Wednesday, January 5, 2005

MAJOR ICE STORM IN PROGRESS OVER THE MIDWEST, CENTRAL PA, NORTHERN NJ, NY AND NEW ENGLAND


A Winter Storm Warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for Wednesday morning through Thursday morning for central, northern and northeastern Pennsylvania into New York State. Snow accumulations will range around 2-3" south of I-80, and 3-6" north of I-80 before the precip turns to freezing rain and sleet. Travel will be hazardous if not life threating on rural roads that are untreated.

A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect for portions of southcentral Pennsylvania. Snow accumulations will generally be less than 2" but the potential exists for ice accumulations from a coating in urban areas up to 1/8" inch in rural areas. Mountainous areas of central and western Maryland are expected to stay slightly above freezing, so any ice will be confined to above 1500 feet.

This is a life threatening weather event which has the potential to cut power to thousands of homes throughout the areas covered by the warnings...especially in central and northern Pennsylvania into New York State.


AN OVERVIEW OF THE IMPACTS FROM THIS STORM

SCHOOLS:
- Many schools in central and northern PA decided to close for Wednesday instead of face the risk of an early dismissal amidst an ice storm. Overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning, accumulations of ice will reach dangerous levels, causing massive downing of trees and powerlines. In higher elevations, thicknesses are expected to exceed 1/2 inch. This will keep central/northern PA schools closed for Thursday AND Friday, and possibly into early next week.

- In southcentral and southeastern PA, light freezing precip will occur late tonight, making a tough decision for school officials Thursday morning. I think districts in more outlying areas of Lancaster County and beyond will pick the safe route and stay closed instead of risking a 2-hour delay in the hopes the ice will melt in time for the buses.

COMMUNITIES AND TOWNS:
- In central/northern PA, One half inch of ice mixed with 2-3" of snow will bring down a majority of neighborhood power lines and many trees, causing massive power outages for over 24 hours in many areas.

- Those large transmission towers?... they are built to withstand up to 1 inch of ice, which is thousands of pounds of additional stress. If ice thicknesses go beyond an inch, those towers will begin to crumble, crippling the power grid for hundreds of thousands of people. While this is unlikely, icing events can change the outcome of the storm in a short period of time.

- Public utilities and government agencies will underestimate the severity of the problem until it is happening. Power restoration crews will not be able to keep up with the crushing load of outages, hence some people will go for 24 hours or more without electricity.

- In central PA, roads, sidewalks and just about every object outside your house will become so slippery that travel will be almost impossible until the ice melts.

- Southeastern PA will be spared most of the agony, as warmer air will allow the sleet to change back to rain before it accumulates too much. But there will still be plenty of slick spots on Thursday morning, as well as plenty of accidents along with them.

- Air travel? Fuggetaboutit.

ANYONE ELSE AFFECTED BY THIS STORM?

If you mean Maryland, Delaware, Virginia... the answer is... rain. If you've seen the news, then you know the Rockies, Midwest and New England have been or will be hammered with heavy snow and crippling ice. You can see from the snowfall map above who's going to get hammered and who will be spared. Far western MD counties in the mountains will see mostly rain with a bit of freezing precip in higher elevations. Rainfall amounts in those areas will exceed 1 inch. Coastal areas, including metro Richmond, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia will see up to 1 inch of rain over the next 36 hours, producing some small stream and urban street flooding.

WHERE'S THE SNOW? WAAAAA!

No snowstorms for the I-95 corridor through at least next Tuesday. I already told you January will be a virtual snowless month, except for the very last week. I will, however be issuing my mid winter forecast soon. The increasing warmth is going to cause our weather for the rest of the winter to go completely haywire. Highs along the I-95 corridor may approach 70 early next week. This means that March is occuring in January, which means February has the potential to be an extremely cold and wintry month, which would lead to April occuring in March, allowing for a very rapid return to spring, leading to a cooler than normal summer...and so on. You get the idea.

The next update Thursday morning.

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