Winter storm alert for Friday

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ)- For days now the notion of a winter storm arriving on Thursday as rain and changing to snow by Friday has been advertised by the sophisticated supercomputer models used in weather prediction. Since the storm that is coming our way is still a mere figment of the computer’s imagination as of early Monday one can only wonder how accurate such forecast models can be 5 days in advance? Good question!

So we will let the pattern unfold and allow for more data to pour in as the forecast is tweaked. One change that has already occurred since Friday has been the slower arrival of the much-ballyhooed bitter cold air. The updated time frame for a Thursday 40s-degree rain to change to snow with sub-freezing air is now around dawn on Friday. That alteration in timing, should it hold sway, would allow for travel conditions Thursday night to be mainly wet coming into our area (exceptions include the I-68 route in from Hagerstown to Morgantown and along I-70, I-71 coming out of Illinois and Indiana. Also the I-64 zone thru Lewisburg is in question on Thursday for a wet snowfall).

As Andy Chilean highlighted in his Sunday night report after Football Night in America the expected accumulations of snow early on at least look to be light and manageable. Time will tell on that notion. But Andy went on to hit hard the high wind facet of this incoming storm.

But regardless of accumulations, unrelenting will be the howling winds and bitter cold that follow the snow on Friday and last into the weekend.

Let’s start with the wind. The only winter storm coming from the west I can recall that had this intense of a predicted wind field is the infamous Blizzard of 1978 (which rained on our region then brought a light snowfall). That storm buried the region from Cincinnati to Columbus to Cleveland with a foot or more of snow that was whipped around by 50-60 mile per hour winds. That combination was truly life threatening with records suggesting 50 people lost their lives in Ohio when stranded in snow.

If current projections are even just close to correct, then storm forces winds will commence Friday morning and blow continually for 30 hours thru midday on Saturday. A widespread power out event would unfold under this scenario. Now tack on the incoming bitter cold (when temperatures for 48 hours look to stay in the single digits and teens even before the wind chill is factored in) and you have the making for exceptionally challenging travel conditions.

Since even a little snow would make for icy travel, DOH members will be salting roads as long as the air doesn’t get too frigid too soon.

With the prospect of frozen water pipes on the table, we should plan on taking important precautions to get thru the Winter Storm, regardless of how much snow we get.

More on the storm on Monday but for now let’s state comprehensively that travel conditions will go downhill fast on Friday, so it is best to get loved ones in on Thursday.

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