weeks is an eternity when it comes to the changing seasons.

This exceptional warm-up came directly on the heels of a piece of the much-ballyhooed polar vortex breaking off and slumping down over the Upper Midwest. Raw air temperatures dipped below -40°F for several days in Minnesota and Wisconsin, breaking some impressive records in many locations.

Above-normal temperatures will likely persist in the southeastern United States over the next two weeks, though not by nearly as much of an extreme as we saw this week.

It's malpractice to talk about the warmth without addressing climate change. With each winter cold snap comes an avalanche of climate change jokes.  Har har, climate change is a hoax because I threw a snowball in the Senate. We could use some of that global "waming" when it's this cold out! And on, and on.


When the temperature is 30°F above normal on February 7, though, the folks who make those jokes don't make a peep. Aside from the intellectual dishonesty involved, a large part of the silence in the face of abnormal warmth is the fact that we've grown so used to warmth that we hardly pay any mind to a day that's double-digits above average. We only seem to notice it when it's 80°F at the beginning of February and there are wasps flying around. Unusually cool days stick out like an especially sore thumb because they're getting outnumbered.

I wrote an article for Outside last week explaining how weather is not climate. Climate is the average of weather over a period of time. It can get bitterly cold for a week or two and we can still come in warmer-than-average on the whole. 2018 was the world's fourth-warmest year on record, coming in behind 2016, 2017, and 2015. 2018 was warmer-than-average in 41 of the 48 contiguous states, placed in the top-ten warmest years in 14 states, saw the most precipitation ever recorded in nine states, and saw lots of above-average low temperatures across the country, which is one of the hallmarks of climate change

It may be tempting to question climate change in the face of daytime temperatures far below zero in the northern Plains, but the world is much bigger than our backyards.

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Seattle Could (Briefly) Wind Up With Three Times As Much Snow As Boston By Next Week

The Pacific Northwest has two decent chances at seeing wintry weather over the next couple of days. The first storm could produce up to half a foot of snow at the lower levels in northwestern Washington, while the next storm, which arrives by the middle of next week, could bring the region another shot at accumulating snow. Seattle, which has already seen more snow (2.7") than Boston (2.3") so far this winter, could lap the Massachusetts capital several times before they have a chance to see some snow of their own next week.

Several inches of snow are possible along the I-5 corridor in Washington and Oregon over the next couple of days. The snow will start in northwestern Washington during the day on Friday and last through Saturday morning. The current NWS forecast calls for 4-6 inches of snow across the interior lowlands, including Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett, with higher totals at higher elevations.

The snow on Friday and Saturday won't be too big of a deal down near Portland and Vancouver, but an inch or two of snow can still lead to slick roadways and slippery sidewalks. The NWS forecast for the Portland area actually shows the best chance of accumulating snow on Sunday night, where a couple of inches is possible.

Much like we see in cities back east, it's hard to get a big thump of snow at lower elevations in the Pacific Northwest, especially near the ocean where the water has a moderating influence on temperatures. Nevertheless, it still does snow in cities like Seattle and Portland. Seattle averages a couple of inches of snow every year. Seasonal snowfall totals in Seattle can reach the double-digits, but big snows are far less common here now than they were in the 1950s through 1970s.

Another storm is possible toward the middle of next week, but it's too early for details. Again, a lot has to go right to get a good snowstorm in the lower elevations in this part of the country, so be wary of specifics too far ahead of time.

This has been an interesting winter for the United States so far. If you need more convincing, look no further than the social media posts of jilted snow lovers in Boston, Massachusetts. Despite interior parts of the Northeast getting walloped by snowstorms in recent months, the snow has largely missed the immediate coast. Boston has only seen 2.3" of snow so far this year, and there's not much of anything on the horizon until next week. There's a chance that next week will begin with Seattle's seasonal snowfall total three times higher than what Boston has seen all winter. Isn't that something? (Sorry, snow-loving Bostonians.)

