Saturday snow expected, not blizzard of 78 stuff

Cbus Weather Nerd

It is always incredible how quickly our weather can change here in Central Ohio, and really the entire state.  In a matter of 20 hours we dropped 50 degrees in the feels like temp department.  We had a high of 62 Tuesday, and wind chills of 12 on Wednesday morning.

Now we are looking ahead to yet another weekend storm system that will be on a southerly track, and could finally produce some snow in our area.  As of this writing (Wednesday night) we still have not had measurable snowfall today, marking the 34th straight day without measurable snow.

No matter if we tick a 1/10th of an inch or not, we will break that streak this weekend.  We are currently sitting at 2.5″ below normal for snowfall in January, and 6.6″ below normal for the winter 2018-2019 season already!!!

What is going to happen this weekend…

We are watching a low that will move mainly south of our area with an inverted trough extending into our backyard.  Without nerding out too hard, just expect this piece of energy to bring moisture up into our area early on Saturday.  

Because the temperature profile should be cold enough, this should lead to a mainly all snow event for our area.  While it could be possible that we see some wet snow in spots during the peak heating mid-day.  At this point I still think the best available liquid will be in the southern part of the state, therefore, that should be the area that sees the best chances of slightly better accumulations.

The tricky part in the forecast is that the data we are getting from different forecast models still has a fairly decent spread in snowfall totals, from 0″ or none in parts of our area (mainly north of I-70), to just more than 4″ in parts of our area.

At these temperatures, it wouldn’t take but about 1/10″ (~thickness of 2 pennies stacked) of moisture to make the difference in an inch of snow.

The (American) GFS model has trended a bit more south with this weather maker, and has had lower snowfall totals than the European forecast model data has had.  Our in house model is even lower than both models, but higher than the Canadian model has been.

Overall, looking at the suite of model data, and where it appears the storm track will be, it looks like the average for the melted precipitation totals is in the .21″ range.  Which would be roughly 2″-2.5″ of snowfall.

Below is my best forecast for snowfall for our area starting Saturday and into early Sunday morning.

As we get closer to the event, and the eventual track of this developing system that will be to our south becomes closer, we will narrow these numbers a bit, and make minor adjustments to the forecast areas.

One important point to note, is that there does not appear to be a massive amount of moisture with this system in our backyard (like we saw on December 31st with 1″+ of rain).  This will be more of a prolonged type event that will bring us lighter snowfall rates, but for an extended period of time.  

This should make for slower travel conditions on Saturday, but not impassible driving conditions either.  Also winds will be out of the East most of the day at 5-10 miles per hour, which will not reduce the visibility that much.

Why this storm is NOT anything like the Blizzard of 1978

Now to the climate part of this…  I have been getting messages, emails, dms, phone calls, asking about some comparison that this weekend’s storm might be like the Blizzard of 78.  It will NOT!  You can read more about the historic storm’s impact on Central Ohio here.

For some historical context, first off, in January of 1978, we had accumulated nearly 28″ of snow during the month leading up to the storm.  In fact, much of Central Ohio had between a foot to a foot and a half of snow on the ground as this historic storm made its way up into the state.

(above is the surface map for Jan. 26, 1978 from the National Weather Service)

Also, the storm was incredible in pressure drop with a pressure recorded in Columbus at 28.46″, and the lowest pressure ever recorded in the state up in Cleveland at 28.28″.  That is something you would expect in a Major Hurricane.  In fact, in 2018 only Florence and Michael in the Atlantic basin had deeper pressures recorded.

Our pressure this weekend when the winter weather hits will be roughly 52-60mb higher, with a significantly weaker pressure gradient as well.  Instead of having severe blizzard winds of 70+ in Central Ohio like we did 41 years ago, we will have a light east breeze at 5-10mph.

Also the storm tracks of the center of the low are very different as well, with this weekend’s track staying mainly in the south, and in 1978 it tracking through the state. 

We will have much less snow and wind, and issues this time around, thankfully!

If you have any questions about snow, winter, climate or any other weather, email me, dmazza@wcmh.com

-Dave

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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