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Blizzard Impacting Midwest and a Tornado Risk Southeast

20 Dec 2012, 1:09 pm

The blizzard we’ve been telling you about for a few days is pushing across Iowa into southern and central Wisconsin; winds over 40 mph dropping visibilities down to zero with treacherous to impassable travel conditions. Interstates are still shut down from near Omaha and Lincoln across much of Iowa. An estimated 30,000 people in Iowa are without power – I expect power outages to overspread Wisconsin by midday and afternoon. The heaviest snow falls over the next 8-12 hours with conditions gradually improving on Friday as snow tracks northeast and winds ease. The Twin Cities picked up 1-2” of snow but conditions there are improving. Rochester saw closer to 5-6”, but snow will taper by afternoon.  Photo above is from Northern Iowa showing  a Jackknife at mile marker 118 on I-35 Courtesy Spencer Vaughn

It’s the biggest snowfall for Iowa in 3 years. Cities experiencing the greatest impacts from snow, ice and blizzard conditions: Waterloo, Quad Cities, Madison, Milwaukee, Wisconsin Dells.

Photo below is  from Altoona, IA from Lou Sipolt

Chicago will continue to see numerous flight delays and cancellations (2 hour delays right now) due to heavy rain and T-storms – winds in the Windy City may top 60 mph by late afternoon or evening. Lake Shore Flood Warnings are posted for Lake Michigan – Porter, County Indiana will be hardest hit – coastal beach erosion and flooding may rival damage from Sandy.

White-Out Conditions. Many roads are impassable from Omaha to Des Moines, and blizzard conditions (35 mph+ winds and visibilities under ¼ mile in falling/blowing snow) are quickly overspreading northwestern Illinois and Wisconsin into the afternoon and evening hours. Chicago will avoid heavy snow, but high winds will wreak havoc on air travel into Friday – gusts over 60 mph. possible tonight into Friday morning with a couple inches of snow possible at the tail-end of the storm.

Doppler Radar. Late morning radar shows the heaviest snow bands setting up over eastern Iowa, northwestern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. I’m concerned about power outages in Madison and Milwaukee, where snow has been accompanied by thunder and lightning (snow falling at the rate of 1-3”/hour at times). This is a heavy, wet snow – which may increase the risk of tree limbs and power lines coming down into the nighttime hours.

Total Snowfall Amounts. We’ve been analyzing the models, and the map above does a good job of summarizing snow totals from this blizzard; heaviest amounts from eastern Iowa to Madison and Milwaukee into northern Lower Michigan. As much as 16-18” snow may pile up from near Madison to Milwaukee and Green Bay, whipped into 3-4 foot drifts by 50+ mph winds.

Additional Snow Today. This model shows the additional snow forecast to fall by tonight, on top of what has already fallen. Again, southern and eastern Wisconsin will bear the brunt of today’s blizzard – conditions slowly improving tomorrow.

Travel Conditions. Travel isn’t advised from Omaha across nearly all of Iowa into far northwest Illinois and southern Wisconsin. For the latest highway conditions click here.


Power Outages. Thousands of residents of Iowa are without power right now. For the latest details from The Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives click here. I expect power outages to spread into Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois by afternoon and evening as winds increase. Rockford may be impacted, with some power outages in the Chicago area as well.

Isolated Tornado Risk. By now you’ve heard about the damaging tornadoes that swept into Mobile during the early morning hours. Portions of I-65 had to be shut down due to debris. I expect a few more tornadoes today from Montgomery to Macon and Savannah, impacting the Florida Panhandle as well. A couple of these tornadoes may be large, violent and long-lasting.

Today will be the worst of the blizzard, but high winds and flooding along Lake Michigan will linger into Friday – with impacts for Chicago and suburbs. Some sense of normalcy should return by Saturday, but it will take road crews 2-3 days to clear highways from Omaha to Des Moines to Milwaukee and Green Bay.



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather





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