Groundhog's Day blizzard pounds U.S.; Category 4 Yasi hits Australia

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 3:50 PM GMT on February 02, 2011

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The great Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2011 continues to pound a huge swath of the U.S. with heavy snows, destructive freezing rain, and dangerously cold and windy conditions. Over 1/2” of ice has caused power outages in Indianapolis, and up to .9” of ice has hit Columbus, Ohio. Ice amounts in excess of 1/2” have also affected Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey New York, and Pennsylvania. Blizzard conditions continue in Chicago, where heavy snows of up to two inches per hour in high winds have crippled the city's transportation system. As of 9am CST this morning, Chicago's O'Hare Airport had received 19.5” of snow, making it city's third greatest snowstorm on record. Only the January 2 - 4 1999 blizzard (21.6") and January 2 – 4, 1967 blizzard (23”) have dumped more snow on Chicago. Today's blizzard had stronger winds than Chicago's other two record snowstorms, and thus this storm is probably the worst snowstorm ever to affect the city, as far as impacts on travel go. Huge drifts in excess of 6 feet are common in the city, and residents are finding it difficult to leave their houses, much less travel on area roads. Winds last night at Chicago's Calumet Harbor were sustained at tropical storm force, 39 mph, with gusts to 51 mph, and high winds tore off part of a fiberboard roof panel behind home plate at Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. The Chicago buoy, 10 miles offshore in Lake Michigan, had sustained winds of 54 mph, gusting to 66 mph, last night. Winds are slowly decreasing across Chicago, and the blizzard will be over by early afternoon.


Figure 1. Lake Shore Drive in downtown Chicago on the night of February 1, 2011. Image credit: Viewer uploaded photo from WGN.

According to the National Weather Service, since snow records began in 1886 in Chicago, there have been 43 winter storms that produced 10 inches or more of snow. A 10 inch snow occurs about once every 3 years. A 15 inch snow occurs only once about every 20 years. The closest back to back 10 inch
snows were March 25-26 and April 1-2, 1970 (6 days apart). The longest period of time without a 10 inch snow or greater was February 12, 1981 to January 1, 1999 (almost 18 years). The earliest 10 inch snow was November 25-26, 1895 and the latest 10 inch snow was April 1-2, 1970. The most recent 10 inch snow was January 9-10, 2009.

Chicago's 10 biggest Snowstorms:

1. 23.0 inches Jan 26-27, 1967
2. 21.6 inches Jan 1-3, 1999
3. 19.5 inches Feb 1-2, 2011
4. 19.2 inches Mar 25-26, 1930
5. 18.8 inches Jan 13-14, 1979
6. 16.2 inches Mar 7-8, 1931
7. 15.0 inches Dec 17-20, 1929
8. 14.9 inches Jan 30, 1939
9. 14.9 inches Jan 6-7, 1918
10. 14.3 inches Mar 25-26, 1970

The great storm's fury now turns to New England. Boston received 9.7” of snow as of 7am from the storm, and another 4 – 8” is on the way today. Heavy snows in excess of 6 inches are expected in a swath extending from central New York through Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine today. Up to 1/4” of ice is expected through New England along the southern edge of the heavy snow belt. Cities near the coast such as New York City and Philadelphia will receive mostly rain from the storm, though.

Some selected snowfall totals from the Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2011, as of 9am EST:

Spring Grove, IL 20.8”
Miami, OK 20”
Jefferson City, MO 18.3”
S. Fort Scott, KS 18”
Tulsa, OK 15”
Schenectady, NY 9.6”
Boston, MA 9.7”
Detroit, MI 7.5”
Oklahoma City, OK 7”
West Hartford, CT 6.5”
Abilene, TX 6”
Cedar Rapids, IA 4.5”


Figure 2. Satellite image of the Groundhog's Day Blizzard of 2011, taken at 10am EST February 2. Image credit: NASA/GSFC.