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January 29, 2019

Winter Bottoms-Out With Southern Snow And An Exceptionally Dangerous Cold Snap

A dangerous cold snap and a southern snowfall dominate the weather headlines this week as a piece of the polar vortex—yes, that fake-sounding but very-real weather phenomenon—dips over the Upper Midwest and sends temperatures plummeting almost as far as they can go outside of the Arctic Circle. Wind chill values will come in dramatically lower, subjecting anyone caught exposed outside to frostbite or hypothermia in a matter of minutes.

Here's a timeline of how the next couple of days will play out.


A piece of the polar vortex is responsible for the intense cold snap that will envelop the northern states this week. You can see the upper-level low in the model image at the top of this post (source: PivotalWeather). The image shows height anomalies, and those pinks and whites indicate that the upper-level low is much stronger than what you'd normally expect to see in this part of the country at this time of the year.

The polar vortex is a persistent upper-level circulation that encircles the Arctic during the winter months. The circulation is usually pretty smooth and stable, but an active pattern can cause it to become wavy, allowing bitterly-cold air to flow south to the lower latitudes. A piece of the circulation broke off a few days ago and the resulting upper-level low is moving south toward the Great Lakes, bringing with it some of the coldest air the region has seen in years.

The bitter cold will begin to set in across the Midwest and the Great Lakes on Tuesday as the upper-level low settles into place. Highs across the two regions will struggle to climb above zero for a couple of days. The latest National Weather Service forecast shows most of Minnesota spending Tuesday in the double-digits below zero—these are daytime highs, mind you—with nearby states like Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and parts of Iowa and Illinois spending the heat of the afternoon hovering around zero.

Wind chill values on Tuesday could come in 20°F or more lower than the actual air temperature. The wind chill is what it feels like on your skin when you combine the air temperature and the wind speed. Some folks like to argue that it's a "fake" temperature meant to scare people and drive ratings—a former editor even flippantly tweeted that I had a brain defect for asserting that the heat index and wind chill are valid measurements based on scientific studies—but, despite the naysayers, the wind chill has a real effect on the human body.

A temperature of -10°F with a 5 MPH wind has the same effect on your body as an actual air temperature of -21°F, meaning that frostbite and hypothermia will set in even more quickly than it would if there was no wind at all. It's not meant to trick you into thinking it's colder than it really is. It's meant to tell you that the cold air can hurt you faster than you realize.

Farther to the south, we're dealing with another issue that could cause society to completely fall apart: measurable snow in the southeast. Communities from Baton Rouge to Atlanta could see an inch or two of snow as a cold front moves through the region on Tuesday. Snow doesn't play well in the south. Drivers can't handle it and some localities don't have the equipment to remove it from the roads right away. Most schools in the affected areas are already closed, so hopefully there won't be any ice-related catastrophes like we've seen in recent years.

Tuesday Night and Wednesday Morning

That southern snow shouldn't stick around too long, but the combination of melting snow and puddles from rain will make roads icy all across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic on Wednesday morning. Some roads will become skating rinks as temperatures plummet below freezing not long after the end of the precipitation.

Wednesday morning will feel cruel and unforgiving in the Midwest. The NWS predicts that Minneapolis could hit -30°F, which would be the coldest temperature the city has recorded since a -32°F low on February 2, 1996. Wednesday's low in Chicago will come close to -20°F, and subzero temperatures are forecast to reach as far south as St. Louis and Kansas City.

Wind chills on Wednesday morning will drop into the -60s (that's negative-sixties) in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the eastern Dakotas, which can lead to frostbite on exposed skin in the time it takes to walk across a large parking lot.

The snow will be long gone in the southeast when it's just getting cranked up in the Northeast and Great Lakes. Two separate snow events will take place on Tuesday night and Wednesday. The latest snowfall forecast from the Weather Prediction Center shows several inches of snow falling along the I-95 corridor from Virginia to Maine. The heaviest snow will fall in the interior Northeast, where the highest elevations could see up to a foot of snow, with even more possible downwind of Lake Ontario.

