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Much Colder, Freezing Rain Potential Next Few Days

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Have a real roller coaster ride ahead of us as temperatures this afternoon were close to record levels but will be more than 40 degrees colder to start the day Thursday.  As you can see on the hi/lo temperature map today, courtesy of the OK Mesonet, 70s and 80s were widespread across the state.  Here in Tulsa, the max/min was 78/36 as compared to the normal values of 47/27.  The 78 is just shy of the 80 degree record set all the way back in 1911.

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Hope you enjoyed those mild temperatures as a strong cold front will be blasting through the state tonight and should be arriving along the I-44 corridor shortly after midnight.  This is a very cold, but very shallow air mass so it still looks like it will hang up in the higher elevations of NW ARK and E/SE OK where temperatures should be much milder.  Along and NW of the I-44 corridor, we expect to be at or below freezing by first thing Thursday morning while locations further to the SE will be much milder as you can see by these projected temperatures from a high resolution data run.  There will also be the possibility of some drizzle during the early morning hours which could result in very light freezing drizzle for a short time.  Northerly winds all day will keep us from moderating much, but we do expect to see a few breaks in the clouds so daytime highs should recover to near the 40 degree mark.

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Then there is Friday into the day Saturday.  Notice that the good folks at the local NWS office have issued a winter storm watch for locations along and NW of the I-44 corridor due to the potential for freezing rain.  A storm system now located in the Pacific just off the W coast will be moving this way and spreading abundant moisture over the top of that low level cold air.  With temperatures hanging around the freezing mark along I-44 and below freezing to the NW, that sets the stage for an ice storm the likes of which we have not seen around here for many years. 

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The icing potential is dependent on the position of the surface freezing line and also the location of the freezing line aloft as mentioned in yesterday’s discussion.  Given the uncertainties regarding the exact location of the surface freezing line, then icing amounts along I-44 should be relatively light but still capable of causing travel issues as ice that may accumulate on elevated surfaces.  Locations further to the NW will have a longer period of time below freezing and therefore a more significant potential for greater amounts of ice accumulation and there could be some major problems developing in those areas.

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As an example, here is the current temperature projections for the Tulsa metropolitan area for the next few days and obviously a change of only a few degrees one way or the other could make a huge difference in the ice accumulation potential.  That is something that will be watched very closely in the days ahead.

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As you can see on our forecast page, conditions on Sunday are now projected to be much warmer as the storm system aloft will be lifting out but further west than was the case just 24 hours ago.  That means much warmer air will be able to return and we will be well above freezing all day Sunday.  That will also set the stage for a round of very strong showers and storms late Sunday or that night which will be moving on eastward and ending from W-E Monday morning.   These storms will bring the heaviest amounts of rain and and by the time it is all said and done, most of us should have received a real soaking which would be a decent drought breaker for the state.  Unfortunately, there may also be some flooding issues, most likely with the heavier storms late Sunday or Sunday night.   

So, stay tuned and check back for updates as this is a very dynamic system and certainly poses the possibility of some significant winter weather issues, primarily in the form of freezing rain followed by the possibility of storms and potential flooding.

Dick Faurot

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