Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Snow FAQ: Answering your questions about tonight's winter weather

I've had several recurring questions today regarding this winter weather episode. I'll try and address some of them here so that everyone gets the same answer.

The rain looks to be moving out. Are you sure it's going to snow?
Yes. As the surface low pressure system moves along the Gulf coast and an upper-level low moves in from the northwest, the precipitation over the area will hang around through the evening hours. The approach of the upper low will cool temperatures, resulting in a transition to snow over the next couple of hours (at the time of this writing, light snow is occurring across northeast AR and some sleet is mixing with the rain in West Memphis).

How much are we going to get? Really?
I'm sticking with 2-3" in the metro area with heavier amounts likely east of the city.  Fayette County could see 3-4" and 4-6" is possible east of there.  Yes, really.

What about schools?
I am not employed by the schools systems, nor do I necessarily understand all of the processes that go into their decision-making. I have spoken with a Shelby County principal who has explained much of it to me though.  Bottom line: the schools have closed multiple times so far this year for a few inches of snow. It's fair to believe they very well could for this one too, given that the forecast pans out.

How about ice in the morning?  Will roads freeze?
The snow will be falling after dark, skies will not clear, but there will be a steady wind overnight.  Low temperatures will be in the upper 20s and no pre-treatment was done on the roads due to today's rain. I expect to see some icy spots, especially on bridges and overpasses, and secondary roads could be snow and ice-covered in the morning in areas that see at least 2" on grassy surfaces.

How long will the snow last?
Probably not long in areas that see 2" or less. Tomorrow's forecast is for sun by afternoon with a high near 40.  This will take care of all but the most stubborn back roads, and probably a fair amount of the snow on grassy areas. In areas where 3-4" or more falls, it could take more time.

Is this unusual to see this much snow in several rounds over just a few weeks?
The average snowfall for Memphis per year is 5.7".  Last year we got 6.8"  So far this winter we've had 5.3". So, while the amount of snow is not "unusual," it does seem to be that the number of snow events in a short period of time (this will make 3 in the past 16 days) is a little unusual, though certainly not unprecedented.  Unfortunately, I have to remind you that the Mid-South has seen some pretty decent February/first week of March snows in recent years...  it's still winter!

Any other questions? Hit me with them on Facebook or Twitter (links below) or comment below.  I'll try to answer as many as I can.  Remember to get the latest forecast, StormView Radar with winter weather mode, updated watches/warnings, and more, visit MemphisWeather.net!

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