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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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
And a possible mixed precip heading directly for Houma in last couple of frames.



Doesn't look like any of that is falling to the surface in the face of a large dewpoint depression from this morning's sounding from KLIX. Freezing temperatures only from 950mb to the surface with a large inversion in the mid levels.
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Now dont make EYES get a switch to ya! A little patience...pretty please.....:)
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Thanks Grothar, but I took another route and went back to Classic, too many flaws with the new version
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Yeah, it be dry at the Surface Uptown Doc.

But we shall see,,that warm Layer does come in aloft as the NWS says,so tonights the night if we going to see something I guess.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
When you quote someone your text gets cut off at the right


Go to the Tools bar on your browser. Hit "Compatability settings" and wait. It should bring all the text back. Close your browser and repeat it. It shoud be OK.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
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Quoting hurricanejunky:


I'm not castigating anyone Groth. I just don't sweat the small stuff and was only stating what is actually happening out there. I didn't embellish the truth or tell any lies...Groundhog day must be some sort of sensitivity booster...
I believe it is going on to a New Moon. Lunatics, like myself, are sensitive to the pull and it does cause sniping about little things. I have my tin-foil hat on so it doesn't bother me so much:)
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I'd think the NWS at Lake Charles will be issuing a winter weather advisory shortly for SE TX and SW LA.
Member Since: September 8, 2001 Posts: 1 Comments: 401
Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Well, gonna sneak in here and ask, does anyone have a problem with getting the blog drop down menu to stay up long enough to actually click on it?

I can't use that drop down either. I use the links on the bottom of the page. Have been going back and forth between the new and classic sites. I'm leaning to keeping the classic format, much easier to use.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Good morning North Pole, TX (DFW, TX)...

Rolling blackouts, temps near 16 F, wind chill factors near -2F..Snow flurries..Mostly cloudy skies and many major roads and highways snow or ice covered..

Welcome to the DFW Metroplex..
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Now that is ugly.

77. RitaEvac 12:51 PM EST on February 02, 2011
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also when you bring up the US temp map, you cant even click any state like the old version to see temps elswhere
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Yes indeed, Atmo and Pat (and howdy Barefoot),

Down here my best chance seeing any frozen stuff will be with the early onset, while still cold enough aloft and sfc... before the ugly cold rain sets in with the warming aloft next couple days...

As for early next week's cold blast, likely the moisture will be gone before freezing temps (aloft and sfc) reach N Gulf region, but we'll just hafta see... I wouldn't completely discount a brief changeover to sleet / snow mix with tapering precip bands though...

Always a few surprises with arctic air masses and N Gulf coastal region... ;)

Okay, back to current flurry - sleet pellet watch... shaping up quite a bit earlier than thought, although feel little will reach the ground to observe at this stage until better saturated...
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and here we go


Winter Storm Watch in effect from Thursday afternoon through
Friday morning...

The National Weather Service in Houston/Galveston has issued a
Winter Storm Watch... which is in effect from Thursday afternoon
through Friday morning.

An upper level storm system approaching from the west will
combine with increasing moisture and cold temperatures in the
atmosphere to generate a mix of snow... sleet... and freezing rain
across southeast Texas Thursday afternoon through Friday morning.
The precipitation is expected to begin Thursday afternoon
especially across the southern half of the area... and spread area
wide by early evening. The wintry mix will continue Thursday night
then taper off around mid morning Friday.

A mixture of snow... sleet... and freezing rain is expected east of
a line from Matagorda to downtown Houston to Rye in Liberty
County. Over the coastal sections of Brazoria County... and most of
Galveston... Chambers... and Liberty counties this could end up a
primarily ice event with significant glazing on roadways. To the
north and west of this line... a mix of snow and sleet are
expected... with all snow across the northwest half of southeast
Texas.

Snow and sleet accumulations of 1 to 3 inches are expected... with
locally higher amounts possible. In the freezing rain threat
area... ice accumulations of up to one-tenth of an inch are
expected. This includes the southern and eastern portions of the
Metro Houston area and the Galveston area as well.

Surface temperatures are expected to be in the mid 20s to lower
30s through the duration of the event. This means that
roadways... especially elevated surfaces like bridges and
overpasses... are much more likely to ice over than during the
events southeast Texas experienced last winter. Roadways will
likely become icy and hazardous Thursday night and Friday morning.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Winter Storm Watch means there is a potential for significant
snow... sleet... or ice accumulations that may impact travel.
Continue to monitor the latest forecasts.


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Quoting atmoaggie:
And a possible mixed precip heading directly for Houma in last couple of frames.



