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It seems there's never a dull moment in our weather anymore and Monday another rare winter event was added to the list. A tornado touched down early afternofon southwest of Cedar Rapids near the towns of Williamsburg and Conroy. My boy Nick Stewart, meteroglogist at KGAN TV in Cedar Rapids, chased down the storm and sent me this image. That's pretty impressive for January 16th. In fact, I believe this is only the second time tornadoes have been reported in Iowa during the month of January. The last time was January 24th, 1967, when 13 tornadoes were reported in southeast Iowa. If my memory serves me, this is only be the 2nd January tornado ever photographed in Iowa. That is a really big deal and I send kudos to Mr. Stewart for what he was able to document!

Another view from Nick. Notice the tornado in the background with snow drifts in the ditches. Crazy!

In the satellite image below you can see the impressive spin (vorticity shear) that kicked up the low-topped supercell.

Notice too, the dry slot that brought sunshine and temperatures into the low 60s over SE Iowa. Winds were nicely backed near the warm-front close to the surface low in central Iowa. There was just enough moisture and heating to crank out convection and maximize the shear. Hail up to a quarter inch was also found.

Here's a radar view of the cell that produced the tornado. By this time it had lifted by rotation was still evident and warnings were still in place just east of Cedar Rapids.

Here's the mesocale discussion from SPC relating thier thoughts on the brief nature of the tornado threat.

Say what you will, tornadoes are hard to come by in January as they are in all winter months. However, it is becoming more common. As you may recall, last December 15th Iowa experienced its all-time tornado outbreak for any month of the year with 63 twisters touching down. Something's not right....

By the way, the January 24th 1967 tornado outbreak was quickly followed by a blizzard that produced Chicago's largest 24 hour snowfall of 23 inches. Burlington, Iowa had a record breaking 13.5" inches of snow less than 36 hours hours after a tornado killed an individual in nearby Ft. Madison. I did an in depth post on the event several years ago which you can view by clickiing the link below.


Now that Monday's rain event has passed, attention is focused on the next storm up which is due in Wednesday night and Thursday. The system's track has vascillated significantly over the last 5 days which has made it difficult to pin down snow potential. However, guidance has grown closer on a track that takes the center from SE Kansas to NE Missouri and a bit north of Chicago. That keeps my area in the cold sector of the storm. It's also a track favorable for heavy snow.

However, cold air is once again lagging and that means outside of the far north. much of the precipitation falls as rain. Even in the north, precipitation starts as rain and then changes to snow long enough to get some accumulations. Once again for those of us who love our snow, this is another one of those tantalizing situations for all but my northwestern counties. While things are still not etched in stone, barring a last minute shift south there is good consensus now that the highest snow accumulations (1-3 inches) will be near and NW of a line from Cedar Rapids to roughly Dubuque. The usual suspects, the NW half of Iowa, SE Minnesota, and central Wisconsin should see the brunt of the snow. I will say the GFS did make a shift south in its totals but the EURO held fast in its ideas. Due to it's overall consistency, I prefer the EURO solution and that is why I believe the highest amounts will be near and north of a line from roughly Cedar Rapids to Dubuque. If trends hold look for winter weather advisories to come out for the area at some time in the next 24 hours. Much lighter amounts of an inch or less are likely southeast of that line. Here's what models are currently suggesting for snow accumulations. I've put the official NWS forecast is at the tail end. It looks in the ballpark to me.



The 3K NAM

The national model blend.

Here's the other side of the coing with heavier amounts indicated further south on the GFS and 12K NAM. These are outliers at this point in the game.

The 12K NAM

The NWS forecast.