Jan. 30th; Potential Ice Storm Brings Travel Troubles

Good Monday morning, WABBLES squad! We’ve got quite the week of wild weather ahead, including the potential for an ice storm through the middle of the week, so listen up. This wintry precip is no joke, and is a lot more serious than your run-of-the-mill snowstorm. You’re gonna want to pay attention to this one, so let’s hop right on into the action!

Potential Ice Storm Brings Travel Troubles
This could be us here soon… (GIPHY)

Today’s Forecast

But before all that, let’s touch on today’s forecast. Potential showers will linger in the WABBLES area through about noon, so it might be a smart idea to keep the umbrella and rain jacket handy on your way to work this morning. Temperatures will peak at about 45 degrees early this morning as cold air moves in over the course of the day, dropping steadily down to our low of 30 degrees by midnight. This is where things begin to get messy, as our first round of precipitation moves in overnight.

Potential Ice Storm Brings Travel Troubles
Just below freezing right at midnight. (PivotalWeather)

Potential Ice Storm Inbound?

To preface this discussion, I’d like to say that ice storms by far are some of the most difficult meteorological events to forecast. The models almost never agree on specific locations, conditions, or precipitation totals, and each new run changes our expectations for these systems drastically. Just a quarter of an inch of ice is all it takes to completely shut down travel infrastructure and affect the power grid in most cities, so even the smallest adjustment in ice accretion totals might make the whole difference. That being said, we think (emphasis on think) that we’ve nailed down a tentative schedule and potential impacts for this incoming system.

Potential Ice Storm Brings Travel Troubles
The HRRR‘s best guess at the next 48 hours. (PivotalWeather)

The rain showers before the main event are expected to taper off by noon this morning as a surge of cold air rushes out of the north, pushing temps in the WABBLES area lower as the day proceeds. Then, around midnight tonight, we’ll see our first wave of icy precipitation move in. These freezing rain showers are expected to be scattered in nature but persistent, leading to anywhere from .08-.10 of an inch of ice accumulation on some surfaces. The good news is that after this initial round moves out, we’ve got the entire day on Tuesday to potentially melt some of this ice, though the highest temperatures we’re expecting to see on Tuesday will be in the mid-30s.

Potential Ice Storm Brings Travel Troubles
Estimated ice accumulation totals from the HRRR. (PivotalWeather)

The image above depicts potential ice accretion totals going into tomorrow morning; most of the WABBLES area is topping off at .15 of an inch of ice or less, with some locations to the south and west receiving just a slight bit more. As small as it may sound, .15 of an inch of ice is a big deal for travel impacts; enough to turn many roadways into slick, slippery nightmares, so you’ve got to stay alert out there.

Luckily for us, this is just the HRRR‘s best estimate at what we could receive, and it’s likely we get a smaller fraction of what’s actually listed here. Either way, it’s extremely important to stay prepared in case the worst-case scenario does come to fruition, especially since Tuesday night brings the opportunity for more ice.

Could there be a second round? (PivotalWeather)

Now, the problem with going more than 48 hours out on the models is that we have to sacrifice some detail in favor of forecast length. Depicted above is the NAM‘s take on our ice storm experience, and if you pay attention around the 09z mark on February 1st, there are a few potential indicators of a second wave taking place around midnight Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning. Right now, the models are hinting that this second round will miss us to our south a-ways, but they’re still disagreeing too much to be 100% confident on location.

If this additional wave were to drift north and sideswipe the WABBLES region, we’d be seeing another .15 to .25 in ice accumulations through Wednesday at noon. This would be the absolute WORST-CASE scenario, because as I mentioned before, a quarter of an inch of ice is enough to completely halt all roadway travel and weigh down powerlines enough to potentially shut off power in some places.

Once again, this is JUST a hypothetical, and unless something major changes in the forecast by Tuesday night, this shouldn’t happen in our area. The most probable conclusion is that some of tonight’s ice accumulations will melt just in time for another small round to add .05 of an inch Tuesday night, and we’ll all have to take it easy on the roads on Wednesday morning to keep from slip-sliding around too much.

Potential Ice Storm Brings Travel Troubles
Keep these guidelines in mind this week! (Belfor)

So… What Do We Do?

Good question! For now, just take it easy and pay close attention to local guidance. This really is a very fluid situation, and the forecast has the potential to change at any time. We’ll be giving frequent updates over on our Twitter page, so if you don’t already follow us over there, make sure to do so using the social link buttons below. Until new information comes out, it might be a smart idea to gas up those generators and make sure your emergency weather kits are stocked, just in case something crazy happens and you’re left without power for a time. We’ve got your back WABBLES, and we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

If there’s the potential for anything more severe than we currently expect, y’all will be the first to know! Until then, stay weather aware friends, and we’ll talk again real soon. Bye!

Potential Ice Storm Brings Travel Troubles
Laters! (GIPHY)