Western Michigan will see a significant lake effect snowstorm on Wednesday and Thursday as westerly winds pump bitterly cold air over an unfrozen Lake Michigan. Traverse City, Muskegon, and possibly even Grand Rapids could see a foot or more of snow by Thursday evening.


High temperatures on Wednesday will...not be all that high. The good folks at the National Weather Service don't see temperatures climbing above zero across the entire states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Single-digit highs are possible as far south as St. Louis, Cincinnati, and as far east as western New York.

It will be 72°F in Phoenix on Wednesday.

Wednesday Night and Thursday Morning

Lows on Thursday morning will be just as bad as Wednesday—if not a little worse—across the hardest-hit areas. International Falls could chime in with a temperature of -43°F, while Minneapolis and Chicago remain just about the same as they were 24 hours earlier. The sub-zero temperatures will spread farther east on Thursday morning. The good folks at the NWS expect Scranton (what? the Electric City!) to reach -4°F and Washington, D.C., to enjoy a balmy low of 8°F.


You can still generously call Thursday's high temperatures "frigid," but they'll be on their way up as the upper-level low responsible for the Arctic outburst begins to retreat back into the depths of Canada where it belongs. You can see hints of a ridge building in the southern United States, where temperatures across Texas will come in around short-sleeves-and-open-windows degrees.

The Days After Tomorrow

The second-most impressive thing about this cold is how quickly it'll vanish. Look at this temperature forecast for Chicago from Weather Underground:

Chicago will go from about 50 hours of sub-zero temperatures to about 50 hours of above-freezing temperatures with just 36 hours separating the two events. This cold will seem never-ending, but it's going to end in a hurry. The flash-freeze and flash-defrost could lead to big issues for homeowners and public works crews as pipes and roads suddenly expand from the wild temperature fluctuations.

We could be talking about severe thunderstorms in the Southeast by this time next week.

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January 25, 2019

A Piece Of The Polar Vortex (Ahh! Oh No!) Will Bring Bitter Temps To Parts Of U.S. Next Week

A delightfully dreadful cold snap that's colder and snappier than any we've seen in the past couple of years will spread over parts of the northern United States later next week as a lobe of the polar vortex—yes, that polar vortex—breaks off and spins south for a couple of days. Worry not, my friends, for the polar vortex smells your fear.

This will not be the worst outbreak of Arctic air the northern United States has ever seen. It will be cold. It will be colder for longer than we've seen in a while. It will be dangerously cold in some spots, so much so that going outside with any exposed skin could lead to frostbite or worse in just a couple of minutes. There's no sugarcoating or facetious weather blogging that can mask how brutal and potentially dangerous the cold will be.

No authentic weather panic is complete without a scary buzzword to help drive headlines deep into your psyche. Since 2014, the buzzword of choice for any Grade A Cold Snap is "polar vortex." Despite the lack of earth-shattering records, though, we've neatly transitioned into collectively losing our marbles over the term "polar vortex" with the stellar efficiency of a Japanese rail company.

The polar vortex is real. It's been around forever. It's a large-scale, upper-level circulation that typically encircles the Arctic regions during the winter months. The most popular analogy is to describe it as an atmospheric moat that helps keep winter's coldest air confined to the farthest reaches of the Arctic Circle.

The polar vortex is fairly stable most of the time, but major upheavals in the jet stream can cause the circulation to become wobbly, sending tendrils of the circulation diving south toward the lower latitudes. Sometimes a piece of the vortex can break off, resulting in a frigid cutoff upper-level low meandering southward for several days before it's reabsorbed into the broader circulation.

That's it. That's all it is. It's not some day-after-tomorrow kind of aberration or a Langolier that's tired of chewing on the past and wants you for dessert. Sort of like "derecho" and "atmospheric river," though, the foreboding nature of the term makes it perfect for click-seeking news coverage to run with and snag the interest of people who have never heard it before.

The scenario we'll see this week is a piece of the (rather disheveled) circulation breaking off. An impressive upper-level low will traverse southern Canada and slowly move across the Great Lakes during the middle of next week.

