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January 18, 2011 / Dave Gorham

Plains Snow Storm to Become Next Nor'easter

I began yesterday’s YWB posting with a reference to Foreigner’s 1977 hit, “Cold as Ice.” Given the situation today, I thought it appropriate to continue with two more Foreigner hits, “Say You Will” and “That Was Yesterday.” We’re going back a few years! Remember “Say You Will” has the hook: Say you will, say you won’t, make up your mind tonight. While “That Was Yesterday” has the chorus, That was yesterday, but today life goes on. No more hiding in yesterday ’cause yesterday’s gone.

I had both of these songs floating around in my mind as today’s forecast is a bit “less” than yesterday’s. Different yes, and a bit “softer” as well, but still a winter storm is taking shape with a fast-moving nor’easter as the coup de grâce.

Two things are driving this situation. Temperatures first, and second an upper-level storm system tied to a surface low pressure center that will quickly move from the central Plains to off the coast of the Northeast between Wednesday and Friday while transitioning from a Plains and Midwest snowstorm to a nor’easter — the third nor’easter in about three week’s time.

Yesterday’s blog discussed the risk of Arctic air driving southward by the end of the week. Yet the bitterly cold air has yet to begin its journey. No doubt, it remains bitterly cold in northwestern Canada. However the northern Plains of the United States, though quite cold, have yet to indicate the arrival of the Arctic air mass. Consider: If the Arctic air is to reach the Gulf Coast by the end of the week it needs to be in the northern Plains by now. As for the forecast, it will be cold in the South but it doesn’t quite look like the widespread hard freeze for the Gulf Coast as considered yesterday.

Compared to yesterday, subtle differences reveal a winter storm just slightly "less" than was expected this time yesterday. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch.

As for the nor’easter, there is additional good news. It will be a fast mover. Not only will it clear through the eastern half of the United States before the weekend, its relative speed will prevent the high snow accumulations that would be expected with storm moving more slowly.

Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch.

The morning’s StormWatch graphics show a similarity to yesterday, but a closer examination shows less westward extent of the freezing precipitation, less snowfall accumulation for northern areas and less rainfall for the southern States. Again, the decreased accumulations will be the result of the fast-moving nature of the low pressure area.

Snow accumulation may reach 8 inches or perhaps somewhat higher in the New York Tristate region, as well as New England. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch.

The last forecast detail to consider is the high pressure that quickly moves in behind the departing low pressure. By Friday the high is firmly established across the central U.S. Though strong northerly winds east of the high will sweep brisk and cold Canadian winds across the Great Lakes and the eastern third of the country, a strong return flow will allow southerly winds to displace the cold air and allow a warm-up (of sorts) from Texas to the Upper Mississippi River Valley into the weekend. As an example of the warm-up, Minneapolis is expecting single-digit temperatures Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and then to near 20 by Monday. I’m sure they’ll be happy for anything they can get, but I doubt it will get them “Hot Blooded.” (And that’s my last Foreigner reference, I promise!)

The latest video from the ImpactWeather StormWatch team, with Meteorologist Chris Hebert, can be seen on the ImpactWeather YouTube channel.

By Friday a pronounced southerly flow across the Plains and Upper Mississippi River Valley brings an end - for now - to the cold air intruding from the north. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch.

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