First things first, some snowfall is expected today, especially in northeast Iowa. The good news is accumulations should be on the light side, around 1”. Now to yet another weekend with troubling weather. Over the past few days I’ve talked about the forecast models beginning to side with a southern solution that would limit the amount of snow Iowans would see fall on Saturday. That’s no longer the case.
Over the last 24 hours, most computer models have come into agreement with a pattern more traditional for this time of year, developing a storm center near or virtually on top of Iowa. This storm system will bring snow as well as strong winds that threaten to produce near blizzard conditions at times on Saturday. So let’s break this down shall we?
As the storm begins to organize late Friday night and into Saturday morning, we could see some light snow or a mixed bag of precipitation. A brief stint of freezing rain is also possible but is not expected to be a major problem. By Saturday morning everything should switch over to snow and light to moderate amounts are expected. Current trends produce anywhere from 1-5” of snow with northern and eastern Iowa again seeing the highest totals, much like last weekend. Locally higher amounts are also possible if the storm strengthens a bit sooner than current thinking.
Even so, the current snow projections do not sound all that bad. The problem is we’ll also see some pretty strong winds Saturday afternoon and evening. This will create snow drifts, reduce visibility and could make travel nearly impossible at times. With all of this in mind, I expect a Winter Storm Watch to be issued for parts of Iowa either this afternoon or evening, with a final decision on advisories and warnings either tomorrow afternoon or early Friday night.
Now there are a couple of variables to keep in mind. Taking a look at the last few model runs, the analysis is having a hard time determining the timing and strength of this system. That plays a cruicial role. If the storm strengthens faster and moves slower, Iowa could see snow totals on the higher end of the current forecast. Also, further to the south, the storm is expected to fire showers and thunderstorms along a frontal boundary. The timing and of those storms could drain away the moisture needed for snowfall, potentially lowering the expected snow totals.
That doesn’t mean Saturday will be a hit or miss day, no matter what we still expect strong winds and any snow that falls in combination with that will cause some serious problems. If you have plans this weekend please keep up with the latest forecasts, advisories and road conditions over the next 72 hours. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and plan to launch live coverage during the day on Saturday.