Winter Plans It's Triumphant Return


                        Arctic Front Targets Region Thursday Night
Here we are in mid January and for the most part winter has been a no show. Sure there has been a covering of snow (JUST ONCE for most) and the pond outside my house has measured an inch of ice on two nights. Still, unless you live in the mountains, that is the best we can muster this winter so far. Even the snow capital of the Central Appalachian Mountains Snowshoe WV is struggling with a mere 30-40” of snow this season. Recall how 4848 (the nickname of Snowshoe since the peak elevation is 4848’ above sea level) normally measures 180” in a season!
Perhaps our home heating bills exemplify the tame winter the best. Take my December bill on which I saved $100 year over year compared to 2010.  That amounted to a whopping 40% drop in cash out of my pocket. Sarah Sager showed us two weeks ago how city snow removal budgets have barely been tapped. On Route 60 in Barboursville, the Ski Loft Rental Shop marquee said it best, namely, “PLEASE THINK SNOW”!
Now like a knight in shining armor comes word that the harshest arctic front of the winter (SO FAR) is barreling toward us from the Northern Plains. Armed with convective showers (a fancy term for rain and thunder in sudden bursts with a rush of wind), this front will arrive on Thursday evening as we eat dinner points west and during Jeopardy and Wheel points east. Your windows will rattle and the wind chimes will sing as the front passes. The cats will instinctively come in to get out of the arctic onslaught.
While rain and gusty winds will precede the front, a howling wind laced with snow and plunging temperatures will follow fropa (weatherman’s lingo for frontal passage)!
The important details of the forecast such as exact timing, accumulations and impact of the snow and cold will have need to be ironed out with Thursday’s new data.
In a worst case scenario, those plunging temperatures could catch the ground still wet and produce an ice up. We would not want to be out driving if that occurred.  The other plausible scenario is the rain ends briefly as wet snow and those chilling winds FREEZE DRY THE ROADS (dry the road out before the freeze occurs). That would produce good travel conditions until midnight when a second wave of snow would set in. As of press time on Wednesday evening, I rated both scenarios at equal weight in happening.
Even if the drying case unfolds (the one we want), snow squalls would blow into town late at night and lay down an accumulation of dry powdery snow in time for a frigid and freezing cold morning rush hour on Friday. Schools will be delayed if not closed regardless of the two possible outcomes.
The other issue I wanted to throw out involves Friday’s weather. Like January 2nd (the day we watched all the parades and bowls), snow showers will be common on Friday with temperatures holding all day near 20 degrees. However, the squalls on Friday may have even more staying power if a wind maximum at 5,000 feet develops and points its way along the Ohio River pointed at right angles to the WV Mountains. That’s what happened in Late January 2008 when a small plane went down near Huntington Tri-State airport. Snow fell heavily most of the morning that day and a half a foot accumulated all the way from Cincinnati thru Huntington and Charleston.  
Again, the details are TBA so for now I just ask you to stay informed and realize travel before sundown on Thursday will be unaffected by snow and ice problems.
One final note, let’s use how long the cold and snow lock in as a litmus test for the rest of the winter. If the cold and snow prove fleeting, an early spring could be at hand. But if the cold lends itself to more shock cold waves and snows before Groundhog Day, then we may be looking at a snowy February and March.
Punxsutawney Phil are you listening?
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