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St. Pattys Day Snowstorm

By: Tony O'Cavalier Email
By: Tony O'Cavalier Email

Luck of the Irish Not All Green This Weekend!

I open this blog with that same quote i used a week ago to describe how chaotic the weather can be in March. The saying is from Dr. Richard Anthes, a meteorology professor I studied under at Penn State…

“When Leprechauns play, rain, thunder and snow in the same day”.

In a nutshell, this nonsensical phrase is the perfect descriptor for our weather heading into the big “Wearing of the Green” weekend. You see, Wednesday’s thunderstorms have ended our spring preview. Now after a day of rain on Thursday, the prospects of a wet snowfall are being closely monitored from the First Warning weather lab for Friday into Saturday. Here’s the skinny.

As early as last Sunday, Justin mentioned a change to colder weather for the St. Patty’s weekend. “Warm” green coats and sweaters will be in your dress code on Saturday as you head out to celebrate. Daytime highs will struggle to reach 38 or 40 (32 in WV mountains). Now with each passing computer model run (we get these every 6 hours), not only is the air predicted to be cold but also moist through Saturday….moist as in snow showery.

The result…I can say with confidence that the ground will be whitened with snow thru much of the area late Friday night and St. Patty’s morning. If you live in the mountains get the snow boots back out and by all means don’t be shy about planning a SKI-LIGHTFUL trip to the ski lodges. There a calf deep snowfall is likely!

WHY IT WILL SNOW: THE METEOROLOGY

Here’s the scoop. At 7 AM on Thursday morning, the temperature stood in the balmy 60s across the southern half of WSAZ land. That included such places as Liberty Square in Putnam County, Old Central City in Huntington and Rupp Arena in Lexington (where the NCAA tourney is on-going) and the entire Coalfield region. Now north of I-64 thru Interior Southern Ohio and Central WV, the temperature at sunrise was in the 50s from the Bonneyfiddle Section of Portsmouth to Blennerhasset Island in Parkersburg. Just 50 miles north of that zone, 40s were common from the Convo Center in Athens to Fountain Square in Cincinnati. Another 50 miles north of that, 30s were the rule from the Schott Center in Columbus to the Great Miami River in Dayton.

Now step aside for a second…this means there was as much as a 30 degree spread in temperature from Ohio State to Pikeville College this morning. In the weather biz, we call that baroclinicity, which is a fancy way of saying watch for a storm to form close by. However, by Thursday evening, the temperature spread from Columbus to Pikeville had collapsed to a mere 5 degrees (36 in Columbus, 41 below the Cut Thru in Pikeville). So you might say no storm is coming, RIGHT?

Well, no, now that 30 degree temperature spread has shifted to the region between Pikeville at 41 and Atlanta at 70 degrees. So tonight, I am predicting a southern storm to form in the warm air near Atlanta and march its way to the Carolina Beaches by Friday afternoon. A storm track like that would produce a stiffening Northeast wind here and still colder air. In time, our temperature should fall below freezing by late Friday night.

Our supercomputers are suggesting this storm feeds on a steady supply of moisture from the Atlantic ocean and spits that wet air westward into our Appalachian mountains. Meeting head-first the advancing cold air from the north, we have the recipe for a late season snowstorm for much of the Appalachian mountains and Northeast USA as an old fashioned Nor'easter churns up the coastline.

Here’s what to look for locally:

Through midday Friday a steady, cold soaking rain and drizzle pattern will keep construction workers and landscapers inside while chilling kids to the bone as they wait for the school bus. These rains will saturate our forests ending any brush fire threat for at least 5 days. By Friday afternoon, still colder air will seep in from the north. This will set the stage for a changeover from rain to sleet to wet snow area-wide.

I expect it to be sleeting and snowing by noon in towns like Webster Springs, Richwood, Summersville and Buckhannon. Afternoon roads will trend slushy on Rt 19 between Sutton and Summersville and Rt 219 between Elkins and Marlinton. That transition to wet snow will arrive in the Ohio, Big Sandy and Kanawha Valleys in time for the evening rush hour when roads will be wet. From then on, Lucky Charm Snowflakes will coat the grass and rooftops thru much of the region with a steady accumulating snow likely in the mountains.

By midday Saturday, as much as an inch can be expected on lawns in the Kanawha Valley and River Cities with 3” to 6” as you ascend into the WV mountains. The inch rule will have to be closely scrutinized for the Coalfields where the NW “turning” wind flow can produce extra snow accumulation in the taller hills around Whitesville and Horsepen Mountain.

So on this eve of St. Patty’s day, here’s wishing the luck of the Irish is with you as we await a late season sprinkling of snow by Leprechauns this weekend.

Tony O’Cavalier


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