Source: Tropical Tidbits
The above animation shows the GFS model's vision of the 500 mb level of the atmosphere through the middle of next week. You can see the upper-level low in question over the Arctic Ocean at the beginning of the animation and track it south through Nunavut, reaching the Great Lakes midweek before it begins to retreat toward northern Quebec where it belongs.

Here's a closer look:

Source: Tropical Tidbits

This change in patterns will allow some of the coldest air in the northern hemisphere to wash over the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, and parts of the Northeast for several days, resulting in high temperatures that don't even come close to climbing above zero.


This animation runs from today (Friday, January 25) through next Thursday, January 31. I created  those maps of the NWS forecast at about 10:00 PM on Thursday night (my life is thrilling), so some of the forecast data may be different by the time this post is published, but the underlying message is still there: Brr.

The Upper Midwest will bear the brunt of the cold weather. The very coldest temperatures seem to follow the Mississippi River through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, where low temperatures in the -20s and -30s will be widespread toward the middle of next week. The temperature in Minneapolis is expected to drop below zero on Monday afternoon and stay there through the end of the week, if not longer. The same is true for towns all across the region.

The Weather Prediction Center keeps a nifty website that keeps track of all the NWS's predicted temperatures and compares them to daily records for those locations. More than 30 locations across the region are predicted to see record-low maximum temperatures (or the lowest high temperature) for January 30 and January 31, and a few dozen locations will come close to seeing record lows over the same period.

Looking at the cold air on the map is almost pleasing for someone not in the worst of it—the temperature contours on Wednesday almost perfectly radiate away from the Great Lakes like a ripple on a pond—but it also means that few parts of the country will remain untouched by the below-normal temperatures. Subfreezing nighttime temperatures will reach all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico for a couple of days, sparing only the southwest, extreme southern Texas, and southern Florida, all three of which stand out like sore thumbs on a map of abject misery.

(Side note: You may notice that there are some minor discrepancies in temperature forecasts across geographic lines, especially four or five days out. These high/low forecasts are each created by more than 100 individual NWS offices across the country. Offices don't always agree with each other. They come into better agreement—and typically smooth-out their forecasts from one jurisdiction to the next—with time.)

A fast-moving storm system will precede the outbreak of very cold air. Right now, it looks like the storm will drop several inches of snow on the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes on Monday, with some totals reaching 6" or more in spots. The fresh snowpack will add insult to injury with such cold air moving into place.

* * * * *

Apropos of everything, all of the forecast data I used in this post is sourced from National Weather Service meteorologists who are working full schedules without a paycheck during the longest government shutdown in history. 800,000 federal employees missed another paycheck today and may have to begin February by telling their landlords, credit holders, utilities, schools, and everyone else that they don't have the money to pay them because their paycheck was $0.00 again. People are going to go hungry. People will lose their homes. Some people will lose their lives because they can't afford medicines and medical treatment.

The good folks at the National Weather Service are powering through the payless-shutdown without missing a beat, predicting one nasty storm after another, spending time away from their family to serve in a government that, at the present, doesn't believe they deserve a paycheck.

We're far beyond neutrality and "stick to the weather" territory. If you care about the weather—if you care about your neighbors and fellow Americans who are hurting—please contact your state's senators and demand that they vote to reopen the government. We're all so much better for the dedicated service of our federal workforce. They give us so much. The least we could do is fight on their behalf.

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January 23, 2019

Call Your Senator And Demand They Vote To End This Ridiculous Government Shutdown

Here's a look at current ice conditions on the Great Lakes. This is important information for folks who live along the shores of the lakes—especially mariners—as well as folks who have a vested interest in anticipating lake effect snow, which can continue until the lakes are sufficiently capped by surface ice.


Well, instead of talking about ice on the Great Lakes, let's take a look at how climate change will affect ice coverage in the future. We'll just mosey on over to climate dot gov to...


Good thing there isn't much of a tsunami risk on the Great Lakes. If I wanted to go research information about them to write a post, NOAA's tsunami website is also switched off:

The good folks at the National Weather Service—and lots of other very important federal agencies—are expected to work a full schedule without pay during this government shutdown. Important data is lost to a generic redirect screen because they don't have the funds or humanpower to keep the sites and servers running.

