Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday Night Update On The Vermont Ice Storm

I'm writing this from Cleveland, Ohio, as I make a stop on the way to South Dakota for the holidays. As we drove across New York, Pennslyvania and Ohio today, it rained all the way. The rain was torrential around Cleveland.
A utility truck that was party of a convoy of several, as seen
through a rain-streaked windshield on the New York State
Thruway near Utica, N.Y. Saturday afternoon.
The trucks appeared to be heading toward
the worst of the ice storm in the St. Lawrence
Valley of northwestern New York.  

That of course, does not bode well for Vermont, as all the rain we hit is a conveyor belt of moisture riding up from the Gulf of Mexico, through the Midwest and on into northern New England.

As is obvious in the Champlain Valley, it's cold. That conveyor belt of moisture is also carrying record warm temperatures northward, but when it reaches Vermont, that hot air is undercut by that cold air draining into the Champlain Valley.

With temperatures approaching 50 a few thousand feet overhead, and temperatures in the 20s in the valley, the table is set for that long awaited ice storm.

The rain falling from the warm clouds overhead will freeze on contact as it lands in the chilly, subfreezing Champlain Valley.

This evening, there's a bit of a lull going on. There's a weak spot in the conveyer belt of moisture now, so precipitation is light. It'll really get going later tonight as that blob of heavy rain I experienced in Cleveland moves toward Vermont.

So far, ice accumulation in the Champlain Valley has been between a quarter and a half inch. That's almost enough to start bringing down branches, trees and power lines.

There haven't been many reports of damage yet, but the problems will start after midnight and continue well into Sunday.

Some areas of the Champlain Valley, especially up near the Canadian border, might still catch a bit of a break, but that possible break is a HUGE maybe. It's possible the layer of cold air hugging the valley might get thick enough at times to allow the freezing rain to mix with or briefly change to sleet.

Sleet is yucky, of course, but at least it doesn't cling and freeze to trees and power lines, so that could reduce the amount of ice that piles up. But don't count on that sleet to save the day.  It's just a possibility.

The St. Lawrence Valley of New York State should end up getting the worst of it. There were already reports of ice damage there by Saturday afternoon, and tonight's freezing rain will make things much worse.

The rain and freezing rain should start to taper off Sunday afternoon. A new storm forming along the weather system's trailing cold front might set off a little bit of mixed precipitation in southern and eastern Vermont on Monday.

Flooding seems as it it will be another problem with this weekend storm. Already, Vermont Emergency Management reported some high water around Hancock and Rochester

It's been in the 40s up in the mountains all day. And while some low level cold air is bleeding more to the south, it will still be warm enough in many mid and high elevations to support downpours with no ice. The downpours and the melting snow could send torrents of water down the slopes and cause some river flooding

Like I said this morning, any flooding will fall far short of the destruction from Irene, so that's good. But there might be problems with closed roads, flooded basements and that kind of trouble.

I hope any power failures don't last into Christmas. Not only would that be a bummer for the holiday, but it will also get very cold. I mean below zero cold by Christmas morning. That would freeze up the pipes in any heatless house.

By the way, this storm overall is a bizarre one. It makes you wonder what's going on in the atmosphere. It has brought record heat to the East Coast, including a reading to 72 degrees in Washington, DC.

And tragically, it has brought a tornado outbreak to the South. Such tornado outbreaks are rare in the United States in late December.

There has also been a destructive ice storm in Oklahoma and Kansas.

Even worse, this is probably among the wettest storms, if not THE wettest storm the eastern half of the nation has ever seen in December. Some towns in the Ohio Valley have had four to eight inches of rain, even more in a couple spots. That's impressive for the normally wetter summer months, but such rainfall in a day or two in December is unheard of.

Naturally there is catastrophic flooding going on in many areas.

As bad as this storm is turning out for Vermont, you can see it could be much, much worse. Because it is much worse in many parts of the country.


  1. i'm quite enjoying the ice storm. walked 5 miles on sheer ice and didn't fall once. glad i'm not driving, doe.

  2. since when am i called "onefuckingspeed"? i guess this must be old.. fixed gear 4 lyfe baby!