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February 18, 2010

Storm track, rain/snow line uncertain for Mon/Tues

The chances we'll see some sort of snow, rain or mixed slop from late Monday into Tuesday crept upward a bit overnight as the National Weather Service bumped its forecast of the precipitation Potholes on MLK Blvd.chances from 30 percent to 40 percent.

But uncertainties about the storm's track this far in advance leave unanswered those questions about which type of precipitation we should expect, or how much.

It's hard to say which outcome would be best for our winter-weary region. Rain would add weight to what remains on our rooftops, just as more snow would. It would also accelerate the melting and runoff, and could threaten wet basements and urban and river flooding.

And a wintry mix of rain and snow - perhaps the mostly likely outcome - would add an extra dash of misery all of us can do without.

The good news is that, for now, the sun is out, temperatures have reached the 40s and there is a lot of melting going on. Perhaps we can get rid of enough of this mess before Monday to minimize the impact of whatever falls next week. 

In any event, it seems like a good time to dig some runoff channels through the snow pack if a fast melt would threaten flooding in poor drainage areas (like my back yard), and to open those storm drains and downspouts.

So what are those in our stable of forecasters saying this morning? Here's a bit of the forecast discussion from NWS Sterling:

"THE 00Z EURO [MODEL RUN] FEATURES A WEAKER BLOCKING LOW OFF THE CANADIAN
MARITIMES WHICH ALLOWS THE [STORM] SYSTEM TO TRACK NORTHEAST UP THE
APPALACHIANS...KEEPING THE [FORECAST AREA] IN THE WARM SECTOR WITH MOSTLY RAIN.

"A STRONGER BLOCKING LOW IN THE 00Z GFS [ANOTHER MODEL RUN] DIRECTS THE STORM ACROSS THE
[FORECAST AREA] IN A COLDER/SNOWIER SOLUTION. TIMING IS IN BETTER AGREEMENT IN
00Z GUIDANCE THAN PREVIOUS RUNS...BUMPED [PRECIPITATION PROBABILITIES] UP TO HIGHER CHANCES MONDAY/MONDAY NIGHT /WITH GEFS MEMBERS STILL SHOWING A WIDE RANGE OF
SOLUTIONS/.

"WENT WITH A ROUGH AVERAGE OF THE TWO FORMaryland Zoo in Baltimore
PRECIPITATION-TYPE...RAIN/SNOW SOUTHEAST AND SNOW NORTHWEST. PRECIP TYPE DEPENDS
ON THE LOW TRACK IN THIS CASE...SO WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR BETTER [MODEL] AGREEMENT."

AccuWeather.com says:

"...[Y]ou guessed it, the swath of heavy snow may roll into the central Appalachians and the mid-Atlantic Sunday night and Monday. While a wedge of warm air will try to work northward along the Atlantic Seaboard with this storm, odds favor mostly snow verses mostly rain at this time of the year, due to the cold ocean, cold ground, etc.

"While this does "not" appear to be a storm that produces 2 to 3 feet of snow, it will add more weight to the existing snow on the ground and on roofs, be it water or more snow. We will say the path of this storm is uncertain at this point, and the storm's exact track will determine if rain, snow, or nothing falls in your area. If the storm does track north of your snow-clogged area, concerns of flooding will be raised due to snowmelt."

Mr. Foot's forecast team has issued a "Level 1 Alert," warning of "potentially moderate to significant" snow and wintry precipitation Sunday night through Monday night.

Eric the Red, a professional meteorologist from Baltimore, throws up his hands at recent model runs that were "aaalll over the place ... Some are annoying, some are novelties, and of course there's always Armageddon."

The worst case he cites is the Canadian model:

"It takes a low from the southern Plains into northern Kentucky ... then another low explodes (ka-boom) in eastern North Carolina. The Canadian [model] then drifts the low in Delaware, where it stalls. I'm not makin' this up."

"At this very early juncture, I think the MD/DC/VA region is under the gun for another significant winter storm. Major? Hopefully tomorrow's data will clear that up."

Stay tuned.

(SUN PHOTOS/Top: Karl Merton Ferron/Bottom: Algerina Perna)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 10:42 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Forecasts
        

Comments

Ok, I'm by no means an expert, but I'm trying to grasp what exactly is so special about this possible snow event. I see temps in the low 40's through Sunday with sunshine. That should melt a lot of the existing snow pack and should warm the ground nicely as well. Most forecasts have temps in the upper 30's on Monday and back to 40 on Tuesday, so how exactly is heavy snow going to happen in Baltimore?? I'm sure the temps in the clouds might be capable of producing snow, but I just don't see this one being any kind of colossal snow event. Maybe a couple of inches of wet snow but more likely rain and ice. I think the weather people are just trying to feed the hysteria around here.

FR: By itself, you're right. And I don't think anyone is forecasting "colossal." I also think forecasters are as weary of this as everyone else. But in light of the extraordinary weather, disruptions and damage the region has suffered this month - and judging from traffic, is still suffering - the prospect of more snow and ice of any description seems of more than passing interest to readers. And so, it remains newsworthy.

This storm will set the stage for a grand finale blizzard next weekend. Hopefully, we can get a LITTLE rain out of this Monday event coupled with some daytime sunshine/40's afterwards to get rid of at least 75% of the current snowpack. Otherwise, Baltimore will be a disaster zone by 3/1

Any thoughts on Garrett County? We are generally prepared for extreme weather, but this 19 feet (not a typo- 220+ inches) we've received this season is nuts. We have about 6 feet of compacted snow on the ground now. We haven't had any real melting this month, and just keep getting pummeled. Every day the forecast looks the same- snow showers and cold, with constant, never ending accumulation. I'm running out of places to push this stuff- and I have a tractor with a front end loader (thank goodness). I spent hours shoveling yesterday trying to reduce the load on the roof. Why are we stuck in this awful weather pattern?

FR: Blame El Nino for the storms and a blocking pattern in the arctic over Greenland and Northeast Canada for the cold. That pattern is deflecting the northern jet stream (and cold arctic air) down into the eastern US. That block is expected to ease early in March. Then again, isn't lots of snow money in the bank up there?

It can snow all it wants just as long as I'm able to fly out of BWI on March 3 for a trip to Vegas.

Hey Frank, pertaining to the person saying why is it a big deal because of the tempertures currently forecasted. If I am not mistaken, doesn't depend on the placement of the low. Because if the low trends south thru Virginia we would end up with a lot more snow. Also, when it snows the pressure drops along with the tempertures

JB, I'm not sure that temps in the 40ies for 4-5 days will melt enough snow to let the ground warm up. I don't know about you, but our front yard still has 2 feet of compacted snow where we shoveled and over a foot where it hasn't been touched. I don't think it's going to go away in just a few warm days.

I've noticed that the NWS office in State College starts announcing forecasted snow totals earlier than Sterling. Whether they're accurate this far out is another story, but as of now they're forecasting about 2.5 inches for the storm early next week for just south of Hanover, PA.

I live less than a mile south of the MD/PA line, so I typically check both forecasts anyway. It got up to 46F here, and we had a lot of melting, so that was good.

I used to live in Jersey and have a weather model of my own. Baltimore
phila and New York city wil get rain heavy at times with a little mixed at the
start. The primary low will track up towards Western Pennsylvania and
eastern ohio with a secondary from over
the piedmont and riding up just west of the interstate 95. ESE winds will save
the coast with snow event from NW PA. To ALBANY and northward.

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff
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