One of the same storm systems bringing rainfall to our region will be bringing even worse conditions off to our north and west. Oh no, not a blizzard but an ice storm, an ever-present threat for our region in the wintertime, thanks to this pattern we’re stuck in, that threat has shifted into the plains states.
An ice storm is the result of freezing rain, which occurs when certain levels of the atmosphere are warmer than others. If there’s a deep warm layer in the atmosphere but the surface is below freezing, you get freezing rain and it’s perhaps the most dangerous of winter weather types.
This particular ice storm has set it’s sights on the central plains states, mainly Kansas and Nebraska with lingering effects into Iowa, Missouri and Oklahoma. As a result of the warm weather pattern that has engulfed our region over the past few weeks, this means the typical freezing line, which likes to hang out in our area has taken up shop to our north and west.
Models are currently forecasting between one-half and one inch of accumulated freezing rain. While one inch doesn’t sound like a lot, when talking about ice accretion, it’s downright crippling. For reference, most of the state of Kentucky received between one-half and one inch of ice in the now infamous ice storm event from late January of 2009, with the western portions of the state receiving up to two inches, which by any definition is truly devastating.
Roads turn into ice rinks, tree branches get weighted down by all the ice and snap to the ground. Schools and businesses can close for up to a week, especially if temperatures don’t rise above freezing for awhile. Power lines can be weighted down with all the ice and fall along with their power poles, plunging people into both darkness and cold for a time period spanning a few hours to a few weeks.
This ice storm in the plains doesn’t look to be quite as bad as the storm that hit Kentucky 8 years ago this month but it will still cause major disruptions for areas like Des Moines, Kansas City and Omaha. In fact, the NFL has actually moved the start time of this weekend’s AFC Divisional Round playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Kansas City Chiefs from 12:05 PM to 7:20 PM CST.
Luckily for us, we will stay all rain and keep the wintry conditions at bay for at least another week. Our problem won’t be winter, it’ll be flooding.