Talk about an incredible storm that is about to move across the South. I have been watching the weather my entire life and putting out public forecasts for about 5 years now, and I can’t say that I have ever seen anything like this. Everything is literally coming together perfectly to possibly make this the biggest winter storm that many areas of the South (particularly the Southeast) has seen in decades. With all of that said, I really do think that this area has prepared for this event for the most part. With the last system that moved through the Deep South a couple of weeks ago, they were simply not prepared. While the system two weeks ago was a baby in comparison to what this one is going to be, the NWS and local meteorologists have done a much better job in preparing the public for this one.
If you look at a current radar (as of 9:10 ET), you’ll notice a big swath of precipitation mainly over Louisiana, Mississippi, and moving into Alabama. What’s incredible is the amount of moisture that is already being pulled into this system, and this storm is only going to strengthen as it tracks across the Gulf coast states and then will literally bomb out once it starts to move up the East Coast. Places like northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and northern and central Mississippi are being impacted by some pretty heavy wintry precipitation right now, so I’m sure that road conditions are deteriorating more and more as time goes on.
My focus this entire time has been mainly on northern Georgia, extreme portions of eastern Tennessee, Upstate South Carolina, parts of North Carolina, and up into Virginia, where I think some of those areas could get well over a foot of snow. I’m going to say that there will be a swath of about 8 to 12 inches of snow from northern Georgia into Upstate SC and on up into western portions of North Carolina. However, there will be localized areas of over a foot. Once you move into Virginia, parts of that state could get well over a foot. Parts of extreme southern Tennessee and northeastward Alabama could get some decent snowfall accumulations also. Areas to the south of that including places like Atlanta, GA over to Columbia, SC on over to eastern portions of North Carolina will be slammed with a crippling ice storm. As this storm moves eastward, it’s going to continue to pull in copious amounts of moisture and push it northeastward across the South. As this storm starts to pull up the East Coast, it’s going to rapidly strengthen and even wrap around more moisture into the areas that I just mentioned.
I explained several days ago why there would be absolutely no issue with the amount of cold air that would get pulled south into this storm. There is a high pressure over the Northeast that is going to help wrap around the cold air and push it into the Southeast, which is a lot of times how these areas get enough cold air to have a big winter storm. The snowpack over the Northeast also helped to make this air mass colder than it already was, which is something that I figured some of the model guidance would have a difficult time handling.
Anyways, I hope all of you have plenty of bread and milk! I’m pretty sure all the shelves are cleared by now! Below I have posted a couple of maps: one accumulation map that my good friend and weather colleague Chris Nunley made and the other showing the areas that will likely get the highest ice accumulations. Many of you were able to get snow accumulations today so for some of you, you will be getting snow/ice on top of snow that has already fallen! Most of these areas should prepare for widespread power outages. Please like the Firsthand Weather Facebook page if you haven’t already, and thanks so much for all of the birthday wishes that you posted on the Facebook page. I’ll have an update out on the site tomorrow night regarding the impacts that this storm will have on the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Matthew Holliday (Curriculum Vitae - Resume) is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, where he completed a B.S. in Meteorology and a B.S. in Geographic Information Science. He completed his master's degree in meteorology and climatology at Mississippi State University and is currently pursing a Ph.D. in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.