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Weather Watch: Breaking down our next winter storm on Tuesday

Despite Punxsutawney Phil (and Manchester Chuckles) calling for an early spring... we're not done with winter yet.

As most February's go, we have been rather average. For us, that also means we are watching for the next big storm. This storm will not be a knock-down drag out blizzard. Instead, it will be another heaping helping of the same Great Lakes cutter slop that has characterized our 2018-19 winter so far.

THE SETUP:

A developing surface low pressure system will move south of our area on Monday. This will bring some minor flurries to the region. The difference here is that it will help to keep the cold air locked in. High pressure will shift to the north and east, blocked by a larger low pressure system in the North Atlantic. As this system exits, a new low pressure system will form ahead of a potent upper level trough, and that will aid in the transport of abundant moisture northward along the stationary coastal front. This moisture surge will send that front northward as a warm front towards our region.

THE EVENT:

As the warm front advances, snow will overspread the area by around noon on Tuesday. This snow will start off light to moderate for the first couple of hours, and then turn heavy as we head into the late afternoon and evening. Given the cold air in place, and the cooling due to evaporation from precipitation, we will get a 6-8 hour window of snow that will likely fall heavy at times around the entire state. Thankfully for us, this storm will not take the classic coastal track that puts us in the bullseye for a major Nor'easter. Instead, it will track directly overhead, injecting warmer air that will induce a changeover from Snow to Snow/Sleet/Freezing Rain and then eventually rain on Wednesday.

 

THE IMPACTS:

We expect the entire state to see around 3-6" of snow (with potentially higher amounts in a few locales) prior to precipitation changeover. This will be an even that will impact commute times and travel for children getting home from school, rush hour traffic getting home from work, and 2nd and 3rd-shifters going to and from work Tuesday night into Wednesday. We expect the Wednesday morning commute to be soggy, albeit less treacherous due to the changover to plain rain. Wind impacts are not expected at this time, and Ice impacts don't look thy will be that big a deal given the expected quick change from Snow to Ice to Rain. Impacts due to flash freezing are not anticipated.

THE WILDCARDS:

This event is tricky - like all "kitchen sink" events. A longer duration of snow on the front end due to a larger pool of cold air or slower advection of warmer air will cause the storm to overperform the forecasted snow totals. This would create bigger impacts across the board. The other issue is the depth of the cold air during the changeover. Most projections depict a heavy dose of sleet rather than freezing rain. This is usually a very hard thing to forecast. That said, a shallower cold pool will mean more potential for ice accretion, mainly in the northern half of the state. Snow ratios are also an issue to take into consideration as well. We do not expect this to be frozen cement when it initially comes down, meaning ratios of 10:1 (inches snow/inches liquid rain) should materialize. A fluffier snow will cause overperformance that will be hard to quantify after the sleet and rain beats it down and packs it into a tighter brick. Heavier snow will cause underperformance, and bust our forecast.

THE CONCLUSION:

The biggest takeaways are this:

Accumulating snow: Plowable snow likely.

Icing: Minor.

Wind: Minimal.

Flooding: Minor along the coast.

Commute: Major

Is this a "Milk and Eggs" storm? No. Not at all. We live in Connecticut. We will get through it.

 

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