DAZED AND CONFUSED? BIG STORM ON THE WAY...

February 23, 2017

 

Holy cow, what a remarkable day Wednesday turned out to be. Every station in my local area had a record high for the date, several even broke all time records for February. This squirrel's picture was taken in Cedar Rapids. Note the spikes of green grass and the confused look on its face. Can't blame the little dude, we were all a bit "nutty"! Thanks to my man Brandon Marshall for the pic.

Here's a plot of weather stations at or near record highs at 3:00pm Wednesday afternoon. Wow!

As I mentioned, every station in my area set records. That's a big deal but what really impressed me is how much we crushed the old records by. Iowa City with a 77 beat the old record of 63 by 14 degrees. They literally destroyed the previous mark. That type of thrashing is highly unprecedented.

Additionally, 3 of the 4 major cities in my TV DMA had all-time February warmth. That included Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and Dubuque. Waterloo at 69 has its 2nd all-time warmest February high.

To add some context to just how warm it was, the high of 76 in Cedar Rapids is the average high June 1st...a full 40 degrees above normal. Are you kidding me?

Well, the fat lady is singing and the pattern is changing to one far more typical of late February. The fun gets underway Thursday as a deep low cranks up over Kansas and heads towards SE Iowa. You can see the energy coming into the southwest on the water vapor image below.

By Thursday night the NAM4k shows the surface low is deepening and crossing Iowa. Rain and thunderstorms are occurring in much of Iowa and Illinois. In the cold sector you can see the snow that's hammering the upper Midwest.

By midnight Friday the storm is into Wisconsin. Wind and cold air are advancing across the central U.S. The deformation band snows are starting to sweep into eastern Iowa and NW Illinois. Also, you can see a squall line out ahead of the cold front blitzing Michigan and Ohio.

 

The Storm Prediction Center has that region outlooked for severe storms.

On the cold side of the system snows will mount up and strong winds up to 40mph could really blow it around. A blizzard watch is out for parts of Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota in green. Winter storm watches are flying in blue.

With regards to the snow, there's no doubt the focus for the heaviest amounts will be in a corridor from the NW half of Iowa through SE Minnesota and NW Wisconsin. A new development Wednesday night is the GFS shifting the storm track further SE. If that's the case, heavier snows would fall further SE than where the watches currently exist. This could have a significant impact on my counties in NE Iowa. The new surface position on the night run of the GFS.

 

This is what the latest GFS run shows for snowfall.

 

Rain and thunderstorms will also play a significant role with this disturbance. Precipitable water levels (PWATS) are as high as 1.25" into Iowa. As you can see in the graphic below, that level is about 200 to 300%  higher (or 2-3 times) more than what you would expect for late February. Hence, the potential for some rains of more than an inch.

The GFS is showing rainfall totals that look like this.

 

Overall, this system has the potential to be a high impact storm for many parts of the Midwest. I'm jacked about the potential and the challenges it presents.

 

By the way, extremes come in a variety of forms. While we baked in record warmth today, February of 1895 was a bitter one over the southeastern U.S. Here's a picture of Houston, Texas after the city was buried by an unprecedented snowstorm with 20" of snow. Let me tell you, they were more freaked about the snow than we were about our record warmth!

Well, that's all I've got for you tonight. Time to get some rest, the next couple of days will be busy in the weather office. Until next time, roll weather...TS 

 

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© 2019 Terry Swails