46 years ago today I was a junior at Iowa City West. Instead of attending school, myself and thousands of other Iowans were enjoying a snow day, one of three that resulted from and epic blizzard that raged over parts of eastern Iowa and southern Wisconsin April 8th and 9th of 1973. 70 mph winds and up to 20″ of snow fell on a line from Belle Plaine to Dubuque and completely shut down traffic. Plows had been dismantled and the intense snowfall and winds caught everyone by surprise. The blizzard would have been spectacular by mid-winter standards, but coming in April it was a once in a century event known as Iowa's perfect storm.
It was so amazing and is so ingrained in my memory that every anniversary I think of it with reverence. Here's a few pictures. The First from the Cedar Rapids Gazette of Blaires Ferry road littered with stranded cars.
Here's a few more from the Des Moines Register.
Note the armored personnel vehicle used by the Iowa National Guard to rescue stranded travelers on Interstate 80 below.
All hail the blizzard, it may be another 50 years or more before another April storm like that!
We've got another April dervish to deal with the next couple of days but the blizzard side of it will be to our northwest. Look at the blizzard warnings in effect in South Dakota and Minnesota. Winter storm watches in other areas.
While there could be a bit of snow in my northern counties (north of HWY 20 the worst of it is projected to stay in that swath that cuts from South Dakota into Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Here's a few of the latest snowfall forecasts.
The 3k NAM
Of course there will be a rainy side to the system but with the way the lift is setting up the rain should drift northward across my area during the day Wednesday leaving much of the area south of HWY 30 drier by afternoon. Even the north should see a noticeable decrease in precipitation coverage Wednesday night. Once that happens any additional rain looks scattered through Thursday.
What will need to be watched is the potential for some strong thunderstorms Thursday afternoon, especially along and south of I-80 in southeast Iowa and WC Illinois. A warm front is projected to reach that area separating temperatures in the far north near 40 from readings in the far south that could reach 70. Dew points south of the warm front should climb to 55 to 60 before a dry line arrives in the afternoon. If the instability is realized and the timing of the front is right, strong shear will exists that could kick up some strong storms. If they can become surface based a tornado threat is even a possibility. It's a complicated equation that we won't have the answer to until Thursday morning. Stay tuned in you live in SE Iowa or WC Illinois.
Here's some rain forecasts for the duration of the event (through Friday).
The 3k NAM
The other big issue the next 2 days is wind. This is a big old cyclone with a 977mb pressure forecast later Wednesday. That will make it a wind machine with gusts both Wednesday and Thursday in the range of 30 to 45 mph (perhaps 50). The 3k NAM has 48 kt gusts Wednesday evening in Waterloo. That's about 55 mph!
Temperatures will also vary dramatically depending on where you are in my area. The EURO has this for highs Wednesday and Thursday. Where it stays cold north of the warm front it's going to be very chilly with the howling east winds!
Bottom line, there's lots of variety and forecast challenges ahead. Wild and woolly, spring in the Midwest! Roll weather...TS