Category 4 Tropical Cyclone Yasi hits Queensland, Australia
Tropical Cyclone Yasi roared inland over Queensland, Australia at 12:30am local time this morning as a strengthening Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds and a 930 mb central pressure. Yasi is incredibly strong, its winds falling just 5 mph short of Category 5 status. This makes the storm one of the top-ten strongest cyclones to hit Australia since accurate records began in 1970.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology had this to say about Yasi in their advisory last night:

YASI IS A LARGE AND VERY POWERFUL TROPICAL CYCLONE AND POSES AN
EXTREMELY SERIOUS THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY WITHIN THE WARNING AREA,
ESPECIALLY BETWEEN CAIRNS AND TOWNSVILLE.

THIS IMPACT IS LIKELY TO BE MORE LIFE THREATENING THAN ANY EXPERIENCED DURING RECENT GENERATIONS.


Figure 3. Tropical Cyclone Yasi at 03:35 UTC February 2, 2011, as seen by NASA's Aqua satellite.

On Wednesday morning at 9:30am local time, Yasi hit tiny Willis Island, where a minimum pressure of 938 mb and a peak wind gust of 115 mph was observed before Yasi cut communications and damaged the radar.

Queensland faces three major threats from Yasi. The cyclone will bring torrential rainfall to a region with saturated soils that saw record flooding earlier this month. The latest rainfall forecast from NOAA using satellite-based rainfall estimates shows 4 – 6” of rain falling along Yasi's track over the next 24 hours. The GFS model is predicting that a wide swath of Queensland will receive 5 - 10 inches of rain over the next week, due to the combined effects of Yasi and a moist flow of tropical air over the region. Fortunately, Yasi is moving with a rapid forward speed, about 21 mph, and is not expected to linger over Queensland after landfall. The heaviest rainfall will miss Queensland's most populated regions to the south that had the worst flooding problems earlier this month, including the Australia's third largest city, Brisbane.

Yasi brought highly destructive winds to a region of coast between the cities of Cairns (population 150,000) and Townsville (population 200,000). Strong building codes have been in place in Queensland since the 1960s, which will help reduce the damage amounts. The fact that Yasi's eyewall missed these two major cities is lucky, since the coast is less populous between the cities.

A dangerous storm surge in excess of ten feet likely occurred along the left front quadrant of the storm where it came ashore. The tidal was going out when the storm struck, and the inundation from the storm surge will be about 1 meter (3 feet) less than it would have been had the storm hit at high tide.

Yasi is larger and more dangerous than Cyclone Larry of 2006, which hit Queensland as a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds. Larry killed one person and caused $872 million in damage (2011 U.S. dollars.) Yasi will bring heavy rains to a region with soils already saturated from record rains, and may become a billion-dollar cyclone.


Figure 4. Radar image of Tropical Cyclone Yasi at landfall in Queensland, Australia. Image credit: Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

Links to follow:

Live streaming video from Channel 9 in Cairns, Australia

A new look for wunderground
The Weather Underground was the first commercial weather company to set up an Internet web site, way back in 1995. In the sixteen years since, we've steadily expanded our content, but today—in honor of Groundhog's Day—we've launched our first major site re-design. The WunderPress blog has a introduction to the new site, including a slide show that explains the new layout. You can click through the demo by hitting the “>” button. The launch of the redesigned wunderground.com also features our unique forecasting technology, BestForecast. Utilizing Weather Underground's network of personal weather stations (the largest in the world), BestForecast provides the industry's most localized weather forecasts by producing a forecast for every place in the world that has an airport or personal weather station—over 19,000 locations worldwide. We also provide the latest National Weather Service forecast for each county in the U.S., so users can choose which forecast works best for them. Coming soon: verification statistics, so you can see exactly how well the forecasts are doing for your location. We realize that not everyone will be happy with the newly redesigned site, so we still offer the old design at classic.wunderground.com.

