Many of you located across the South have been wanting snow all season, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many close calls in the five years I’ve been putting out forecasts for the public. Just think of all of the rainstorms that many of you have gotten this winter, and how the smallest change would have resulted in wintry weather instead. That’s just how it goes in the South, but typically not that many times!!
I want to make note of a few things before I get deeper into the discussion on this potential winter storm. This has the potential to be a widespread winter storm for parts of the Southern Plains, Southeast, Tennessee Valley, and extending into areas north of that, BUT where this storm tracks is going to be EVERYTHING. It will determine who gets wintry precipitation, all rain, or absolutely nothing.
I want you to understand that adequate cold air will be available this time. We have one major push of cold air diving south as we speak and an even bigger push that will be coming this weekend. Record cold will come as a result for many areas. That’s why I am trying to stress that the track will be everything. Over the past several weeks, cold air has simply not been adequate when these systems would track across certain regions. Even with a track across the Gulf Coast states that would typically bring snow/ice into the South, the cold air has either come too late or too early this winter. That doesn’t look to be the issue this time.
The reason the track is so important is because it determines what side of the storm that you’re on. A low pressure system has a counterclockwise flow around it, so if the storm moves to your northwest, it wraps around warmer air from the Gulf and erodes away the colder air over your region. If the storm tracks close enough to you but to your south or southeast, it wraps around cold air with it, sufficient for snow and/or ice. Now, it’s not always that simple since there are usually other factors at play, but to keep it simple in this article, just remember that.
What I always try to do this far out is figure out what the overall pattern will look like around the time of the potential storm. I don’t care what each individual model run is showing right now because it’s not that important. The models will change dozens of times before we get to the actual event, so keep that in mind if you rely on weather apps or weather forecasters that only use model data to come up with a forecast. In this particular case, the forecast models will likely be all over the place, especially since we have two major Arctic blasts and two winter storms further north to get through before we get to this potential event.
After we have the two punches of cold, a piece of energy off of Baja California is going to phase with what looks to be a northern branch system early next week. They eventually get absorbed into a larger trough that will be responsible for a third Arctic blast later in the week. The reason this gets tricky is because the forecast models develop a surface low pressure system and then move it northeast up across Appalachian mountains, which is referred to as an “Appalachian Runner” storm. In this scenario, you would get places like Oklahoma, Arkansas, parts of Missouri, parts of the Tennessee Valley, and northeastward getting a winter storm out of this. Even places as far south as northern and central Mississippi and northwest Alabama would also get snow as cold air flooded in behind this system.
Below is the latest Canadian model for Tuesday morning. It shows a more northern track along with the latest GFS model guidance.
At this point, I’m skeptical of this scenario and have been leaning more towards a storm moving further south along the Gulf Coast states, which would give many of the mentioned areas above and regions further east and south a winter storm. My reasoning behind this is that it’s not necessarily unusual for a big southern winter storm to follow a large Arctic blast like we’re about to get. Also, forecast models just don’t handle these systems well this far out.
Another and even more extreme scenario that showed up on the models today was an early week storm hitting, ushering in the cold air, and then a southern system moving in later in the week. In that type of scenario, the cold air would already be very far south, so regions well into the Deep South would get snow and ice with the second storm. I’m not necessarily buying into the two-storm scenario just yet, but I do think forecast models could trend further south with the one storm, as I mentioned above.
I posted the earlier 06z GFS model images below. Note that this is for one specific point in time, and not an overall snowfall/ice map.
Hopefully this shows you that there are many different scenarios that are possible, but what you should get from this is that almost all of the guidance has a storm, even most of the ensemble models. Specifics will have to be ironed out over time.
So Who COULD Get A Winter Storm Next Week?
If you’ve missed out on the wintry weather so far this year and want to get something, you should know that next week is your best shot so far this winter. Someone will get hit hard, but it’s a matter of who. I gave you all of that explanation above to make you well aware that there are still a lot of uncertainties regarding this potential storm, but I am going to list some of the regions and cities I believe could be impacted next week, especially if this storm trends further south.
These are the regions I’m putting in my “possible winter storm threat” zone for next week: parts of the Southern Plains including Oklahoma, parts of northern Texas, Arkansas, southern Missouri, and maybe northern Louisiana. Further east I’ve included: much of the Tennessee Valley/Kentucky, northern and central Mississippi, northern and central Alabama (potentially including Birmingham), northern and central Georgia (potentially including Atlanta), Upstate SC and maybe midlands South Carolina, parts of North Carolina and Virginia. Areas further northward could also be impacted, but I’ll cover those areas as we get closer to the event.
Please understand that all of these areas may not be impacted, and that I will have to fine-tune this forecast as we get closer to the event. These are simply the areas that I am watching most closely, given what information I have right now. Also, I may have to include areas further south, depending on track and timing. I will be putting out multiple updates a day on Facebook, so be sure to like the page if you haven’t already.
In a couple days, I will have another article out, but hopefully this gives you an early heads up, and a little bit of hope for all you snow lovers.