Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
Weather, photography and the open roadClick for an important message
Storm Highway by Dan RobinsonClick for an important message
                Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - 12:30AM    Storm Highway blog RSS/XML feedStorm Highway Twitter FeedStorm Highway Facebook page

Big storm possible this weekend

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The models have been hinting at the possibility for a significant storm system to develop in the southern US and track northeast along the New England coast (as a classic "Nor'Easter"), affecting our region on Saturday and Sunday. This storm has the potential to bring heavy snow, ice, sleet, flooding and even severe thunderstorms to the eastern US, and finally ushering in a very cold air mass that could bring subzero temperatures to parts of the region. West Virginia will likely see snow at some point with this system, exactly how much remains to be seen.

So let's take a look at some model output maps. Here is what the GFS model shows for Sunday morning, a 986MB low pressure (that's a pretty strong low) centered near Boston.

On Saturday night, the GFS paints a huge blob of precipitation over our area associated with this developing low.

That's a lot of precip over us! Now the question here will be, what type of precip will that be? Our temperatures could be cold enough for at least some of that to be snow (especially in the mountains). However, the GFS shows some warm air entrainment into the system over West Virginia, which according to tonight's model runs, could keep the precip all rain into Saturday evening.

Therefore our temps on Saturday will be the big thing to watch with this. If we stay at or near freezing, we could be looking at a big snowstorm on Saturday and Sunday for the entire state. If not, what does look more likely is that any rain will quickly change to snow overnight into Sunday morning as temperatures plummet into the 20s.

That precip forecast there hints at a possible 2 to 4 inch snow on Sunday morning for Charleston-Clarksburg, up to 6 inches for Beckley and even more in the highest elevations. The big story will be in the northeast, where all of that large blob on Sunday morning will be all snow - possibly measured in feet instead of inches.

Now, having said all that, remember what I've said many times about model forecasts more than 2 or 3 days out: this is subject to change. Models can only give us guidance about future possibilities - they usually cannot be used for precise predictions that far ahead. The finer details are just too far away to pin down (how cold will Saturday be, what track will the low take, etc). What is notable however is that the models (both the GFS and ECMWF) have been consistent and in general agreement about this system in the past few runs, which gives at least the large-scale forecast more credibility. This is of course something that I'll be watching closely and posting more about in the coming days, so stay tuned!

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