All Weather News

The Ice Storm Cometh

26 Jan 2013, 2:36 pm

icestorm[1].gif

One of the most annoying storms that comes during the winter season is an ice storm.  With a snow storm, you just get snow piling up, people notice it and take their time on the roadways…. hopefully.  When we get a rain storm during a warm time, you may have to take your time on the roads, but rain does not usually cause too much of a problem, unless its prolonged rain, then we got a flooding situation.  But during an ice storm, there is a slow and small accumulation of ice, and in even though isn’t much, there can be a crippling effect to our daily lives.

The ice can be very deceiving, as it can slowly accumulate on the roadways and leave an icy coating.  Drivers may not even notice the ice and have accidents via spinning off the roads or failing to break properly and hit other drivers.  Power lines, much like in the picture from Severe Weather Wiki, can be weighed down by the ice and be taken down.  So can trees branches, which can fall on to structures, cars, power lines, and then need to be cleared before power can be restored.

It is a messy ordeal when an ice storm comes into town, and depending on when it comes in the season, it can be a massive undertaking to recover from the damage.  The places to be heavily impacted the most are those with the most trees, so wooded areas and suburbs can be hit hard.  Also the southern and mid-Atlantic states, who are not used to dealing with winter weather on a regular basis, may have to take several days to recover.

On Friday, portions of the Ohio River Valley, Tennessee River Valley and mid-Atlantic states were impacted by a winter storm that brought about icy precipitation during the morning commute, one of the worse times to have that kind of storm occur.  Not that there is ever a good time to have an icy storm situation, but during the morning commute, folks are rushing to work, to drop of the kids, etc and sometimes had recently woken up, so they just want to get where they have to go quickly and may not notice the slickness on the roads isn’t just some mist from showers but rather a coating of ice.

Some places saw anywhere from a coating to around a quarter of an inch of ice!  That may not seem like much, but it does not take a lot for a tree to be impacted by the ice, or for a car to slide off the road and into a ditch, or worse.  The weight of ice can be substantial and that is why the damage can be so devastating to a metropolitan area, especially if they have an above-ground power grid.  A half of an inch of ice can weigh on average, 500 pounds!

Skies are clearing out over the mid-Atlantic and southeast areas with a high pressure system building in behind the storm system from Friday.  It will give the area, from the Carolinas up to the northeast, lots of sunshine but unfortunately temperatures will continue to run below normal.

Check out the graphic below which shows how freezing rain can develop.

So as this storm moves in late tonight, after midnight, it will be bringing plenty of moisture and depositing it on a cold surface.  Ice accumulations will be averaging between a tenth and four tenths of an inch.  The storm will continue to rain down freezing rain across Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin through the morning hours and then bring snow into Minnesota and Wisconsin where temps will be running below the freezing level.

The snow will fall on top of the ice across the southern portions of Minnesota and central Wisconsin, making the roads very treacherous to drive on if they are not treated.  Plus, if you are driving in the snow, you may not know that beneath it, is an icy coating.  But you would certainly find out if you decided to break quickly.

Watches and warnings about the storm have been posted since early on Saturday.  A winter storm watch and a freezing rain advisory are both in place for Sunday.

Here is the forecast for Sunday across the nation.  Cold air will continue to be around the northern plains and the northeast.  The southern plains will be seeing temps running on the mild side, with the warm air sliding into the central plains.  The southwest will be drying out on the coastal areas but still see showers further inland.  Heading into the northwest, rain is hanging around again and falling in the form of snow showers further inland and in the higher elevations.

Take care and have a pleasant weekend.

Addison Green (twitter @agreenWNTV)

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