WSAZ - Blogs - Brandon Butcher

Update - Frankenstorm timeline and benchmarks

The expected evolution of this coming storm, based on the most recent data available.

Updates Below!

Good Monday morning to one and all.

Thank you very much for your patronage and participation at the weather blog. I hope you have found this place useful for your weather planning needs. I will certainly appreciate any/all weather reports you may have for me when the time comes.

Speaking about that... Let's get a look at the timing of events as it stands now.

NAM Hi-Res - Monday 8 AM

By this morning, Sandy's circulation should be captured by the upper-air trough currently overhead, and should be turning it hard toward the coast. As cold air filters in around from the southwest, we'll see a mixing of rain and snow in the southern mountains at elevations of around 2500' or higher. No accumulation is expected just yet-- perhaps the grassy surfaces, but it's completely possible that visibilities will be reduced way up there. I don't quite think that the change-over will make it to the northern WV mountains by this time, but if it does it means all the other elevated areas SW of it have as well. The rest of us are still seeing a chilly rain.

NAM Hi-Res - Monday - 2 PM

Here comes Sandy! It's vast circulation is heading right toward the New Jersey coastline, still a hurricane as of now, but it's really a huge winter storm (nor'easter) trapped in a hurricane body. It should fully transition to a cold-core winter storm by landfall, but I bet they'll credit the thing with hurricane status as it hits (doesn't really matter though). Our winds should start picking up, particularly at elevation. As far as the rain/snow line goes, we're still looking at a mixing situation at elevation with warm ground temperatures not yet being overcome by snowfall intensity. Temporary coatings can come and go, etc. For travel, I wouldn't be surprised to see flakes around Sandstone Mountain on I-64 outside of Beckley. These should offer good benchmarks for you to track how the storm is doing relative to schedule.

NAM Hi-Res - Monday 8 PM

Sandy makes landfall and heads nearly due west. Vertical velocities kick up rapidly in our area, and we start to generate the kinds of snowfall rates sufficient to overcome the warm ground temperatures and all that-- at elevation. Would not be surprised to see Snowshoe getting rates of 1-2" per hour at this point. Winds on the western-facing ridge tops will start to get gusty. The rain/snow mixing line will start to drop to around 2000-feet, which by now should include elevated areas all the way back down Corridor-G through to the southern KY mountains. From here on out, these higher elevation places will be dangerous for travel. In the lowlands, we're still looking at a chilly rain, but it will get steadier with breezier winds.

NAM Hi-Res - Tuesday 8am

We now arrive to what should be the height of the storm as it relates to our local area. The winds will be around 30mph with higher gusts, in the mountains we could see near 50-70mph gusts over 3000 feet. As far as the snow goes, we will now have enough vertical velocity in place to get enough flakes to fall heavily enough to stay snow right down to the ground. The mountains will be seeing high accumulation rates around 1"/hour at times, while the lowlands will experience a violent tug-of-war between heavy rain and heavy snow. It will be simply a matter of localized heaviness of precipitation, but I believe it will be here where we'll get the best idea of what kind of accumulations we'll get west of Charleston to Huntington, on into Ohio and eastern Kentucky. I can see insta-accumulations on the grassy surfaces of an inch or so, then for it to get slushed away by rain, and come back, etc. It's still hard to identify what the final numbers will be just because of all the variables at play. It's like pouring water into a leaky bucket -- the level will always be changing in one direction or the other.

NAM Hi-Res - Tuesday Afternoon

Our storm continues to expand, but also reaches southwestern PA. It loops around at this point before heading northward. Depending on how long it takes to do this, we'll still be focusing the accumulating snows to the higher elevations from I-79 to Corridor-G, and points eastward. Back toward the River Cities area, southern Ohio, and Eastern Kentucky, it is anticipated that the intensity of precipitation will start to slacken just enough that rain starts winning the battle again, and the warm ground temperatures will also be doing a number on snow that has already fallen. Remember, air temperatures during this entire event may well not get below freezing out this way. From Beckley to Canaan Valley, it is still a dangerous time to be out-- I suspect no one will be. Blizzard conditions will persist at least 12 hours in a row, quite something for October.

