Monday, November 25, 2013

Yep. Still A Very Messy Pre-Thanksgiving Storm Coming

Winter storm watches are now hoisted in most of Vermont and northeastern New York Tuesday night through Wednesday night for rain, freezing rain and snow.
Unfortunately, your pre-Thanksgiving travels
in Vermont could end up looking like this.
A winter storm watch is in effect. 

Over the hill and through the woods to Grandmother's house could well involve sliding into a ditch or having a too-close encounter with a telephone pole.

Those computer forecasting models, which until yesterday had no idea what to make of the storm's path, has pretty much settled on bringing a strong, wet storm northeastward through eastern New England Tuesday and Wednesday.

It's become pretty apparent a lot of precipitation will fall on Vermont and surrounding areas, but the question remains: What kind of precipitation?

Even if those computer models are spot on with the expected track of the storm, temperatures both near the surface, where we live and several thousand feet overhead will be so close to 32 degrees that things could go either way.

Here's how I understand the best guess from the National Weather Service in South Burlington.  A mix of snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain will arrive later Tuesday and continue Tuesday night.

Enough warm air looks like it might wrap itself from the Atlantic Ocean into Vermont to promote just a cold rain in central and southern Vermont valleys, and in the Champlain Valley. Freezing rain might continue in northeastern Vermont valleys, and the upper elevations could continue to get a mix.

Wednesday night, as the storm starts to move out of New England, a blast of cold air will change the rain to snow and it could come down hard then, especially along the western slopes of the Green Mountains.

Thanksgiving itself looks frigid, with a lot of snow showers around, especially along those western slopes where the snow will probably continue to pile up.

Here's my Important Winter Storm Caveat: This forecast sounds nice and detailed and good to go, but it might be a huge bust.

When the temperature is so close to the freezing mark, just a tiny shift in the wind, or the strength or path of the storm could really upend the forecast and give us something totally different than I just described.

If a tiny bit more cold air wraps in, we could get a lot of snow. If more cold air gets trapped near the earth's surface, but it warms up aloft, we could get a LOT of freezing rain, which a few computer models are suggesting.

The freezing rain is the worst case scenario, of course. Because if that happens, not only will travel become almost impossible, we'd also start to have power outages. Which doesn't make things easy if you're trying to put together a Thanksgiving feast.

There's also the possibility enough warm air will leach that the storm could turn out to be mostly just a gloomy rain maker.

So what's a person to do if they're planning on traveling this week?  Expect a mess, to be on the safe side, and pay attention to the forecasts. You'll hear meteorologists making changes and adjustments to the forecast as the storm draws closer and it starts to become clearer what kind of precipitation we'll get.

And expect the unexpected with this one.

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