Jeff Masters

BLIZZARD! (farmerjen)
Blizzard in SE Kansas. The bird bath will be swallowed by nightfall for sure...
BLIZZARD!
Windswept (jadnash)
A desolate stretch of highway 32 in NE Nebraska
Windswept
School's Out! (jadnash)
A wild bus ride home today! High winds and heavy snow in NE Nebraska. Can't believe I'm actually out here driving, much less snapping pictures...
School's Out!
2011 Chicago Blizzard (weatherzoid1)
2011 Chicago Blizzard

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surfside- bring your bathing suit and we can dance together
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Ice storm watches and warning could be going out
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:


Geeez Pat, that just ain't right......sleet in NOLA, the very idea......


corpus christi tx got winter storm watch, too

some things just ain't right in quite a few places
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NWS Mobile has issued a Winter Weather Advisory
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Serious situation setting up for coastal TX
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Quoting Patrap:
Sleet begins to fall Uptown NOLA ,,Ping,tink,tink.



Geeez Pat, that just ain't right......sleet in NOLA, the very idea......
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Ice Storm for coastal counties of TX, possible downed power lines and tree limbs, ice could be thick as 1/2" which is plenty to cause damage.
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Sleet begins to fall Uptown NOLA ,,Ping,tink,tink.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 429 Comments: 130359
Ice Pellets...not my idea of fun....
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Quoting aquak9:
thank you drak, again.

If it snows in Jacksonville, and I'm home and awake, I will dance outside in a bathing suit.


If it snows in Jacksonville I'll be driving north for the kids to see it...Took them last year to Georgia, said I would only go as far North as Jacksonville this year...they may get their wish!
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thank you drak, again.

If it snows in Jacksonville, and I'm home and awake, I will dance outside in a bathing suit.
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Quoting aquak9:
drak- I had to enlarge it , but I appreciate the explanation. Pink is still liquid precip, then. No Worries Here.


If we extrapolate the track of the low then the comma head would be moving eastward.
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Quoting 1900hurricane:

Maybe a little from anything that comes out of the Gulf like what Pat is watching over the next day or so. After that, like what Drak is saying, there's a chance that you may get a shot next week.



Hmmm...ok thank you very mcuh
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Jackson, Mississippi
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 429 Comments: 130359
Quoting EYEStoSEA:

Maybe a little from anything that comes out of the Gulf like what Pat is watching over the next day or so. After that, like what Drak is saying, there's a chance that you may get a shot next week.

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"It is just a scene of mass devastation," he said. "Larry was a boy compared to this."


Cyclone Yasi strikes North Queensland

Category five cyclone tears roofs off pubs and houses, topples trees, and sends power cables crashing on to roads


* Patrick Barkham in Karratha and Adam Gabbatt
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 2 February 2011 18.49 GMT


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Tried to comment...Is South Central Ms included in any wintry precip?
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.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 2351
Associated Press | February 02, 2011

A massive cyclone crashed into northeastern Australia, ripping roofs from buildings and cutting power to thousands of homes but leaving the scale of disaster unknown as officials and residents holed up while the tempest raged. (Feb. 2)

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 429 Comments: 130359
Quoting 1900hurricane:

I'm feeling a snowstorm, but no surprise for me!

Is South central Ms included in any wintry precip?
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Quoting Drakoen:


The ECMWF 12z run is showing a low track through the northern Gulf of Mexico with very cold air behind the low supporting back end snow all the way to the Gulf Coast. Here's the precipitation forecast. Notice the comma head back into Louisiana and Mississippi. That's snow.



Yeah. TWC's forecast for me on that day is Rain/Snow during the day and Snow showers during the night. I'm in Macon, GA by the way. TWC has actually been fairly accurate for the past couple winter storms, but it's still a ways out.
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Test post from my boysenberry.

Site loaded easier that the old one on this...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
169. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Tropical Cyclone Warning Center Brisbane
Tropical Cyclone Advice #30
SEVERE TROPICAL CYCLONE YASI (14U)
6:00 AM EST February 3 2011
=========================================

At 6:00 am EST Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, Category Three (969 hPa) located at 18.7S 144.5E or 110 km east southeast of Georgetown and 165 km west southwest of Cardwell has 10 minute sustained of 70 knots with gusts of 100 knots. The cyclone is reported as moving west southwest at 17 knots.

YASI WILL CONTINUE TO PRODUCE HEAVY RAIN AND DANGEROUS WIND GUSTS AS IT MOVES ACROSS THE TROPICAL INTERIOR.

