WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

Where'd the snow go?

Posted January 8, 2010 12:38 p.m. EST

Well, if you're anything like me, you woke up disappointed.

Not that this was supposed to be a repeat of January 2000, or even a repeat of January 2009.  We were talking a dusting to, perhaps at best, an inch of snow.

That's not even enough snow to make a snow-mini-man, much less snow cream or any of the other snowy goodies we like to think of with a good snowfall.

Still, the disappointment remains.

What happened?

This was never going to be a big, memorable snowfall.  Greg all but said as much earlier this week, warning us not to let the "10 really good reasons" why it would snow drown out the "15 equally good reasons" why it wouldn't.  For the last couple of days, our forecast has consistently been for a very minor snowfall, with total accumulations of no more than an inch or so.  If anything, we were worried that the accumulations were too high, and that we wouldn't have enough moisture to generate any snow at all.

In other words, the rain was something of a surprise.

What worked?

Overall the forecast was good relative to timing.  The precipitation started and ended almost perfectly on schedule, with the bulk of the precipitation in our area occurring in the overnight and early morning hours.  The forecast of very light — liquid equivalent — precipitation amounts was spot on, as well.  Unfortunately, we were counting on that precip falling in the form of dry, fluffy snow, not rain.

What busted?

The system began to make its trek across North Carolina late yesterday, and as we expected, crossing the mountains helped to rob it of the moisture it needed to create snow.  As it drew closer to the coast, we looked for it to tap into better moisture from the Atlantic.  However, when it comes to snow, that Atlantic moisture always comes with a price: warmth or heat.  As the moisture got pulled into the system, it brought more of that warmth along with it than we expected.  That caused the snow to melt aloft, leading to rain here on the ground.  It was certainly cold enough for snow for most of the week.  However, ahead of the storm system, we saw temperatures soar (relatively speaking, of course!) into the upper 40s, and some of that warmth also factored into keeping the precipitation in a liquid form. 

In spite of that, the models that we rely upon to guide the forecasting process still universally pointed to our seeing either nothing at all, or mainly snow.  As Greg said this morning on AM 620 The Buzz, it's hard to ignore the models that have done so well in other situations when they're selling you a bill of goods you want to buy, even when that doesn't line up with common sense.

The net result: Still some icy spots

We still had some issues this morning with icy spots, thanks to the rain that fell overnight and the leading edge of "Arctic Blast, Round 2" beginning to blow in behind the system.  Temperatures fell back into the the near-or-below freezing category, causing some of the water on the roads to freeze. 

The sun, combined with the cold and dry arctic air mass that's spilling over the mountains and into our area, will basically dry us out before tonight's bitterly cold freezing temperatures.  There shouldn't be any widespread problems with icy spots overnight into tomorrow, but any unusual ponding of water, such as a broken fire hydrant or similar, will freeze over.

So, what's next?

On AM 620 The Buzz this morning, Greg still believes this winter holds promise for more snow chances.  The combination of the El Niño, which tends to bring more storm systems to our area, and other factors that point toward a colder-than-normal winter suggests we should have more opportunities for snow before it's done.  "I'm standing by that comment in the sense that i still think that the overall pattern is one that eventually will give us pay dirt at some point in time," Fishel said.  But he said each day without snow is a wasted chance, like "putting a million dollars in a bank account and having it lose money."

Were you disappointed that we didn't see snow?  If your school or employer worked on a delay, how did you send the extra hour or two this morning?