Thankfully, crucial services such as weather.gov, the Storm Prediction Center, and the National Tsunami Warning Center, are all up and running as dedicated employees report to work as scheduled even though they're not looking at a paycheck anytime soon.

It's been over a month since this ridiculous government shutdown began. One hour was too long. 33 days is criminal. Call the White House to demand that President Tru—oh, wait, the White House switchboard is also disabled because of the government shutdown.

Call your Senator and pressure them to pass a bill to reopen the government. The House has passed multiple bills to reopen the government over the past month only to see them all languish in the Senate as Sen. Mitch McConnell refuses to bring them up for a vote. We're finally going to see a vote on two shutdown-related bills this Thursday. One is a clean bill to get the government back up and running, and there an outside chance it could get close to the 60 votes needed to overcome the inevitable filibuster attempt.

There comes a point when you can't be neutral anymore. "Stick to the weather" only flies so far. Forcing federal employees to go without two paychecks—when many can barely get by on one paycheck to begin with—is an unconscionable escalation of the destruction of the way things are supposed to work. Hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of eviction, foreclosure, repossession, malnutrition, starvation, and financial destruction, all over nothing but an ego.

Meteorologists at the National Weather Service and their devoted colleagues all across the federal government deserve every dime of their paycheck and so much more. We owe it to them to lay on our elected representatives to run the dang country and get them the money and support they've earned.

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January 19, 2019

A Disruptive Weekend Storm Will Blanket Much of the Northeast With Over a Foot of Snow

The early flakes of a widespread and disruptive winter storm are already flying across parts of the Plains and the Midwest as a low-pressure system gets its act together and heads east. This weekend's winter storm will produce a large swath of snowfall in excess of one foot from the Ohio Valley to New England. Isolated areas just south of the rain/snow cutoff could see a damaging ice storm.

Snow, ice, and a chilly rain will continue to develop through early Saturday morning as a low-pressure system gathers organization and strength in the Midwest. Heavy precipitation will spread across the Midwest and Ohio Valley through daybreak on Saturday. The heaviest snow should reach Ohio and Pennsylvania by Saturday evening, spreading through the rest of the Northeast overnight Saturday and into Sunday.

This will be a disruptive snowstorm for just about the entire Northeast save for the immediate coastline. The National Weather Service expects a foot or more of snow to fall from northeastern Ohio through the Canadian Maritimes. The heaviest snow will fall from central Pennsylvania through Maine, where snowfall totals of 18-24" are likely, with higher totals in higher elevations. Exact snowfall totals really stop mattering once you get this high up the yardstick, but in an instance like this, more snow will lead to a thicker slab of glacial ice encrusting the Northeast once temperatures plummet behind the storm.

If you're wondering what's up with that weird bullseye of snow over the Chicago area, the NWS is predicting double-digit snowfall totals in northeastern Illinois thanks to an expected lake effect snow event on Lake Michigan this weekend. Models continue to suggest that one or more bands of north-south oriented lake effect snow will develop on Lake Michigan and blanket its southern shores with extra snow on top of what falls during the big storm. The main shield of snow with the storm is expected to continue through Saturday afternoon. There should be a brief lull before the lake effect snow picks up on Saturday night and continues through the day on Sunday.

Back east, there will be a sharp cutoff between the rain and the snow. That's tricky business when the event will take place so close to so many major metropolitan areas. The entire I-95 corridor between Philly and Boston is close enough that it would only take a southward nudge of a few dozen miles in the storm's track to bring heavier snows into the major metro areas. Forecasters don't believe that's the most likely scenario at this point, but it's always worth keeping in mind that the cutoff of heavy snow isn't that far away.

