Assessing December Thunderstorms

Many areas saw a brief gusty thundersquall on Monday. Now Tony says another round of rumbles is possible. TC explores what that means for this weekend and beyond.


Meaning of Thunder in December
When it comes to weather, everyone is invested. After all, everyone must deal with the elements on their own time/turf.
Take Monday evening’s rowdy downpours. In addition to the sudden pounding of rain, gusty winds accompanied the passage of our “next to last” fall cold  front. More on the “last” autumn front later.
That front generated a brief wind gust of 49 miles per hour at the Huntington airport just before 7pm followed by a meeker 33 mile per hour gust at 8 pm at Yeager Airport. Since the highest winds accompanied the strongest rains, chances are good some shoppers at Huntington Mall and on the Indian Mound in South Charleston got caught in the sudden squall.
Imagine shoppers caught off guard in the parking lot as the heavens opened up! Bet there were more than a few Christmas presents that took on some unwanted water.
By late evening the thunder-squalls had passed leaving behind scattered lighter showers for overnight and the morning school bell.
Which brings me to the “pressing” question of the day; namely, does a thunderstorm in December have any predictive power for the winter ahead?
I consulted Google for a search on “Thunder in December” but came up rather unimpressed. Turns out the wives tale goes like this…’Thunder in December, Snow within 6 weeks”.
Say what? Surely any weather event that occurs in December will be followed by snow in the next 6 weeks. Hail in December? Look for snow within 6 weeks. High winds in December, here comes the snow in the next 6 weeks. Record highs, lows in December, normal temperatures in December, well snow in the next 6 weeks.
In effect, this wives tale is useless!
So let’s try to dissect this from a more modern meteorological approach.
Monday’s thunder came as a by-product of the unusually warm weekend weather we experienced. Highs near 60 ten days before Christmas don’t happen often. In fact save for 1998, this December is one of the warmest in my 25 years at WSAZ.
Since the winter of 1998-99 featured little snow but a fair amount of cold, a forecast of a quiet winter is plausible at first glance.
Oddly, a stronger “spring-like” storm is set to be carved out by the jet stream through America’s breadbasket on Wednesday-Thursday. Taking a farther west track than its early week predecessor, this last cold front of fall may be able to generate stronger winds, heavier rains and even severe thunderstorms on Thursday in the Tennessee and Lower Ohio Valleys.
Once this second storm passes, it will sit and spin in Eastern Canada for days. In so doing it will act as a conduit for harshly cold arctic blusters to charge across the unfrozen Great Lakes and into our region Friday and periodically through Christmas Eve.
Chances are very good that once it starts snowing in the mountains late Thursday night-Friday morn, it will snow or flurry almost continuously through Christmas Eve for Santa’s trip in from the North Pole.
As I mentioned on tonight’s shows we should pick up a covering of snow once, twice or even 3 times during that 5 day Friday through Christmas Eve  period. In the mountains travel along I-77 (WV turnpike) and I-79 north to Clarksburg-Morgantown will be slick at times during the harder periods of snow.
That would all but make a White Christmas a reality in the mountains and leave much of our region with at least a dusting of snow on Christmas Eve.
As for getting a few inches of snow in time for Christmas morning, the longer the storm in Canada sits and spins, the better chances of a White Christmas.
Here’s the map I am looking at for this weekend-Christmas Eve. It is from the Canadian model and well modified by the trusty Euro.


Note the "heart' shaped BLUE BLOG IN THE MIDDLE RIGHT of the picture. That's the stalled arctic storm. Now follow the solid black lines that surround the blue blob. Trace these lines toward the bottom right of the screen. The lines blow from Ontario and Quebec into Appalachia. Folks that's a cold and snow showery pattern.

Since the European model shows the same flow as the Canadian while the American Model (GFS) shows the storm less intense and farther east, there is a two out of three nature to my forecast this weekend.

Which is right? Well as the old song from Meatloaf says, "there ain't no way I am ever going love the GFS solution given its less reliable track record, now don't be sad, because two out of three ain't bad, especially when the European model is in the snow camp"! 

Enjoy Meatloaf as we watch the weather unfold this Friday and weekend as winter officially arrives in the predawn light of Friday morning at 7:11 am.


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