Sunday, December 22, 2013

Worst Of The Vermont Ice Storm Now Until Early Afternoon

As of 5:30 a.m. sleet and freezing rain continued in much of northern Vermont as the peak of the ice storm of 2013 arrives.
A web cam grab from WCAX-TV in South Burlington, Vt
shows plenty of ice on the trees before dawn Sunday  

The heaviest precipitation was getting under way at that hour  and will continue until late morning in many areas.

There's even some sleet and freezing rain thunderstorms in northwestern New York as of early in the morning.

Just as I finished writing this post at about 5:45 a.m. Sunday, thunder and lightning has been reported from Colchester, Vermont. I'm sure other parts of Vermont are getting thunderstorms.

Don't be surprised in northern Vermont if you see lightning or hear thunder amid a downpour of sleet and/or freezing rain.

That increased amount of sleet that I said last night might be possible in some parts of the ice storm zone materialized, cutting down the amount of ice that has accumulated on trees and powerlines in some areas. (sleet bounces off things, freezing rain accumulates heavy, damaging ice on power lines and trees)

So far, the heaviest accumulation of ice is in the St. Lawrence Valley of New York, where there have been many reports of fallen trees and power lines.  It hasn't been too bad in Vermont just yet.

As of 5:30 a.m. Sunday, about 1,300 homes and businesses were without power in the Green Mountain State. That's quite a few, but not nearly as bad as it could be. However, it will probably get worse, maybe much worse, as the morning wears on.

According to the National Weather Service in South Burlington, the layer of cold air in the valleys has gotten thicker overnight, allowing rain from the warm air way up above to freeze on the way down, rather than waiting to freeze on contact with trees, powerlines, roads and sidewalks.

That means there's been more sleet, as I noted, and not as much freezing rain. However, as that band of thunderstorms with heavy precipitation comes in from New York, the layer of cold air will likely thin. Which means when the downpours arrive, they might be more freezing rain than sleet, which is NOT what we want.

Expect reports of power failures and tree damage to Vermont to increase quite a bit this morning as the sleet wanes and the freezing rain increases.

By the way, I REALLY have to hand it to the meteorologists at the National Weather Service in South Burlington. The intense changes in temperature over very short distances and changes in elevation basically made forecasting this storm with any kind of accuracy almost impossible.

But so far, the Burlington NWS have done a fantastic job predicting this mess.  The level of accuracy, given the strange setup of this storm is wild. I, for one, am incredibly impressed.

Another glimmer of hope is the possibility of briefly above freezing temperatures this afternoon and Monday afternoon. That would melt some of the ice off the trees and powerlines, making further damage later in the week if it gets windy less likely, and making it a bit easier for power line repair crews and tree guys and gals to fix some of the damage.

Flooding is still a concern today. There's already a flash flood warning in parts of the central Adirondacks. The warm air up in the mountains is melting snow, and it's pouring up there, so water is rushing down. There's some nasty ice jams in Adirondack rivers, and some flooding is happening.

Similar flooding, probably on the minor side, is certainly a possibility today in Vermont, especially in the southern half of the state.

So hunker down this morning. Even if it's sleet, not freezing rain where you are, the roads are TERRIBLE. Don't drive anywhere.

Also, if the power goes out, do us all a favor and check on your elderly neighbors especially. You don't want them getting cold. It could be deadly.

As I noted, I'm watching this storm from afar, as I drive cross country to South Dakota to visit relatives.
I'm leaving Cleveland soon, where as of 5:30 a.m. it was  56 degrees and windy enough so that I heard a tree branch or two crack outside the hotel this morning.

I'll be driving into some freezing drizzle and snow in Illinois and Iowa today. Oh, joy.

Elsewhere in the nation, last night's tornadoes have ended in the South, but flooding continues in the Ohio Valley. It's really warm on the East Coast, away from northern New England. It was 70 degrees (!!!) in Washington DC as of 2 a.m. Sunday.

Anyway, back to Vermont. The storm should wind down tonight. An Arctic cold front will go through later Monday, setting the stage for a very cold Christmas. It'll be below zero almost everywhere in Vermont Christmas morning.

After that, it will warm up a little, but not exactly get toasty. The best news is, I don't see signs of any other big storms the rest of the week.

We've had enough anyway, don't you think?

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