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Southeast U.S. Slowly Thaws; Rains in California End Record Dry Streaks

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:00 PM GMT on January 30, 2014

The unusually sharp kink in the jet stream that has brought extreme weather to nearly the entire U.S. in January is finally beginning to straighten out, and a return to more normal winter conditions will begin today and extend into next week. After a morning low of 14°, Atlanta's temperature is expected to rebound into the upper 30s under sunny skies on Thursday afternoon, helping to melt out the hundreds of miles of ice-covered roads left by Winter Storm Leon on Tuesday. A state of emergency remains in effect for all of Georgia until at least noon Thursday due to icy roads. Atlanta, Birmingham, Alabama, and many other cities in the Southeast U.S. suffered their worst traffic days in history on Tuesday, after sleet and snows of 1 - 3" compacted into ice on area roads, resulting in travel chaos. Temperatures will fall into the teens again on Thursday night, allowing those roads that do thaw out to re-freeze. The Southeast will not fully thaw out until Friday afternoon, under sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s. At least a dozen deaths have been blamed on the storm, including five traffic fatalities in Alabama.


Figure 1. Abandoned cars litter the roadway Cobb Parkway (US 41) between Cumberland Pkwy and W. Paces Ferry Road. Image credit: Michael King @mhking


Figure 2. Freezing rain from Winter Storm Leon turned roads in Mobile, Alabama into skating rinks. Mobile Airport received 0.1" of ice and 0.8" of sleet. Image credit: David Ladner @davidladner

Top snowfall amounts from Leon, by state
VIRGINIA: 10.0” at 5 locations in the Norfolk-Virginia News area; Park Manor, Suffolk, Stone Bridge, Deep Creek, and Willoughby Spit (8.5” officially at Norfolk NWS site)
NORTH CAROLINA: 9.0” Gliden
NEW JERSEY: 7.7” Estell Manor (7.3" in Atlantic City)
MARYLAND: 6.7” Ridge
MASSACHUSETTS: 5.5" East Sandwich, West Tisbury
DELAWARE: 5.4” Dover, Harrington, Ellendale
NEW YORK: 4.9" Theresa
MISSISSIPPI: 3.0” at 5 sites, including Cato
SOUTH CAROLINA: 4.0” Bennetstsville
GEORGIA: 4.0” White
LOUISIANA: 4.0” Jena
ALABAMA: 3.0” numerous locations
WEST VIRGINIA: 3.0" Gary
TENNESSEE: 2.0" Maryville
PENNSYLVANIA: 1.0” 5 NE Philadelphia
FLORIDA: no official snow reports, but 0.5" of sleet at Freeport

Rain in California!
"Ahhh, rain!" Those are words that undoubtedly arose from the lips of a great number of upturned faces in California on Wednesday, as heaven-sent drops of water splashed down from above. The first significant rain storm of 2014 moved through the northern half of the state on Wednesday, bringing some welcome relief from the record dry conditions that have parched the state this winter. In the Sierra Mountains, snows of up to 12 inches fell, and up to 2 feet of snow may accumulate above 8,000 feet, adding a modest boost to a snowpack that was the lowest on record in many locations. As of 7 am PST on January 30, the Sierra Snow Survey found a snow pack that was only 7% of normal for this time of year. Sacramento recorded 0.03" of rain on Wednesday, ending a string of 52 consecutive days without rain. It was their longest streak of dry days during the rainy season ever recorded, smashing the previous record of 46 days set in 1884. According to wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt, Wednesday's rains in downtown San Francisco and Oakland ended their longest winter rain-free periods on record, since at least 1850 (though San Francisco did get 0.03" of drizzle earlier this month.) The last actual rainfall in the city was on December 6th. That’s 53 days during what normally should be the wettest period of the year, when at least 8” would normally fall. Yesterday's rains also brought an exceptional dry streak to an end in Reno, Nevada--the 0.10" of rain that fell was its first precipitation since December 19.


Figure 3. The observed precipitation plot for the 30-day period ending at 7 am EST January 29, 2014, shows that about 2/3 of California had received no rain at all in 2014. All of Arizona, most of Nevada, and much of Utah and New Mexico were also precipitation-free. January is the heart of the rainy season for the Southwest U.S., and is typically one of the wettest months of the year. Arizona is expected to get rain on January 31, keeping it from going the entire month without rain. Only one time since record keeping began in 1895 has any state had a rain-free January: 1986 in Kansas. Arizona's lowest January rainfall came in 1972, when the state averaged just 0.01" of precipitation. Image credit: NOAA.


Figure 4. The January 29 U.S. Drought Monitor showed 94% of California in drought, with 9% of the state in the highest level of drought, "Exceptional." Image credit: U.S. Drought Monitor.

