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#399163 - 02/01/11 03:20 PM Historic storm poised to impact 100 million in USA
Marty Offline
Posted by: JeffMasters
A huge and potentially historic winter storm is taking shape over the Southern Plains today. By the time the storm exits New England on Wednesday night, as many as 50 million Americans may see heavy snows of at least 6 inches or dangerous ice accumulations of 1/4" or more from the massive storm, and 100 million will be affected by the storm. A potent jet stream with strong winds will dive southwards over the central U.S. today, allowing a cold Arctic airmass to spill southwards out of Canada. In front of this cold air, a flow of very warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico will surge northwards, providing copious moisture to fuel snowfall amounts that will likely approach two feet across portions of Iowa and Illinois on Tuesday. The storm could be Chicago's biggest blizzard since January 1999, when a storm dumped 21.6" of snow. Accompanying the heavy snow on Tuesday will be strong winds gusting to 40 mph in Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana, and a blizzard watch is posted for Chicago. Strong winds in Chicago are expected to generate 14 - 18 feet waves on Lake Michigan, with occasional waves up to 25 feet. A significant coastal flooding event is possible for Chicago, with beach erosion and flooding along Lake Shore Drive. Many major cities will likely receive over 8 inches of snow from the storm, including Kansas City, St. Louis, and Detroit. Perhaps of greater concern is the potential for a major ice storm along a swath from Northwest Oklahoma to Massachusetts. Widespread freezing rain is expected to bring over 1/4" of ice to many major cities, including St. Louis, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. Some regions could see up to an inch of ice, and widespread power outages due to toppled power lines are likely for millions of people. Damages exceeding $1 billions are possible from this ice storm. In addition, the storm's powerful cold front will bring the potential for severe thunderstorms to the deep South. The NOAA Storm Prediction Center is giving Louisiana and surrounding states a "slight risk" of severe weather on Tuesday, and severe thunderstorms with damaging winds are likely Tuesday afternoon in this region.


Figure 1. Probability of receiving at least 1/4" of ice for the 24 hours ending at 7am EST on Wed Feb 2, 2011. Image credit: NOAA.

Very dangerous Tropical Cyclone Yasi headed for Australia's flooded Queensland
With February nearly upon us, the traditional peak of the Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclone season is here, and the waters surrounding Australia have been exceptionally active over the past week. We had the year's first two Category 4 tropical cyclones last week, Tropical Cyclone Wilma and Tropical Cyclone Bianca. Wilma passed over American Samoa as a strong tropical storm, and hit Tonga as a Category 3 storm, causing substantial damage to the islands, but no deaths or injuries. Wilma brushed New Zealand, bringing flooding and landslides to the North Island, and was the strongest tropical cyclone to affect that country in fourteen years, according to weatherwatch.co.nz. Tropical Cyclone Bianca skirted the west coast of Australia and dissipated before making landfall. Tropical Cyclone Anthony hit flood-ravaged Queensland, Australia, over the weekend, as a weak tropical storm with 40 - 50 mph winds. Fortunately, Anthony dropped only modest amounts of rain, and no new flooding disaster occurred in Queensland, which is struggling to recover from record floods. As reported in the latest Australian Bureau of Meteorology climate statement and flood summary, the past four months (September - December) have been the rainiest such period in Queensland's history, and the resulting flooding disaster has been Australia's most expensive natural disaster in history.

Queensland is in serious danger of renewed extreme flooding this week from Tropical Cyclone Yasi. Yasi has intensified to a Category 2 storm with 105 mph winds, and is undergoing a period of rapid intensification that is expected to take it to Category 4 strength. Yasi is expected to hit Queensland on Wednesday, probably as a major Category 3 or stronger storm. In addition the storm's damaging winds and storm surge, Yasi will bring torrential rains. The GFS model is predicting that Yasi will dump 5 - 10 inches of rain over a large swath of Queensland, which would likely cause destructive flooding.

One positive note: the European Center model was remarkably accurate predicting the formation of Yasi over a week in advance, so Queensland has had plenty of time to prepare for the arrival of the storm.


Figure 3. Tropical Cyclone Yasi at 23:20 GMT on January 30, 2011. At the time, Yasi was a Category 1 storm with 75 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

Jeff Masters

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#399287 - 02/02/11 03:18 PM Re: Historic storm poised to impact 100 million in USA [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Great Blizzard pounding Chicago


The Great Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2011 is wreaking havoc tonight from Texas to Michigan, and is poised to spread dangerous winter weather eastwards to New England during the day Wednesday. Four states have declared states of emergency—Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas—and the National Guard has been called out in Illinois and Missouri. Up to 1/2” of ice has caused power outages in Indianapolis, and blizzard conditions have engulfed Chicago, where heavy snows of up to two inches per hour are falling in high winds. Winds tonight at Chicago's Calumet Harbor were tropical storm force, 39 mph, with gusts to 49 mph. Winds gusts of 60 mph were occurring at the Chicago buoy, 10 miles offshore in Lake Michigan.

The storm will probably be Chicago's biggest blizzard since January 2 - 4 1999, when a storm dumped 21.6" of snow. With tonight's snowstorm expected to have very unstable air aloft, "thundersnow" with snowfall rates of 4 inches/hour is possible, and there is a chance today's blizzard could rival Chicago's greatest snow storm of all time, the blizzard of January 26 - 27, 1967. That immense storm dumped 23 inches of snow on Chicago, stranding thousands of people and leaving an estimated 800 Chicago Transit Authority buses and 50,000 automobiles abandoned on the city streets and expressways. Twenty six Chicagoans died in the blizzard, mostly due to heart attacks from shoveling snow. Strong winds in Chicago today are expected to generate 14 - 18 feet waves on Lake Michigan, with occasional waves up to 25 feet. A significant coastal flooding event is possible for the city, with beach erosion and flooding along Lake Shore Drive.


