Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Seven days, so many ways..."
- Lyrics from a single of the same title in Sting's 1993 album Ten Summoner's Tales.

UPDATED SYNOPSIS: SAT FEB 14 - 6:45 AM. Spring-a-lings no doubt reveled in our February thaw this week, but powderhounds know that paybacks are coming. Climate indications and computer models alike are advertising a relaunch of winter weather by next Wednesday. From the 18th to the 28th, atmospheric factors will be in alignment for some Mid-Atlantic snow. The next 5 days are the prologue to that period, so let's call it the "three steps back to winter":

Step 1: THU-FRI Wednesday's warmth was replaced by a dangerous cold front sweeping to the East Coast, delivering sustained strong winds in it's wake into Friday.
Step 2: SAT-SUN High pressure settles across the Northeast, as waves of weak low pressure move along an active southern jet stream, bringing scattered rain and wet snow to the Ohio valley on Saturday. Light and intermittent rain is expected from Maryland south, while Pennsylvania may see brief light snow showers.
Step 3: MON-WED This launches the 10-day period which I have marked as from Feb 18 to 28. To start, a second, stronger High pressure reinforces cold air across the Northern US while a low pressure system from the California/Oregon coast moves over the central plains by Tuesday and near Ohio-West Virginia by Wednesday. This setup suggests potential for some accumulating snow on Wednesday-Thursday of next week. (Sat 2:30 PM edit-- Note the slight change in wording there.) For the Mid-Atlantic region of PA, MD, VA, WV this is trending toward a "snow changing to rain" scenario.
Since we are nearing the 5-day prior point, a more formal estimate of storm impacts will be posted over the weekend. Diligent weather watchers know the computer models have shown possibilites ranging from a "March 1962" to a January 22, 2005 type event to "off the coast-out to sea." Hence the reasoning of today's seven days, there are so many ways this could evolve.
This next phase, lasting approximately 10 days, may be the final act for major winter storm potential in the Mid-Atlantic. Skeptics correctly point out that with the ground having warmed and softened, and an increasing sun angle with each passing day, ingredients for an accumulating snow event will have to be absolutely perfect. That said, you can sure more than a few of us will be searching for those ingredients, and if found, we will not hesistate to gleefully report our discoveries here!
Snowstorm aficionadoes may feel a strange alignment with history this week, as it is the 26th anniversary of the February 11-12, 1983 East Coast blizzard. It was the one time in my life and never since have I witnessed thunder and lightning in snow so incredibly heavy it obscured the neighbor's house just 20 feet away. Scroll through this link for some amazing pictures taken in several cities the morning after, including Baltimore. If you have a moment, read through some amazing stories in the comments section below...if you're a true powderhound, then these tales of thundersnow are sure to warm (cool?) your heart.

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