Warmer, Wetter and Stormy for the Holiday Weekend
Following our very wintry weekend with record lows in Tulsa and sub-zero temperatures in parts of Green Country, we are enjoying a reprieve from the bitter cold air. We are trending toward the opposite end of the spectrum in fact as we head close to Christmas. As our concerns for wintry weather in that time frame diminish, the risk of strong or even severe storms is growing.
Before we jump ahead to the weekend, take a look at just how cold our wind chills felt LAST weekend. It felt as cold as -20° in our area and as cold as -36° in the Panhandle. That doesn’t break the record for lowest wind chill ever recorded (that was -47° in Medford back in the Deep Freeze of 2011). However, it was the coldest spell we’ve had in nearly 3 years. This will come in GREAT contrast to the weekend ahead as temperatures rise to nearly 20° above normal. In fact, temperatures might vary as much as 65° between last weekend and the upcoming one!
Temperatures rose into the 50s on Tuesday afternoon, above our average high of 48°. We are likely to stay at or above that mark for the next week, even as several cold fronts push into the area - the first of which arrives on Wednesday without much ado. Given our very dry air mass, the only sign of the front will be a wind switch to the north late Wednesday and perhaps a few more clouds in the sky. Thursday’s temperatures will fall closer to our seasonable norms, but not any lower since this cold front is not of Arctic origins.
The interesting weather begins Friday. A cut-off low in the Baja region will push east and bring us widespread cloud cover and in increase in south winds that will bring back some moisture to the area from the Gulf. This first wave will pass through the area Friday evening into Saturday with scattered showers. If the rain begins early enough on Friday, it could fall in areas near the freezing mark causing a brief icing situation, but the window of opportunity is limited and not all that likely at this time.
On Christmas Eve, we’ll be between the two systems shown in the map above. We still might need an umbrella as some of us head out to Christmas Eve services that evening, but the one thing we won’t need is a heavy coat. The warmer air will be establishing itself in the state by then and temperatures won’t likely drop below 50° for Santa’s visit that night.
There is greater uncertainty in the main storm system that will likely arrive sometime Christmas Day. It’s bound to bring some strong southerly winds. If you’re driving to Grandmother’s house, you’ll want two hands on the steering wheel at all times! This storm system is taking a slower and more northerly track than previously thought, which brings the warm air further north. Thus, our forecast has been getting warmer and warmer for Christmas Day. I’m afraid a White Christmas is not in the cards for Green Country this year, but a stormy one might be.
An unseasonable amount of moisture and warmth will be in place by the time the cold front/dry line arrive. That means that the severe weather ingredient usually lacking for us in the winter, instability, might actually be there. Combined with powerful and turning winds aloft, severe weather will be possible. The big question is when and where at this point. The timing of this system has been ever-changing in our computer models, which takes away confidence on what to expect Christmas Day. Some have shown storms firing midday and east of us by late afternoon. Others have shown rain and weakening storms arriving late Christmas night. If the timing works out that storms fire just west of us Christmas afternoon, we’ll likely have some rough weather on our hands. In any case, we'll hopefully end up with some much-needed rainfall (shown below) given the growing drought.
Since it’s too early to nail down the exact timing, the take-away is to be weather aware heading into the holiday. We aren’t all that accustomed to having a storm threat on Christmas so make a point to check back with us if you’re in the area for more updates. If you’re traveling, make sure you have a way to receive weather alerts (you can download our Newson6 App for this!). The storms will be fast-movers so you won’t have much time to act if severe weather does end up forming. Hopefully, we’ll just end up with some much-needed rain and enjoy the holiday weekend without interruption. If you were dreaming of a Spring-like Christmas, this is likely your year!
The final week in 2016 will likely be a milder one as Arctic air remains bottled to our north. A few storm systems passing in the fast, zonal flow of the jet stream could bring us more precipitation than usual. Most of that precipitation will likely be in liquid form. It appears the worst of wintry weather in 2016 is past us now, but the start of 2017 could bring back a colder, wintry pattern again. After all, we’re heading quickly into the heart of winter.