Groundhog Day Storm?

January 28, 2016- You may have started to hear recently that a major winter storm may hit the Midwest next week between Tuesday and Wednesday. We’re here to say to not worry about this storm…yet.

The storm itself is still over the Pacific Ocean, and many miles and several days away. Therefore, if you start seeing snow maps or snow amounts, take those with a large grain of salt!  Here’s why: the storm track and timing widely varies, depending on what model you are looking at, at least right now. Also, for our area, we may see a lot of rain…or a mix of rain and snow, or even freezing rain.  It will come down to how warm temperatures are that particular day and night, which will be determined by the storm track.

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We can say that the forecast models are showing a strong storm coming in, but each handles the storm differently, which is why it’s not worth it to put out maps of this storm yet.  The models all have one thing in common- strong winds look to come with this storm, regardless of where it tracks.

So what’s the message here? Keep an eye on the forecast, and maybe even think a little about what you may need to do to prepare for the storm.  Don’t make any drastic preparations yet, just start coming up with a list of possible things to do in your head. We’ll start putting out forecasts for this storm as we get closer to the event! Stay tuned!

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 28, 2016

Friday Flurries

January 21, 2016: Flurries will be in the air Friday, but don’t look for much accumulation around the Stateline. Our neighbors to the east along the shores of Lake Michigan like Chicago and Milwaukee may see an inch or two out of the Lake Effect snow that sets up tomorrow.

Lake effect snow is much more prominent in areas like Buffalo, NY, but we can get occasional snow showers forming in this manner if conditions and the wind direction are right.

Lake effect snow is possible Friday, January 22

Lake effect snow is possible Friday, January 22

Lake effect snow occurs when colder air flows across the warmer air right over the surface of the lake. Because the warm, very moist lake air cools quickly as the colder air flows over it, snow showers are able to form. The wind blows those snow showers inland, and a ton of snow can fall, depending on how warm the lake is and how cold the air over it is.

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Tomorrow won’t be a big snow-maker. Again, Chicago may see an inch or two in some spots, but the showers will fall apart the farther west they go, leading to just a dusting around the Stateline, if anything. Plan ahead if traveling into Chicago tomorrow and beware of slippery roads.

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Futuretrack for Saturday, January 23. Heavy snow will strike the East Coast.

Snow forecast for January 22, 2016.

Snow forecast for January 22, 2016.

Thankfully, we avoid a monster snow storm heading to the East Coast. Heavy snow showers may dump up to 2 feet of snow over cities like Baltimore and Washington, DC, with blizzard conditions possible in Maryland. Traveling that way for the weekend? Be ready for a lot of airport delays!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 21, 2016

Recent Polar Plunge One of the Coldest

January 18, 2016: The recent blast of cold air brought in some of the coldest conditions we’ve had within the last 5 years.

Highs on Sunday and Monday barely squeaked above zero, putting those dates in the top 5 coldest in the last 5 years.

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Hard to beat January 2014, however. One day below zero, one day at 1°, and two days at 2° for a high. Brrrrr….

One the bright side, we are halfway through winter at this point (if only based on the calendar- as we know, winter can linger well past February!). These harsh cold days may be past us really soon! (Now, if we can only get some good amounts of snow for the snow-lovers in the area…)

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 18, 2016

Mild January So Far

January 15, 2016: Despite the recent harsh cold snap, it’s been a pretty mild January so far. While this month has not been nearly as warm as December was (hard to beat the warmest December on record!), we’ve spent most of our time at or above average:

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The roller coaster rolls on this weekend! Earlier in the week we jumped from -1° to 40° in the span of a day and a half; now we slide down by the same amount over the weekend.

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Temperatures will drop to -1° Sunday morning, and only get back into the single digits for the afternoon high. While we typically get these very cold days in January, it feels worse because of the mild weather sprinkled in between.  Don’t let the cold catch you off guard, however!  Wind chill values may be in the teens or colder below zero, which means frostbite within a half of an hour.