Source: NWS EDD

The transition zone just to the south of the snow will feature sleet and freezing rain for a period during the storm. The latest forecasts from local NWS offices show the possibility for a crust of ice from Virginia through Maine, with the most significant icing possible in western Maryland and southern New England. Those spots could see up to half an inch of ice accretion from freezing rain according to the latest forecasts, which would cause widespread tree damage and power outages. We had 0.30" of ice from freezing rain here in my part of North Carolina last weekend and some people in my town were without power for three days. Snow is bad, but ice is worse.

Hundreds (if not thousands) of flights will be delayed or cancelled due to the combination of wintry precip, heavy rain, low visibility, and trickle-down effects from connecting airports. Rail service will likely be delayed or cancelled due to snow and ice. Travel by car will be nearly impossible in areas that see more than a foot of snow. I wouldn't be terribly surprise if we wind up with news of people getting stuck on the side of the highway when the heaviest snow starts cranking.

The snow that falls won't go anywhere anytime soon. Temperatures are going to crash through the floor as bitterly cold air floods in behind this storm system. The freezing line will make it as far south as Florida on Sunday and Monday nights as the cold snap rotates through the eastern half of the country. Many communities in the Midwest, Great Lakes, and Northeast will see temperatures in the single digits and below zero for a couple of mornings. Monday will be the coldest day; highs on Monday will struggle to climb above zero in western New York.

Temperatures this cold will freeze solid any snow, sleet, and ice through the middle of next week. It will be extremely difficult to remove lingering snow from solid surfaces once it gets this cold. We could also see a flash freeze on Sunday as the bitterly cold air washes over wet roads where most of the precipitation fell as rain, so keep the potential for unexpected black ice in mind if you're out and about on Sunday.

We're heading into an active pattern for the final half of January. This is just the first round. It's too early to say what's to come, but it's certainly going to stay cold for most of us east of the Rockies.

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January 17, 2019

Former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers Renominated to Run NOAA

President Donald Trump on Wednesday renominated former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers for the position of NOAA Administrator. Myers' nomination has been stalled since October 2017 due to opposition over his conflicts of interest and general pleasure with Acting Administrator Tim Gallaudet's performance on the job. His nomination expired at the beginning of the month with the end of the 115th Congress.

The (now-former) CEO of AccuWeather faced opposition for the head job at NOAA as the company he and his brothers have run for decades considers the National Weather Service a direct competitor. Critics worry that Myers would use his position to diminish the reach of the NWS in favor of his family's Pennsylvania-based weather company, or use the office to make decisions for the financial benefit of weather companies such as his own.

I elaborated on some of the worries when Myers' nomination expired a few weeks ago:
The greatest single point of opposition to Barry Myers leading NOAA is the many conflicts of interest that would follow Myers into office. The greatest example of these potential conflicts was his company's support for S.786—the National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005. The bill, introduced and unilaterally supported by former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), would have effectively privatized the NWS and used the agency to subsidize private weather companies.

Santorum's legislation would have required the National Weather Service to stop issuing public forecasts except for "severe weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property of the general public"—in other words, it limited the agency's public portfolio to emergencies like tornado warnings. All of their other forecasts, products, and data had to be provided "through a set of data portals designed for volume access by commercial providers of products or services," turning private weather companies into middlemen between the NWS and the public. 


A failed piece of legislation from a decade-and-a-half ago isn't the entire reason for opposition to Myers' nomination. But it typifies the potential that exists for Myers to act in ways that benefit companies like AccuWeather. The nominee would enter office with enormous conflicts of interest in tow. If Myers became the NOAA Administrator, he would control the agency that directly competes with his company. Even if Myers divested from AccuWeather, his brothers still control the company and he has a vested interest in seeing his family's company thrive against the direct competitor he would control.
Myers will also be one of the only NOAA Administrators in the agency's history not to hold a science degree.

The move did not come as a surprise. AccuWeather announced earlier this month that Myers resigned his position as CEO on January 1 and divested his financial interest in the company. Myers' renomination to the post, along with his resignation and divestiture from AccuWeather, is a sign that the increased Republican majority in the U.S. Senate will likely confirm Myers to the position at some point in the near future.

[Top Image: Pierre cb via Wikimedia Commons]

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