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                   Thursday, February 21, 2008 - 10:04PM

February 21 winter storm (part 2): updates

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Update - 1:00AM Friday: Just got back after a couple of hours at the bridge. The big band of freezing rain dried up like thunderstorms do when they enter this state, with nothing more than a thin line of moderate rain in Charleston that lasted no more than 5 minutes. The valley was at 34F according to my car thermometer, so no problems at the bridge. At my house, where my roof-mounted weather station still reads 32F, a light glaze of ice is coating everything outside. Although the night is far from over with several smaller areas of potential freezing rain still to the west, I've reached my 'storm-total time limit' with this one. Temps are finally starting to slowly warm here, and the chances of anything noteworthy existing to get footage of are looking slimmer by the hour. I'm driving back to Pennsylvania in the morning, so I have to close this one out and head to bed.

Update - 10:04PM Thursday: The main precip band is entering Huntington now as freezing rain. Charleston has warmed to 32F, but with our dewpoints still in the mid 20s, we still have room for evaporational cooling as the precip arrives. Huntington has dropped a degree to 27F as the precip began a few minutes ago. Charleston will likely see some icing starting in the next 45 minutes to an hour.

Update - 8:36PM Thursday: I won't get as much of a break as I thought. Another appendage of freezing rain has developed south of the main precip shield and is moving our direction. The main band is not far behind that. The good news (at least for me) is that radar trends suggest the main band of precip may be completely through here by 1 or 2 AM, meaning I might actually be able to sleep for a few hours after all is said and done. The RUC model still has no idea what is going on tonight, keeping the precip band to our west all night. The new (00z) NAM/WRF is not much better. Model guidance looks like a lost cause with this storm.

If we get the entire band of rain to our west going through here with temps below freezing, I'd expect a good quarter-inch of ice by the time it's over. Despite the models' insistence that this isn't going happen, I don't see any indication that it won't. That precip band is going to really have to turn hard to the north to keep Huntington-Charleston ice-free. Surface temps are still in the upper 20s across the KY/WV/OH tri-state with no warming trends apparent over the past few hours.

Update - 7:20PM Thursday: After a tiny appendage of freezing rain passed over town a few minutes ago, I think we may be in the clear for the time being. The main item I'm watching now is a very large area of heavy freezing rain currently moving through western and central Kentucky. The models say this will lift well northwest of Charleston, but radar trends clearly show a large area of it is moving directly toward us. The other question is that of temperatures - again, the models indicate we should rise above freezing overnight, but we're already colder than forecast right now to begin with. All this means I likely won't be able to sign off on this storm until either all the precip gets through here or we rise above freezing by a good margin (with 32F-plus dewpoints). Thankfully it looks like I'm getting about a three to four-hour break before the main precip band moves in later tonight.

5:45PM Thursday: Not much time to post, but here's a quick update. Everyone (including myself) botched the timing on today's frozen precip event thanks in part to the models being way too slow on the arrival of the warm frontal precip band. I barely made it back to Charleston from Pennsylvania in time to catch the first round of snow transitioning to sleet. Temps dropped from 35F to 28F in about an hour, and freezing rain is headed our way. Kentucky looks like an icy mess right now according to their road conditions site.

Weather data sources have been horrible today, with the end result that I've not been able to trust anything more than current obs and what I'm seeing with my own eyes outside. Even the radar has not been picking up the areas of sleet moving in this evening, and algorithms have not been handling the precip types well (showing freezing rain as snow for parts of Kentucky). The models say we are supposed to rise above freezing shortly with rain for the rest of the night. But after their poor performance today and the fact we're now at 28F, I'm not buying it. Looks like a long night at the bridge tonight before heading back to PA in the morning.

Freezing rain has started here in Virginia Beach...
- Posted by William Coyle

Looks like a lot of VA and NC are getting some sleet and ice tonight. That's a huge precip shield over you guys!
- Posted by Dan from Charleston, WV

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