Major Winter Storm On Tap, But Where Will It Go?

gfs_slp_126mThere is virtually no doubt that a large and powerful storm system will drop a significant amount of snow and nearly paralyze travel with strong winds that create blizzard conditions.  The only problem now is figuring out where and when all of this will happen.

Every long range model is showing this early winter whopper moving through the central United States this weekend.  The first problem is there is little agreement on the timing.  At best guess it appears the storm system will reach the region by late morning and linger into Sunday.  The problem is a lot of models have waffled on this, some bringing it as early as late Friday evening.

The second and biggest problem is the track of the storm.  Different forecast models are in completely different places, making it impossible to really start to guess where the heaviest snow could fall.  Areas just north of the low pressure center would see heavy snow and strong winds, capable of producing blizzard conditions for several hours.  The GFS model (image to the right), indicates the low passes somewhere near southern Missouri.  This would put the greatest snow totals in Missouri and leave Iowa with a light to moderate amount of snowfall and lower wind gusts.

But other models forecast a track that bring the low closer to the Iowa – Missouri border.  If that were to verify it would be a very rough weekend for most parts of Iowa.  There is no real consensus among forecasters right now on which models should be taken most seriously.  For now we must continue to work in generalities:  Will it snow this weekend? Yes.  Will it be windy?  Yes.  Will it get colder?  Yes.  The rest is up to this storm system.

So I know what your next question is… when will we know more about this storm.  The sad thing is I really can’t tell you.  My hope is we’ll see some better agreement among the computer models by Thursday, but I make no guarantees.  It is always difficult to nail down storms systems this time of year that don’t even materialize until just hours before the beginning of the event.  All I can suggest is to prepare for the worst.  If you have plans this weekend, plan accordingly in case the worst case scenario hits. Make sure you have alternate plans.  If you must travel be sure to have a survival kit in your car.  And as always, stay up to date on the latest weather information.  We’ll try to provide another update late tonight after a couple more model runs and see if there any better view of what to expect this weekend.

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