Tropical Cyclone Yasi, CATEGORY 3, will weaken as it continues to move in a west-southwesterly direction. Yasi is SE of Georgetown this morning and will be
near Mt Isa tonight as a tropical Low.

The VERY DESTRUCTIVE core, with gusts up to 180 km/h, is well SE of Georgetown and weakening.

DESTRUCTIVE winds with gusts in excess of 125 km/h are occurring between Innisfail and Townsville and extending inland to almost Georgetown.

DAMAGING WINDS with gusts above 90 km/hr are occurring in remaining coastal areas between Port Douglas and Bowen, and are forecast to extend through to Mt Isa during the day.

HIGHER THAN NORMAL TIDES and large waves will continue between Port Douglas and Ayr and sea levels may again exceed the high water mark on the the morning high tide.

FLOODING RAINS south of Cairns will gradually extend inland.

Tropical Cyclone Watches/Warnings
==================================
A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal and island communities from Port Douglas to Bowen , extending west across the tropical interior to the Northern Territory border.

The Cyclone Warning is cancelled between Cape Tribulation and Port Douglas and between Proserpine to Bowen.
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 53 Comments: 47519
Quoting Bordonaro:

Feeling a surprise snowstorm in my bones for Thurs night & Friday :D

I'm feeling a snowstorm, but no surprise for me!
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Quoting Patrap:


Notta yet..

But my shoulder says soon..



Still pretty dry in New Orleans, per the RUC:



Not to mention warm...
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Even though the "Groundhog's Day Blizzard" has almost cleared the United States, major problems still exist. Extreme cold from the South, all the way up into the Midwest, is going to occur for several more days.

Here in North Texas, since it is so cold (Only in the low to mid teens right now...climatology is lower-50s) power agencies have had to do intentional blackouts across the whole state. Here in my neighborhood, ice covers the road, and 3-4 inches of snow still lay on the ground. Temperatures aren't expected to get above freezing here until Saturday, and more snow is possible on Friday. Weather should be good here for the Superbowl though :D

Feeling a surprise snowstorm in my bones for Thurs night & Friday for the DFW Metroplex :D
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Quoting Neapolitan:

Awesomely funny--and amazingly depressing. I'll have a response for you this afternoon. ;-)


Been listening to any of the Yasi news on the ABC 24 live feed? Pretty intense reports...
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Even though the "Groundhog's Day Blizzard" has almost cleared the United States, major problems still exist. Extreme cold from the South, all the way up into the Midwest, is going to occur for several more days.

Here in North Texas, since it is so cold (Only in the low to mid teens right now...climatology is lower-50s) power agencies have had to do intentional blackouts across the whole state. Here in my neighborhood, ice covers the road, and 3-4 inches of snow still lay on the ground. Temperatures aren't expected to get above freezing here until Saturday, and more snow is possible on Friday. Weather should be good here for the Superbowl though :D
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Not really, right?


Notta yet..

But my shoulder says soon..


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 429 Comments: 130359
Thats what the Supers do..


Trees by the Millions will be gone.
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Reports starting to come about damage in the area Yasi hit. One report from Tully, which is not on the coast but a little way inland is a pressure reading of 929mb as the eye passed over.

Reports of forests flattened and major property damage, but nothing on storm surge yet.
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Quoting Patrap:
..tink
Not really, right?
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting SQUAWK:


If I remember right, it was you that got all uppity about someone being concerned about the new web site and not caring about the poor unfortunate souls in the world. My point is this; if that is the way we should act, then we would never get anything done because horrible stuff is happening all the time. And I know some people that are like that. All they do is worry about our horrid little world and they are paralyzed because of it. Wasted energy, wasted life.


Yeah, yeah, blah blah...whatever. I can assure you I'm not paralyzed but I am empathetic to the plight of others. EXCUUUUUUSE ME!!!! Talking to you is like talking to a brick wall so you're right, I am "wasting energy". Why don't you put me on the ignore list then and save us both from further "wasted energy"? Back to weather...
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..tink
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 429 Comments: 130359
Quoting Patrap:
Hey atmo,,call and see who is switching the mode around.