Wow, atmo. That's cool.
:)
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Quoting pottery:
OK, re: previous post on "original" format.
I got it sorted, thanks.
Seems to be good now, locked in to the familiar version.
Hope they leave it there....


Can get the new one to do anything right. Been trying all morning.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
Dr. Masters,
The WunderPress blog has a introduction to the new site, including a slide show that explains the new layout.

Has anyone let you know they have removed that blog?
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Quoting ThunderTime:
Hello All from Sydney Australia - sitting up lstening to Qld ABC Radio - lots of people ringing in currently experiencing Yasi - people sound quite terrified but amazingly Stoic


I'm listening as well...great source of information. Man in Tully looked up through the eye when it past over and saw the stars overhead...off course then the backside hit and he said it got pretty bad when those winds turned around...
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Thanks Patrap
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Quoting Neapolitan:
This image from yesterday may go down as one of my favorite non-hurricane weather satellite images ever:

Click for much larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
Today's should be more interesting, from a snowcover/albedo perspective...and less clouds.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
OK, re: previous post on "original" format.
I got it sorted, thanks.
Seems to be good now, locked in to the familiar version.
Hope they leave it there....
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When you quote someone your text gets cut off at the right
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Site Look = Very Nice!
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Pressure up 11 mb since Landfall..

The Best trend in Days
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Quoting Grothar:


Hey, Eyes. Just use this link and add to your favorites. It brings you back to the old format.



Link


Ok thanks Gro, just didnt want to appear to be a non-comformist, and ya know that not gonna let us keep that old format very long...
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Event Diary: North Qld ABC Mp3 file audio


IDQP0005
Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology
Queensland
Tropical Cyclone Warning Centre

Media: Transmitters serving the area from Cooktown to Proserpine and inland to
the Northern Territory border are requested to USE the Standard Emergency
Warning Signal before broadcasting the following warning.

TOP PRIORITY
TROPICAL CYCLONE ADVICE NUMBER 27
Issued by the Bureau of Meteorology, Brisbane
Issued at 2:58am EST on Thursday the 3rd of February 2011

A Cyclone WARNING is current for coastal and island communities from Cooktown to
Proserpine, extending west across the tropical interior to the Northern
Territory border.

The Cyclone Warning is cancelled between Cape Flattery and Cooktown.

At 3:00 am EST Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi, Category 4 was estimated to be 140
kilometres south southwest of Cairns and 95 kilometres southwest of Innisfail
and moving west southwest at 33 kilometres per hour.

YASI IS MOVING INLAND FROM TULLY BUT REMAINS A DANGEROUS CYCLONE.

Tropical Cyclone Yasi, CATEGORY 4, will weaken as it continues to move in a
west-southwesterly direction towards the Georgetown area during the morning.

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

VERY DESTRUCTIVE winds with gusts up to 260 km/h between Cairns and Ingham and
the adjacent ranges will extend inland and weaken.

DESTRUCTIVE winds with gusts in excess of 125 km/h between Cairns and Ayr will
spread inland overnight.

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

Winds are forecast to gradually ease about the east coast during the morning.

FLOODING RAINS between Cairns and Proserpine will gradually extend inland.

FLOOD WARNINGS are current for a number of rivers between Cairns and Mackay.


People in the path of the very dangerous cyclone should stay calm and remain in
a secure shelter, above the expected water level, while the very destructive
winds continue.
- Do not venture outside if you find yourself in the eye of the cyclone; very
destructive winds from a different direction could resume at any time.
- Follow the evacuation advice or directions of Police, Emergency Services
personnel and local authorities.

People in remaining areas between Coktown and Proserpine and extending west
across the tropical interior to the Northern Territory border, should complete
preparations quickly and be prepared to shelter in a safe place.
- Boats and outside property should be secured.
- For cyclone preparedness and safety advice, visit Queensland's Disaster
Management Services website [www.disaster.qld.gov.au]
- For emergency assistance call the Queensland State Emergency Service [SES] on
132 500 [for assistance with storm damage, rising flood water, fallen trees on
buildings or roof damage].

Details of Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi at 3:00 am EST:
.Centre located near...... 18.1 degrees South 145.4 degrees East
.Location accuracy........ within 20 kilometres
.Recent movement.......... towards the west southwest at 33 kilometres per hour
.Wind gusts near centre... 260 kilometres per hour
.Severity category........ 4
.Central pressure......... 941 hectoPascals


Please ensure that neighbours have heard and understood this message,
particularly new arrivals or those who may not fully understand English.

The next advice will be issued by 4:00 am EST Thursday 03 February.

