FROM TWISTERS TO SNOW...
Back in 1974 I was a big haired high school senior at Iowa City West. I had a lot of things on the table including my future profession. Weather was an option but not a field I had entirely committed to. Then came April 3, 1974. A perfect union of moisture, energy, instability and shear produced a vicious tornado outbreak that included 148 tornadoes in just 18 hours time.
All my life I had been fascinated by twisters and while the storms that day missed eastern Iowa I remember watching the evening news and seeing the widespread scenes of destruction. Even more memorable was the amount of pictures and videos of actual tornadoes.
In my formative days it was a rare find indeed when I actually could scrounge up a still image of a tornado. Videos did not exist. However, in the early 70s video cameras and recorders hit the scene and in no time I found a few tornadoes caught on tape. How amazing they were!
Then came April 3rd and numerous large violent tornadoes were shown tearing up places like Xenia, Ohio shown below.
When I saw them I was mesmerized and blown away by what I observed. It was the day a focused light came on for me. Tornadoes and I were going to have a love hate relationship that would last a lifetime. It was the Super Outbreak of 1974 that blew open the door for my career in meteorology.
So every year when I see the calendar reach April 3rd or 4th, I reverently remember the 2 days. Sadly, many others remember that time with sadness as 335 people perished and another 6,000 were injured. Here's a nice recap of the event article written by Kathryn Prociv for U.S. Tornadoes.
Moving on, that brings me to the next storm which hits the central Midwest Tuesday night-Wednesday. The fun thing about this system is the fact it could be a spring snow producer. Both the NAM and GFS show a low on a similar track near St. Louis Wednesday morning. They both depict a heavy swath of precipitation that cuts through the SE half of my area. Here's the total precip. on the GFS followed by the NAM.
Where things get interesting is how each model handles the thermal profiles. The GFS is warmer and shows a surface pattern that looks like this Wednesday. Nothing but rain.
The NAM on the other hand is just cold enough to produce a swath of snow that cuts from SE Iowa into Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Now compare the 2 snowfall forecasts. One has a late season snow for parts of my area. The other nothing but a cold rain. Here's the GFS
Now the snowier NAM.
Looking at the two models its really a tough call to say if my local area will get in on the snow or not. 5,000 ft temperatures are very similar but the GFS does not produce the dynamic cooling necessary to cool the column enough to get the snow to the ground. This is a really tough call but I still think the potential is there for a heavy band of slushy snow in some part of SE Iowa or NW Illinois. A single degree could very well make the difference between several inches of snow and a cold wind driven rain. I'm at the mercy of the weather gods on this one and hope to have more clarity in Tuesday's new data.
One thing's for sure, whether it's twisters or snowstorms, my passion is providing you with critical information that can make a difference. That will never change and that's no bull. I'll leave it at that for now. Until next time, roll weather...TS