LOL

Uh-oh,itsa brighter now



Wonder y they did that...
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Quoting Neapolitan:

It can be spun however anyone likes
It seems that only one of us should be dizzy, and it ain't me.

For reference:
Quoting Neapolitan:

It's true that, yes, record lows outnumbered record highs yesterday--for the first time in a week. (In fact, even factoring in yesterday, over the past seven days, record daily highs and high minimums have outnumbered record daily lows and low minimums 325 to 80.) Of course, there will likely be many more record cold temps today--but that's usually how it is in the dead of winter, no?
Quoting atmoaggie:

Umm, no, no that isn't how it usually is.

The record lows move with the seasons, too. So a record low can be bested in any season with only well below average temps. -10 F isn't needed to set a record low in the summer.

Whether record highs or lows are more likely to be bested is entirely independent of the season or month. Statistical and meteorological fact. Not dizzy.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Hey atmo,,call and see who is switching the mode around.

LOL

Uh-oh,itsa brighter now



Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 429 Comments: 130359
tink,,

tink,,

tink,tink,tink
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 429 Comments: 130359
Quoting Patrap:
Its getting awful yellow bright in that next plume coming up atmo..

Me tinks its not thunderstorms too.
Yep, 30 dBz. Should reach the ground. As what, I cannot say...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Its getting awful yellow bright in that next plume coming up atmo..

Me tinks its not thunderstorms too.
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150. JRRP
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Quoting hurricanejunky:
Hey Nea...how did you like that story?
LOL!

Awesomely funny--and amazingly depressing. I'll have a response for you this afternoon. ;-)
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


I'm not going to lose sleep over it either, I just thought it might be a more worthwhile use of energy to care so vehemently about people dying than minor changes to a website. Guess I was wrong.

Out of site out of mind. Interesting motto to live by. Ooh and thanks for the heavy touch of condescension. I would expect nothing less from you.

I know it pains you to actually give a hoot about anything you don't have control over but that doesn't stop millions of people each day from doing it. You think anyone had any control over Haiti's Earthquake, Katrina, the Indonesian Tsunami, TC Yasi or any number of other terrible events?

According to YOUR logic, we shouldn't care about any of those events because we "have no control over them". Glad everyone doesn't share your same logic circuit.

I guess you shouldn't care about what the government is doing either since you "have no control" over alot of it. Gimme a break. Save your lectures for someone else.


If I remember right, it was you that got all uppity about someone being concerned about the new web site and not caring about the poor unfortunate souls in the world. My point is this; if that is the way we should act, then we would never get anything done because horrible stuff is happening all the time. And I know some people that are like that. All they do is worry about our horrid little world and they are paralyzed because of it. Wasted energy, wasted life.
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Hey Nea...how did you like that story?
LOL!
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Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 429 Comments: 130359
drak- I had to enlarge it , but I appreciate the explanation. Pink is still liquid precip, then. No Worries Here.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Umm, no, no that isn't how it usually is.

The record lows move with the seasons, too. So a record low can be bested in any season with only well below average temps. -10 F isn't needed to set a record low in the summer.

It can be spun however anyone likes, I supposed, but the fact of the matter is, record highs have been increasingly outnumbering record lows on a decade-by-decade basis since the 1950s, and cold as January 2011 was supposed to be, it still managed to see more record highs than record lows. That is to say, the nation (along with the globe) is getting warmer. No, month-to-month numbers don't mean a whole lot in the overall scheme of things, especially when those numbers are in just one area--in this case the U.S. But when looked at as a whole, it's actually quite astounding that the warmth keeps on coming despite predictions to the, er, contrary.
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


Cool info...work comes first! Keep me posted on conditions...be safe...


will do!

have a good one guys,

Im out!
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Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27280
Quoting atmoaggie:
Umm, no, no that isn't how it usually is.

The record lows move with the seasons, too. So a record low can be bested in any season with only well below average temps. -10 F isn't needed to set a record low in the summer.


just like how record highs are set in the winter,

you don't need 110 degrees in January to set record highs


good point
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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