This warning is also available through TV and Radio Broadcasts; the Bureau's
website at www.bom.gov.au or call 1300 659 212. The Bureau and the State
Emergency Service would appreciate this warning being broadcast regularly.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pottery:

Permanently ??


No, apparently not.
Naughty, Naughty....
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This image from yesterday may go down as one of my favorite non-hurricane weather satellite images ever:

Click for much larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, Eyes. Just use this link and add to your favorites. It brings you back to the old format.



Link

Permanently ??
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Quoting atmoaggie:
echoechoechoechoecho
(yep, that still works)


Where is your head right now????
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210
Quoting pottery:
Hey, Atmo.
I am having trouble getting the "original" version of the blog to stay engaged.
Keeps reverting to the "new" when I drop out and come back on.
How to fix that?
No idea. I've been using the new one without any probs since last night.
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Hello All from Sydney Australia - sitting up lstening to Qld ABC Radio - lots of people ringing in currently experiencing Yasi - people sound quite terrified but amazingly Stoic
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Quoting EYEStoSEA:
Well, gonna sneak in here and ask, does anyone have a problem with getting the blog drop down menu to stay up long enough to actually click on it?


Hey, Eyes. Just use this link and add to your favorites. It brings you back to the old format.



Link
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 27210




Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Hey, Atmo.
I am having trouble getting the "original" version of the blog to stay engaged.
Keeps reverting to the "new" when I drop out and come back on.
How to fix that?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
echoechoechoechoecho
(yep, that still works)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
And a possible mixed precip heading directly for Houma in last couple of frames.

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Quoting DocNDswamp:
Yo Patrap,
Take a look at our local New Orleans radar, lol, of what's already showing in this SW flow aloft...
Might get interesting after all - still at freezing here after Houma fell to 28F low rather late this morn around 8:30 AM with very strong CAA (at the Ag station)... Might not be reaching the sfc, but saw reports elsewhere of flurries in NW LA...

LOL, those of you in real snow country dealing with da blizzard, try not to laugh at us SE LA coastal residents minor excitement at any chance of fzn precip... More LOL, then again, Houma's record snowfall of 16-18" on Feb 15 1895 is higher than most inland stations that see it more frequently!
Cheers!
Like I said yesterday, 2 inches here causes the same issues that 12 inches does up north.
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Quoting Jedkins01:
Anyways... Back to weather...


Who else thinks the long term GFS prediction of snow in Florida is a bunch of crap and that the model will shift much warmer in later runs?
I dunno.

This was the GFS 12 day forecast snowcover from the 12 UTC run on Jan 21. While we aren't likely to see 6 inches on snow over central LA in the next day or so, we are most likely going to see some snow across most of the area GFS call for it 12 days ago. Not a terribly bad miss for 12 days out.

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Well, gonna sneak in here and ask, does anyone have a problem with getting the blog drop down menu to stay up long enough to actually click on it?
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1496
Hiya Doc,,

Deja Vu Man as I was just on BFOTR's entry seeing yas.

Yes indeed,,holding mid 30's here and that stuff is a coming in .

"Whoa Boy" az Justin would of said.

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Here in the Dallas/Fort Worth, we had a major Ice Storm. Here at my house, I got over an inch and a half of Ice, under 3-4 inches of Snow. The road is still frozen solid this morning with an air temperature of 13 °F and a Wind chill of -5 °F.

So much ice is on the road right now, that you cannot even see it.
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OK!!
I spent an hour or so on the new Improved format.
Then I went back and forth between the "old" and the "new" for a while.
Now, I am back in the "old" format, Permanently>
Thanks for the option.
The new version is pretty bad.

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Yo Patrap,
Take a look at our local New Orleans radar, lol, of what's already showing in this SW flow aloft...
Might get interesting after all - still at freezing here after Houma fell to 28F low rather late this morn around 8:30 AM with very strong CAA (at the Ag station)... Might not be reaching the sfc, but saw reports elsewhere of flurries in NW LA...

LOL, those of you in real snow country dealing with da blizzard, try not to laugh at us SE LA coastal residents minor excitement at any chance of frzn precip... More LOL, then again, Houma's record snowfall of 16-18" on Feb 15 1895 is higher than most inland stations that see it more frequently!
Cheers!
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junky.... PLEASE...count to 10.... take a deep breath.....

ok?

:)



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Quoting Jedkins01:
Anyways... Back to weather...


Who else thinks the long term GFS prediction of snow in Florida is a bunch of crap and that the model will shift much warmer in later runs?

*Raises hand*
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 47 Comments: 11709

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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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