NAM Hi-Res - Tuesday Night

Not exactly the best Trick-or-Treat weather. Our storm should be now starting to head northward more or less parallel to I-79. The wind still fetches pretty good from the Northwest, and "lake effect" conditions can enhance what the mountains are seeing for snowfall rates here (yep, still snowing there). The lowlands west of Charleston should still be back to primarily rain, but there will be bouts in there where flakes mix in or once again re-coat the grassy surfaces, bridges, and overpasses-- but these should be more temporary. It will still be windy as well, though not as gusty as before.

NAM Hi-Res - Wednesday AM

"Frankenstorm" is winding down and lifting northward. The heaviest precipitation (indicated by type/color on the maps) occupies a lesser and lesser share of the region, but still falling as snow in the higher elevations. At this point, I can see areas closer to Route-50 and north on I-79 going back to snow and getting some light accumulations as the coldest surface air still rotaing around the center trails along behind as it lifts northward. For the River Cities area we will be seeing tapering precipitation, so most likely this will be the chilly rain again.

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Snowfall Projections
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Here's the latest information at hand as to the computer modeling of snowfall amounts during this storm:

NAM - Snowfall Projections GFS - Snowfall Projections

(Click on the above images to pop-out a larger image)

Needless to say, I'm still waiting for the computer models to swing around to my side of thinking. At this point, you're certainly well within your rights to prepare for the kinds of accumulations presented by these models-- but I don't think they're going to happen as the models present it outside of the higher elevations. As I said in a previous blog post, there are several serious factors that contribute to snowfall accumulation that are not simply atmosphere-related, and they are all in play here.

Here's my snowfall projection from yesterday, reproduced below:

Brandon's Forecast - "Frankenstorm" - Projected Snowfall

I will update this map to reflect my current thinking during the morning show today on WSAZ, and then adjust it here. A few recent running models are still coming in. I'm still relatively confident with what I've got here, though I do feel that the grassy ligher accumulations should be extended northward a bit, to welcome previously shut out folks outside our area to the north because of the little bit of snow that will sprout up as the system departs. It still will be a highly dangerous situation in the higher elevations east of I-79 and Corridor-G. BLIZZARD WARNINGS are now up, indicating prolonged white-out conditions and high winds. Given the time of year, any leafy trees will become greatly stressed. A silver lining, however, is that the winds may keep the snow from laying heavily on the branches. But that is not something to plan for-- plan for power outages in these areas.

Folks in the lighter accumulation areas-- and grumbly snow lovers that want a big ole nasty blizzard where they live too, keep in mind that this is October. Had this even been closer to Thanksgiving, or anywhere from there to early April, this would have been the disaster you've always been wishing for. As it is, you still may see your all-time snow records fall. For example, Huntington only needs 1.5" of snow for that, and Charleston 2.8" (and these are for Monthly totals we're talking about). Records go back more than 100 years you know. There are plenty of reasons why a huge snow shouldn't happen this time of year. Of course, this storm is anything but usual. The biggest battle line in my head is the Charleston area, and the hills that ring the Kanawha Valley. I'm going to try to get my confidence up on what will happen there with the next update, but I see scenarios in which that 5" power-outage line gets real close, and others where they will end up like Huntington in which fallen snow may only be temporary.

Thank you for bearing with me during these blog posts. They are a lot of work. Speaking of "work" I now need to head in. Got to prepare for the broadcasts themselves!

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Update (4:30am) - Please be sure to report ANY change-over to snow, accumulations, road conditions, etc. that you are seeing/hearing about for your area (and please indicate the area). So far, recent reports in to WSAZ show a rain/snow mix in Beckley and Richwood, melting back in any momentary lapse. A dusting is reported at the top of Dingess and Horespen Mountains in Mingo/Logan counties. Snow is falling at Snowshoe mountain and has been reported in the mountains down toward Bluefield. This puts the cutline for rain/snow around 2500 feet.

Regional Radar/Satellite with Warnings Tracking

Accuweather Radar

From the Storm Prediction Center (below): Click For a Larger Image

Activity Overview Storm Outlook Watches Potential Watches Storm Reports
Temperatures HD Doppler Radar Estimated Rainfall Active Warnings
Current Temperatures HD Doppler Radar Estimated Rainfall Active NWS Warnings
Click For Larger Click For Interactive Radar Click For Larger Click For Larger

Have a great day everyone!

-B

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