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Submitted by Tim Buckley on Fri, 01/07/2011 - 10:04am.
The closer we get, the more likely it looks like a winter storm will drive up the coast early next week. We've been watching it for a few days now, and are getting a better idea on what affects this latest system will have on the Cape Fear region.
As of Friday morning, the storm is still thousands of miles away off the Southern California coast - but it will be getting a move on by Friday night. The southern branch of the Jet Stream will steer this large upper-level low across the desert southwest and into Texas by Saturday. This is where the storm will begin to initially strengthen.
Heading into Sunday, the storm will be positioned near Louisiana along the Gulf Coast. Sound familiar? This is nearly the same track that the Christmas weekend storm took before coming our way.
As we've been saying all along, the exact track of the system will be key to what type of precipitation we see here in Wilmington, as well as how much. Looking at the image above, an inland path would give us a warmer storm - with a mainly rain result. A path closer to the coast or even offshore would be a "worst case" (or "best case" depending on how you look at it) for winter weather. This would mean longer and more intense periods of frozen precip.
The models had been extremely inconsistent on the path placement over the last several days, but they are starting to come into agreement now. Using a blend of their forecasts, a path in the center of this cone appears to be most likely. With all the cold air in place from the Arctic air mass moving in this weekend, it looks like we will be cold enough initially for precip to start as a mix of snow and freezing rain very early Monday morning. However, as the low approaches closer to the area, temperatures will warm - allowing a changeover to rain to take place midday Monday into Monday night. This happens first at the coast, and last inland.
Depending on how long the duration of snow/freezing rain lasts, some significant icing and or snow looks possible Monday morning. This will be the worst period of the storm. In any event, conditions rapidly improve once the changeover to rain occurs late Monday into Tuesday.
That's what we know now. There's still a great deal of uncertainty in the details here simply because the storm is just now coming onshore in California. We'll continue to fine tune this forecast and be with you every step of the way up until the storm comes on Monday.
Enjoy your weekend!
By: Tim Buckley