Friendly reminder: Keep a close eye on the kids, give the pets a warm place to rest or bring them indoors, and limit your time out in the cold. When venturing out, have plenty of layers on, and cover up.

Stay warm this weekend!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 15, 2016

Short-lived Warm-up

January 14, 2016: Today felt like a different season compared to the very chilly weather we had earlier this week. Here’s yesterday’s big temperature swing:

Temperature trend for Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Going from -1° in the morning to 22° by the afternoon still felt cold, but much more comfortable than the harsh cold the day before. Today’s temperature jump felt even better after a morning below zero yesterday:

Temperature trend for Thursday, January 14, 2016

Temperature trend for Thursday, January 14, 2016

Unfortunately for those who love the milder weather, it is going away just as fast as it arrived.  First, we’ll get some rain tomorrow as the colder weather starts to sweep in.

Forecast headlines for Friday, January 15, 2016

Forecast headlines for Friday, January 15, 2016

The colder conditions will eventually turn the rain over to snow, but accumulations will be light during Friday afternoon.

After that, the very cold conditions settle in by Sunday, similar to last Sunday. This time around, we’ll see highs stay in the single digits Sunday and next week, as well as another night or two below zero.

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Starting Sunday, January 17

As we saw earlier this week, when the weather is this cold, wind chills can be hazardous, so don’t be outside for long, wear plenty of warm layers, and keep the kids and pets warm!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 14, 2016

Coldest of the Season (So Far)

January 12, 2016: Frigid air spilling in from near the Arctic has the Stateline in the deep freeze, which is pretty typical for early January.  Last year around this time, we had a 5 day stretch where the high temperature stayed below 20°, with 3 days in a row below 10°.

It has been 10 months since we’ve had any days nearly this cold.  The last one occurred on March 5th, when the temperature struggled to warm up to 13°.

4Even with a strong El Niño pattern in play (El Niño’s heat has peaked at this point, but it will still have plenty of influences this winter), temperatures can still be very cold if the weather pattern is right. During a typical winter, we usually get 15 days under 20°, with 5 of those below 10°.

This is not your usual winter, which is why this is the first time we’ve been under 20° this winter (we’ve barely been below 30°!).  Looking ahead, the weather will be up and down for a while.

3Later this week, temperatures will get above freezing and give us a break from the frigid conditions. By the end of the weekend, however, another push of polar air brings us back down to the teens for highs, adding to our total of frigid days this winter.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 12, 2016

El Niño Check-In

Jan. 4, 2016: It’s been a very interesting winter so far, and with 1/3 of it done already, let’s check-in with how the very strong El Niño has been influencing our winter so far.

Remember, El Niño typically brings us a warmer and drier winter than average.

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So far, we’ve definitely been above average for temperatures. Rockford, in fact, had its warmest winter on record (since 1905).  January, despite the weather feeling cooler, has so far been slightly above average.

As for precipitation, that’s a different story. A stubbornly wet weather pattern has kept precipitation flowing into the region since November, and hasn’t slowed down until recently. As a result, this winter is sitting nearly 2 1/2″ above average for precipitation (rain plus the liquid equivalent in all of the snow/sleet). This just goes to show that while a pattern like El Niño is known to provide a certain kind of weather, there may be other processes in play that may provide something different.

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Climate Prediction Center outlook for January 2016. Northern Illinois is expected to have near-average temperatures.

Climate Prediction Center outlook for January 2016. Northern Illinois is expected to be near to below average for precipitation.

Climate Prediction Center outlook for January 2016. Northern Illinois is expected to be near to below average for precipitation.

According to the Climate Prediction Center, we may still end up drier than average this month, counteracting the wet start to winter. Temperatures also look to remain near or above average this month.

Keep in mind, we have to look at the winter as whole to get the final picture of how this El Niño event affected the season, so we still have 2 months to go and a lot may change!

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 4, 2016

Warmest December on Record!

1/1/2016: Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is off to a great start for you, even if the year is only a day old.

