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A major fall storm is set to spin up over the Midwest during the next 24 hours. It's going to be a slow mover and once it has us in its grips, it will make for an ugly period of weather into the weekend. Unsightful as it will be, the ongoing drought makes the rain desperately needed. For those who depend on it, it will be a beautiful kind of ugly!

Before we dive into the rain, some of us did see our first freezing temperatures of the season Monday night. The coldest readings were noted in NW Iowa where Spencer dipped to 27. However, in my area Clinton reported 29, Cedar Rapids 30, Independence 31, and Dubuque 32.

Here's some of the specific numbers from Iowa Mesonet reports.

Overnight, a similar set-up is anticipated and the NE half of my area is under a frost advisory until 9:00am. Dry air, light winds, and fair skies should allow healthy radiational cooling leading to lows of 28-32 and plenty of frost. The far SW may see some high clouds by morning allowing only scattered frost which is not expected to be harmful. Lows here should be more in the 34-38 degree category.


Before we get to the details of the storm, you can see why this rain event is so important to the region, especially in eastern Iowa where widespread extreme to even exceptional drought is in place. Over the past 15 days just 0.11 of an inch of rain has fallen at the NWS office in Davenport, Iowa.

Tuesday night the system on satellite is still in the formative stages as energy enters the Pacific Northwest. Well ahead of that, moisture is streaming north on the sub-tropical jet from Mexico into the Plains.

In the animation below you can watch the closed circulation off the Washington coast dig southeast and then track across the Midwest Wednesday through Saturday. That's a healthy energetic storm.

Water vapor levels on Friday reach 1.25 to nearly 1.50 inches. That's about 200% above normal, ranking in the 90th percentile of climatology.

Initially, the storm will be battling dry air Wednesday. However, a strong warm front sets up over southern Iowa creating a healthy baroclinic boundary for the low level jet to impinge upon Wednesday night and Thursday. By that time moisture is pooled along the front generating widespread showers and thunderstorms, some of which are likely to be heavy. The warm front will be slow to move north but eventually should get north of I-80 and finally HWY 30 Thursday evening. That puts an end to this initial round of warm air advection and its forcing from south to north during the day Thursday. At this time, showers and storms should become widely scattered and may even end for a period of time, especially across the south.

The focus then turns to the surface low and its attendant cold front which ignites another round of showers and storms Friday into Friday evening. Again, with deep moisture still in place the potential is there for pockets of heavy rain. There is also a chance that near the triple point (surface low), some low topped high shear supercells could develop Friday afternoon. A severe storm is possible near the intersection of the warm front and cold front in SE Iowa. This is highly contingent on some heating which is far from a sure thing. It is worth watching.

Finally, as the surface low passes into northern Illinois Friday night windy conditions will develop and rain becomes light and showery in nature. Wrap around showers may continue into parts of Saturday, particularly north of I-80. Saturday looks to be a raw chilly day with gusty NW winds.

There's better agreement on the track of the system in today's guidance and that is leading to higher confidence that that heavier rain totals of 2 to perhaps 3 inches will occur in the northern half of my area (near and north of I-80). That said, even the south is in line for an inch or more if trends hold. Here's what the latest guidance is suggesting for rain totals.



The Weather Prediction Center

The NBM (National Blend of Models)

The 12k NAM

The 10K Canadian GEM

Temperatures are going to be challenging going forward as they are going to be driven by the surface low and the position of the associated warm front. Wednesday the warm front is well south and it may take much of the day for rain to reach the north as clouds increase. Most spots should end up close to 60.

Thursday the warm front really sharpens up and is shown progressing to about I-80 by evening. That is likely to create a significant temperature contrast with highs only in the mid 50s north with the far south pushing the upper 70s. Here's what the EURO shows.

Friday should be relatively mild with readings near 60 north to the low to mid 70s south before the cold front arrives towards evening. After that cold air advection begins with a vengeance and Saturday is windy and nasty with temperatures steady or even falling in the upper 40s to low 50s with scattered light showers. Sunday should be dry but very much on the cool side with highs remaining in the low to mid 50s.

Time is ticking and the rain machine will be up and running soon. Here's to what looks like a good soaker for most of the area. In this case a beautiful kind of ugly. Roll weather...TS



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