The Wild, Wild West

Map of National Weather Service Watches/Warnings/Advisories, November 22nd.

Lots to hit on tonight. The map to the left is the NWS map of watches, warnings, advisories, etc. Just a royal MESS in the West right now. But this is really a phenomenal storm. I give the West a lot of flack for having relatively boring weather overall, but when things like this happen, it’s pretty darn neat. This is round two of wild western weather. Round one is now in the Midwest (more on that in a minute). Let’s go west to east and look at some of what’s going on.

First up, in Alaska, the Fairbanks area (remember they were recently breaking fair weather records) is getting rocked by an ice storm, which is considered “unprecedented” by local standards. According to The Weather Channel’s Stu Ostro, the precipitable water measured at Fairbanks (which is just essentially a measure of how “juicy” the air mass is…measured in inches) came within 0.01″ of setting a November record for that area. These are things you don’t often see in Alaska this time of year. But I think this speaks to the amount of blocking that’s setting up in North America, which is going to make for a very intriguing couple of weeks across the continent.

Next, down south to Seattle. 2.0″ of new snow fell at Sea-Tac today, which is a record for the date, breaking the old record of 1.5″ in 1977. It’s the snowiest November day in Seattle in 25 years, and marks only the 6th time in November since 1948 that Seattle has accumulated 2″ or more. Snow wreaks absolute havoc on Seattle. Here’s all the latest news from the Emerald City. Closed roads because of ice, including some major ones, a 747 cargo plane slid off the runway at Sea-Tac, and Snoqualmie Pass and I-90 is chains only. Down the road in Portland, not as much snow, but they are also expecting some bitter cold, with temps getting to or below freezing tomorrow and overnight lows dipping into the teens.

National Weather Service Description of Blizzard Impacts in Spokane, WA and Adjacent Idaho

Inland from there, blizzard warnings are flying for much of eastern Washington, including Spokane, as well as northern Idaho. The map to the right is the NWS in Spokane’s description of how events should unfold tonight. The latest on news from Spokane is here. I don’t want to say this whole storm caught people by surprise in the Northwest. Much was known about it coming in, but it did get a little stronger than expected, so the impression of a “surprise” exists. Forecasting in the West is extremely difficult sometimes.

from the weekend were exceedingly impressive. Here’s a recap from the NWS in Reno, NV:

 ...LAKE TAHOE AREA...

 HOMEWOOD...              59 INCHES
 TAHOE CITY...            36 INCHES
 SQUAW VALLEY USA...      48 INCHES
 SQUAW VALLEY (8000 FT)...67 INCHES
 ALPINE MEADOWS...        56 INCHES
 ALPINE MEADOWS(TOP)...   77 INCHES
 TRUCKEE...               36 INCHES
 NORTHSTAR...             61 INCHES
 TAHOE DONNER...          59 INCHES
 GLENBROOK...             18 INCHES
 DAGGETT PASS...          28 INCHES
 SOUTH LAKE TAHOE...      30 INCHES

 ...WESTERN NEVADA...

 CARSON CITY...           6  INCHES
 MINDEN/GARDNERVILLE...   12 INCHES
 FALLON...                3  INCHES
 RENO...                  2  INCHES
 RENO (NORTH HILLS)       4  INCHES
 STEAD...                 4  INCHES

 ...EASTERN SIERRA...

 CEDARVILLE...            16 INCHES
 SUSANVILLE...            4  INCHES
 PORTOLA...               16 INCHES
 DOYLE...                 3  INCHES

 ...MONO COUNTY...

 BRIDGEPORT...            6  INCHES
 LEE VINING...            12 INCHES
 MAMMOTH LAKES...         45 INCHES
 MAMMOTH MOUNTAIN(TOP)... 81 INCHES

So those are some crazy totals (specifically the 81″ atop Mammoth!). So how much new snow? Looks like an additional 1-3 feet above 4,000′ seems likely in the Sierra, and it’s likely places like Mammoth (up around 11,000′) will exceed 100 inches for 5 day totals.

Record low temperatures will build in behind this next front..just brutally cold in the interior. Even the potential for a widespread frost or freeze in the San Joaquin Valley…the agricultural capital of America. Here’s a brief article on how farmers will handle it.

In Salt Lake City, they are preparing for a blizzard as well as this system spreads East into the Rockies. Here’s an NWS briefing on the storm.

Storm Prediction Center Radar, Surface, and Watches Map

As we move into the Midwest, the weekend storm that hammered the West has moved in and is creating some very intriguing severe weather…almost like springtime! So far, seven reports of tornadoes have been received from Illinois and Wisconsin, and with a wide area of watches in effect and a potent late autumn cold front moving through, I think we’ll see a few more isolated reports of tornadoes, but more than likely a lot of reports of damaging winds. The upper level support helping to fuel this mess will gradually diminish as we go into tomorrow, so as the front slides to the south and east, we won’t see quite the active severe weather day tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s a radar capture from Chicago, IL earlier today, showing some of the supercells that had formed in that area and had recently produced tornadoes west of the city.

Those storms produced this tornado:

So all in all, extremely active today across the western two thirds of the country.

A couple other quick links…

A summary of the 2010 hurricane season in the Atlantic…but a cool collection of satellite images from all the hurricanes.

An interesting article from the NY Times that explains how South Dakota has had a pretty terrible year weatherwise (you may need to login or register to read).

The blog will be heading on to Thanksgiving break like most of the rest of you. Heading back to visit family in the East. So have a wonderful holiday!

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