2015 ended with a bang: Rockford had the warmest December in 92 years! Here’s the top 3, listed by average temperature for the month:

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The average temperature for the month (which is the average high and low for each day, averaged together) was a whopping 12.3° degrees above normal.

We can definitely see what may be one of if not the strongest El Niño’s influence on the temperatures this month, as the pattern which usually brings us a warmer winter really cranked up the heat, at least for the start of the season.

Here’s a look at how each day went over the course of the very mild month:

1ST HALF OF JANUARYWe had just as many days with highs near or in the 60’s as we had days below freezing for a high. Many days were at least in the 40’s for highs, giving us overall a December to remember.

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on January 1, 2016

Impressive Storm Slams Stateline With Sleet

Dec. 29, 2015: Monday’s storm was something else. First off, look at the sheer magnitude of the storm:

Radar image from Monday evening during the sleet storm.

Radar image from Monday afternoon during the sleet storm.

From south to north, there were tornado and severe thunderstorm warnings in the Gulf States within a line of strong thunderstorms. Missouri and central Illinois experienced flooding rainfall. Further north, we experienced a wintry mixture as the atmosphere above the ground was warm, while temperatures as the surface were cold. Finally, the air was cold enough to produce at least a half of a foot of snow across Wisconsin into Minnesota and Iowa.

This storm was very unique for our area, in that sleet doesn’t not usually last as long as it did yesterday. The atmospheric conditions have to be just right to produce sleet, so usually sleet is brief within a storm and doesn’t accumulate much.

frz rain 1We typically see either snow or freezing rain. (Sleet forms when snow melts on the way down, then re-freezes into ice pellets).

forecastIn total, 3 1/2″ of sleet and snow fell in Rockford yesterday, with 2″ to 4″ across the rest of the Stateline. Snow and sleet are lumped together when making measurements for the climate records.  There is a lot more water with sleet than snow, making sleet much heavier to move around. Shoveling was a pain yesterday!

After yesterday’s event, we saw our water total (rain, plus snow and sleet melted down) for the month go above 4 1/2″, meaning this December is now the 2nd wettest on record for Rockford! We likely won’t get to the top spot, despite being only 0.4″ away. There’s a little more snow in the forecast tomorrow, then that’s it for the month (and the year!).

– Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on December 29, 2015

Sleet vs Freezing Rain in Monday’s Winter Storm

Dec 27, 2015: If you hadn’t heard yet, a winter storm will be impacting the Stateline tomorrow morning with sleet, freezing rain, and rain. Please head to https://www.wrex.com or https://www.facebook.com/13wxauthority/ for the latest.

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With this storm, we will see a variety of wintry precipitation.  Here’s the big differences between them:

Freezing rain is rain that freezes once it hits the ground or any surface below freezing. The rain doesn’t form into ice until it touches something. This creates a layer of ice that coats surfaces like cars, sidewalks, streets, trees, and power lines.

FREEZING RAIN

Sleet is ice pellets falling from the clouds.  These occur when snow starts to fall (temperatures are below freezing near cloud level), then the snow melts when it falls into a layer of above freezing air.  As it falls further, temperatures go back down below freezing, causing the melted snow to freeze into ice pellets as it reaches the ground. Much like snow, these ice pellets can accumulate and cause slick conditions.

A degree or two in the temperature can make all the difference between freezing rain, sleet, and rain, making tomorrow’s storm tricky to forecast which and how much we’ll see of each. Overall, plan on icy precipitation (sleet or freezing rain) through much of the morning.

Very icy roads are possible throughout the morning, so plan ahead and leave extra early so you can take it slow if you have to travel.  In addition, the layer of ice that may form on trees and power lines may lead to lots of power outages.  The winds are going to gust over 40 mph, so between the wind and added weight of the ice, limbs and lines may be falling.  Be careful if walking or driving around in your neighborhood tomorrow.

Again, for more updates, head to www.wrex.com.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on December 27, 2015