We have been cussing and discussing a potential major winter storm for several days now, and a look at the image on the right illustrates the magnitude of how this particular event may play out. Cannot recall the last time this much of the U.S. was under a threat of wintry weather from the same system during basically the same time frame. Pretty remarkable.
There are several other issues that will also make this system unique besides the extent and amount of wintry precipitation. It will be a very windy system which will likely result in blizzard or near blizzard conditions for at least portions of NE Ok during the day Tuesday and it will also be an extremely cold system. Typically, our heaviest snow events occur with temperatures just below freezing, but this one looks to be much colder. That also means we will be dealing with dangerously low wind chill values in the sub zero category for Tuesday through Wednesday.
As for precipitation type and amounts, that is where the devil is really in the details. Total liquid amounts of precipitation are expected to be in the 1-2 inch range which if it all fell in the form of snow would be anywhere from one to two feet of snowfall. Now, don't get all excited…..we are certainly not forecasting that much snow on the ground, but some of the more northern locations could end up with close to a foot. The problem is that the precipitation is expected to start off as rain changing quickly over to either freezing rain or sleet and eventually to snow. The freezing rain/sleet will start near the midnight hour of Monday night and will be making the snow transition during the day Tuesday, ending Tuesday night or early Wednesday. Obviously, how much falls as rain or ice will limit how much is left to fall out as snow.
The exact track of the storm system could vary enough to make for a huge swing in these totals as well. Currently, it appears that there will be more ice and less snow for locations SE of the I-44 corridor and more snow and less ice for locations NW of the I-44 corridor. Obviously, that is subject to change but at least gives a general idea of what to expect.
The last time we had actual air temperatures in Tulsa that were below zero was back in 1996. Assuming our skies do clear out and the wind calms down as expected by Thursday morning, we may well see widespread single digits and below zero temperatures to start the day Thursday. Also, with a widespread snow pack over much of the state, we will not likely see temperatures above freezing till the coming weekend.
As always, stay tuned and check back for updates.