Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Saturday, April 4, 2009 - 7:00PM

April 6-8 snow event updates

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Update 7:29PM Tuesday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
We may have escaped this one. Upstream temps across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky (the air that is moving toward us) are in the low 40s. Radar echoes indicate some snow showers still coming our way, but with our current temps I doubt they will amount to anything. We've had a few good heavy snow showers today, but with the temps well above freezing, nothing stuck here in Charleston at all. We should hit freezing easily overnight tonight, but it will most likely be long after the last accumulation-capable snow showers move out.

I'm not writing this one off completely just yet, but for now it's looking like we made it through unscathed.

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Update 5:54AM Tuesday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Calling it a night. Just above freezing with dewpoint values in the high 20s, but snowfall rates so far tonight have not been enough to do anything. Sub 32 now at the house though, with the raindrops on the back porch and the truck now frozen. A pretty big hole in upstream radar returns is evident in Ohio. Charleston's radar just went down, so if that stays broken it will be a challenge trying to keep up with today's developments.

Once the sun comes up and we start getting decent solar radiation (even through the clouds) by 10AM or so, the road ice threat should be done until nightfall tonight.

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Update 2:58AM Tuesday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
I'm becoming a little more encouraged that this may be a non-event for the lower elevations. Precip echoes are diminishing across the area, aside from in the mountains where the snow event is in progress as expected. The short-term models have precip remaning very light or non-existent across the area for the remainder of the night, and very little in the way of precip for Tuesday night. The GFS still holds on to heavier amounts through tomorrow, but given that it is not portraying the current situation well makes me inclined to more discount its output.

I think I'm almost finished with my keeping watch on this tonight. In the next hour or two I may call it a night.

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Update 1:07AM Tuesday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Very light snow now in Charleston with temps at 36, dewpoint at 30. Even though we're just 4 degrees away, it's a long way to go to sub-32 in the next few hours before the sun puts a stop to any cooling. At this point it's a toss-up whether we'll make it to 32 - I see no strong indications either way right now. Also looks like a lull in precip here in the next hour with very little upstream. Upslope snows can pop up at any time though. Not much to do at this point but just keep an eye on things overnight.

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Update 11:03PM, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Jackson, Ohio has cooled to 33 with snow. Dewpoints to the NW in Ohio are in the high 20s with temps in the mid 30s. Upslope will work to both raise the dewpoints and lower the temps as that air hits the mountains and is forced upward. We may hit 32F, but again, it's going to take some time. Tomorrow night actually looks like a better bet for snow accumulations.

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Update 7:44PM Monday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Now that we're getting close to the forecasted event, it's time to stop looking at model data and start watching the real-time conditions that are happening around us. Already snowing in Beckley now at 34°F. Charleston hit the 39°F mark this evening, but has actually risen back up to 40°F. Looking upstream at the surface obs to the northwest yields few substantial areas of subfreezing air currently headed directly toward us. Some snow and freezing temps are currently noted in northeast Ohio, but that air looks to impact mainly the northern sections of West Virginia. Strong upslope flow can have a cooling effect, which may drop our temps a few degrees tonight. Any heavy snow showers could also locally cool the surface to freezing, however, I'm more skeptical of us reaching 32°F or lower tonight outside of the mountains. If we do, it will probably be either toward dawn tomorrow, and/or in any locally heavy snow shower/band that develops. I'll be keeping an eye on this tonight regardless. Even if we avoid snow accumulations tonight, we've still got tomorrow night to deal with.

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Update 2:16AM Monday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Just a quick update before bed tonight. In a non-atypical fashion, the models have backed off of the Monday-Wednesday snow accumulation forecasts on the 00z runs tonight. The GFS now has Charleston between 1 and 2 inches, with the NAM forecasting none. The NAM still shows precip and subfreezing air after 2AM Tuesday, so its zero snow accumulation isn't a sign that we can relax. Most of the the mountains (above 2000 feet) are still looking at a six-inch plus event per 00z model data.

Down in the lower elevations (including Charleston), think that while most of the ground will not hold much accumulation (if any), the bridges and other elevated surfaces probably will. While the snow may begin as early as sunset Monday, I don't think any icy bridge problems will develop until well after midnight. Any problems will likely be confined to early morning commuters who get out before the salt trucks do.

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Update 7:13PM Saturday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
Still not much of a change in expectations for Monday evening and the 36 hours thereafter. Both the NAM and GFS agree on measurable precipitation during subfreezing temperatures on both Monday and Tuesday nights. The models don't have us getting much above freezing during the day on Tuesday, but climatology suggests that we'll likely warm up slightly higher than what is shown. I would not be surprised, though, if the models are right and we keep a snow cover all day Tuesday.

Precip amounts are still the wild card. The NAM suggests an inch or so of snow Monday night (with Tuesday night out of its range until tonight). The GFS is holding to its 4" in Charleston and around a foot in the higher elevations.

Regardless of the amounts, icy roads are going to be a threat both nights in what would be the latest I've seen such a situation in any spring prior this this.

At this point, there's not much more I want to say on this, since the models will likely vary slightly from run to run until we get to within 12-24 hours. Until then, I'll hold off on further speculation unless there is a dramatic change in what new model runs show. I think by the Sunday night model runs we should be able to nail something down with a little more certainty.

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5:12PM Friday, (Posted from Charleston, WV):
What? Winter throws the game into extra innings with the threat of a significant April snowfall across the midwest and Appalachians starting Monday night. Not an April Fool's joke - look at the GFS model total snowfall forecast of up to ten inches in Charleston and 16" in the mountains:

MODEL GRAPHIC: GFS accumulated snow forecast through Thursday

Temps fall below freezing on Monday and Tuesday nights, with accumulating snow possible both nights. Daytime highs may be warm enough for a temporary changeover to rain on Tuesday.

As I've said before 100 times on here, models are not always right - but the GFS has been pretty consistent with this over the past few consecutive runs. That is a sign that lends more credibility to the forecast. Now we just have to see if that trend continues, and if other short-range models will agree. This storm falls inside the NAM model's forecast window after tonight's runs. Already the NAM shows a dusting in Charleston by Monday evening (as far out as this current run goes).

At this point, I think it is safe to say that we will likely see some amount of snow by Wednesday. How much is the main question. Good thing I have a few hand/foot warmer packs left! Stay tuned - I will be posting updates as this event approaches. I also have a live streaming setup working and will plan on broadcasting live if/when the action starts.

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