Satellite image of the Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2011, taken at 8pm EST February 1

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#399368 - 02/03/11 03:20 PM Re: Historic storm poised to impact 100 million in USA [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Nation digs out from massive blizzard

Posted by: JeffMasters, 2:05 PM GMT on February 03, 2011

Chicago's third worst snowstorm on record is history, leaving in its wake a remarkable 20.2” of snow, snowdrifts up to ten feet high, and frigid below zero temperatures. Only the January 2 - 4 1999 blizzard (21.6") and January 2 – 4, 1967 blizzard (23”) dumped more snow on Chicago. The Groundhog's Day blizzard of 2011 had stronger winds than either of Chicago's other two record snowstorms, and thus was probably the worst snowstorm ever to affect the city, as far as impacts on travel go. Winds gusted as high as 61 mph at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and winds at the Chicago buoy, 10 miles offshore in Lake Michigan, reached sustained speeds of 54 mph, gusting to 66 mph. Fortunately, Lake Michigan had so much ice on it that crashing waves were unable to cause significant flooding along the lake shore.

Chicago's 10 biggest Snowstorms:

1. 23.0 inches Jan 26-27, 1967
2. 21.6 inches Jan 1-3, 1999
3. 20.2 inches Feb 1-2, 2011
4. 19.2 inches Mar 25-26, 1930
5. 18.8 inches Jan 13-14, 1979
6. 16.2 inches Mar 7-8, 1931
7. 15.0 inches Dec 17-20, 1929
8. 14.9 inches Jan 30, 1939
9. 14.9 inches Jan 6-7, 1918
10. 14.3 inches Mar 25-26, 1970


Figure 1. A bus jack knifed on Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago on the night of February 1, 2011 during intense blizzard conditions, resulting in a dangerous situation where hundreds of cars became stranded behind the bus. Image credit: Viewer uploaded photo from WGN.

The most remarkable feature of this storm was its sheer size. Twenty-two states received snows of five inches or more, and over 100 million Americans experienced snow or freezing rain. Antioch, Illinois recorded the most snow of any location in the U.S., 27 inches. Also hard-hit were Missouri, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, and Vermont, which all reported more than eighteen inches of snow. Seven states reported freezing rain that left 1/2” or more of ice accumulation, which resulted in power outages affecting hundreds of thousands of people.

The strength of the high pressure system behind the Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2011 was also remarkable. Pressure readings in Montana at the height of the blizzard were well above 1050 mb, the type of high pressure only seen once every twenty years or so in the U.S. The difference in pressure between this high and the mighty blizzard drove a flood of cold air southwards out of Canada, creating the very high winds that shut down road travel over most of the Midwest during the height of the storm. The unusually strong push of cold air southwards has caused major problems in northern Texas, which is unused to multi-day periods of below-freezing temperatures. Many power plants were knocked off-line by the severe weather, and record electricity demand has overwhelmed the electrical system, resulting in widespread rotating blackouts. A rare Southeast Texas snowstorm is expected today, due to a new storm system moving eastwards across the state. Houston is expecting 1 – 3 inches of snow through Friday. All flights leaving Houston between 3pm today and noon Friday have been canceled, because the airports have no de-icing fluid.


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#399375 - 02/03/11 03:34 PM Re: Historic storm poised to impact 100 million in USA [Re: Marty]
tortuga.chica Offline
Finally dug out from under 14+ inches of snow. Current temp: -11 F. Not so sure about that early spring that the ground hog predicted yesterday...

This was the 4th biggest snowstorm to hit where I live (about 90 miles west of Chicago).
_________________________
A hug is the shortest distance between friends. ~ Author Unknown

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#399514 - 02/04/11 06:35 PM Re: Historic storm poised to impact 100 million in USA [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

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#399598 - 02/05/11 03:16 PM Re: Historic storm poised to impact 100 million in USA [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline



Figure 1. Trees snapped off along the Chicago lakefront by winds from the Blizzard of 2011. Image credit: viewer uploaded photo from WGN.

Revisiting the Chicago blizzard
This week's blizzard in Chicago dropped 20.2" of snow on the city, Chicago's third-greatest snowstorm on record. But the tremendous winds that accompanied the blizzard--gusting to 61 mph at O'Hare Airport, and 70 mph at the Lakefront--made the storm Chicago's worst-ever blizzard as far as impacts on travel. Another remarkable feature of the storm were the intense thunderstorms that developed. According to an excellent write-up on the storm posted by the Chicago National Weather Service office, the Blizzard of 2011 had 63 lightning strikes, and several reports of hail. The most extraordinary hourly observation I've ever seen in a U.S. winter storm came at 9:51pm on February 1 at Chicago's Midway Field: A heavy thunderstorm with lightning, heavy snow, small hail or ice pellets, freezing fog, blowing snow, visibility 300 feet, a wind gust of 56 mph, and a temperature of 21°F. Welcome to the Midwest! Thanks go to meteorologist Steve Gregory for pointing this observation out to me.


Figure 2. Snow amounts from the February 1 - 3 blizzard of 2011 peaked at over 2 feet along the shore of Lake Michigan between Chicago and Milwaukee. Strong northeasterly winds pulled moist air off of the Lake in this region, allowing the "lake effect" to enhance the blizzard's snows in this region. Image credit: Chicago National Weather Service office.

Jeff Masters


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