Drought situation in California still dire despite today's rains
While yesterday's and today's rains and snow in California are a welcome respite, they will put only a minor dent in what is one of the worst droughts in California history. Today's U.S. Drought Monitor update put 9% of the state into "Exceptional Drought"--the worst category. This is the first time since the Drought Monitor product began in 2000 that a portion of California was put into "Exceptional Drought". California's area experiencing extreme to exceptional drought remained at 63%, making it one of the three worst winter droughts in state history. To break the drought, much of the state needs more than 12" of precipitation. Sacramento has received about 2" of rain since July 1, 2013, which is 8" below normal, and most of the southern half of the state needs more than a year of rainfall to fall in one month to break the drought. The stubborn ridge of high pressure responsible for the drought is forecast to build back over California during the first ten days of February, and the state will receive little or no rain during that period. However, the ridge will not be as intense, increasing the odds that a low pressure system will be able to break the ridge by mid-February and bring more rain to the state.

Jeff Masters
Frosty Palms
Frosty Palms
Along the West Columbia Riverwalk
But this is Florida?!!
But this is Florida?!!
South Carolina Winter Birds
South Carolina Winter Birds
The birds were busy at the feeders today!

Winter Weather Drought

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

quiet in here this am
Quoting 451. VR46L:


That paper hypes every gust of wind , but it will be a nasty 48 hrs ahead , places will feel hurricane force winds







Snow will be quite wide spread


37F and a rain/snow mix here, we've got a patchy covering of wet snow on the grass which counts as the biggest/only snow of the winter. Saturday morning looks interesting here with an occlusion pushing into some cold air, certainty of rain but the possibility of heavier snow at times. The ski slopes must be enjoying a vintage season, if the roads are accessible this weekend.

The hyperactive Atlantic is back, though it hardly left in the first place...
Kajiki
Kajiki on MIMIC..they are getting drowned again..Wow the colors..
morning folks.....expecting a high of 75 today......can't be outside and enjoy it though as winds will be at 40-45 with gusts above 55......nice to see the jet stream move back to its normal spot...NOT!
Back from the doc's office. Rainy, hot, humid day, but supposed to be hot and sunny from this afternoon onward. (we'll see).
Kajiki



bless you
Quoting 501. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
quiet in here this am


Not for long if this is correct.
So I have seen the GFS overnight run for feb 8 and 9. Anybody have any insight on the euro?
24 degrees (F) at the house this morning. A half-inch of snow fell last night, on top of the seven inches from the night before, preceeded by several hours of a good rain. Storm total, 1.6 inches of precip (in nearby Tahoe City). Link

The storm produced a small, but significant, bump in the snowpack. Statewide snowpack currently at 2.7 inches of water, or 15 percent of normal for this date.Link
Statewide snowpack currently at 2.7 inches of water, or 15 percent of normal for this date.



you need about two more feet of snow
Quoting 511. ricderr:
Statewide snowpack currently at 2.7 inches of water, or 15 percent of normal for this date.



you need about two more feet of snow


Actually, we need about 13 feet of additional snow, assuming a 10-to-one snow/water ratio.
Quoting 512. oldnewmex:


Actually, we need about 13 feet of additional snow, assuming a 10-to-one snow/water ratio.
then 20 feet will be good
GEOS-5 really blows that storm that is currently in the NW Pacific up across the South & parts of the Midwest in about 5 days & then up the NE..

The low in the Pacific to watch..


GEOS-5 dooming with it 5 days from now.
Quoting 504. Skyepony:
Kajiki on MIMIC..they are getting drowned again..Wow the colors..




Send it two. CA
Quoting 515. Skyepony:
GEOS-5 really blows that storm that is currently in the NW Pacific up across the South & parts of the Midwest in about 5 days & then up the NE..

The low in the Pacific to watch..


GEOS-5 dooming with it 5 days from now.
yes thats the one we are watching
Quoting 515. Skyepony:
GEOS-5 really blows that storm that is currently in the NW Pacific up across the South & parts of the Midwest in about 5 days & then up the NE..

The low in the Pacific to watch..


GEOS-5 dooming with it 5 days from now.


what a nice looking low on that still
Quoting 514. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
then 20 feet will be good


20 feet... That's one estimate for the depth of snow the winter the Donner Party got stuck here.Link
Quoting 506. Dakster:
Back from the doc's office. Rainy, hot, humid day, but supposed to be hot and sunny from this afternoon onward. (we'll see).
man i did the upper-lower tests yesterday..man im glad thats over whew..tests werent bad..its the not eating for 24 hours and the ugh purging thats a bitch..
Im hoping this cold rain ends soon....
oh oh next weekend............
Quoting 516. Tazmanian:




Send it two. CA


Sadly GEOS-5 doesn't bring CA much but a little along the coast from that low.. Sorry for your drought. Drought really is the worse, especially in AG areas & areas with alot to burn.

There it is 81hrs out. Gets weak though CA, the SW, pulls together again in East TX.




Largo~ Figured you all might want the GEOS-5 take on it.

I was about over the cold rain til I saw my garden this morning. It's grown.
Quoting 523. Skyepony:


Sadly GEOS-5 doesn't bring CA much but a little along the coast from that low.. Sorry for your drought. Drought really is the worse, especially in AG areas & areas with alot to burn.

There it is 81hrs out. Gets week though CA, the SW, pulls together again in East TX.




Largo~ Figured you all might want the GEOS-5 take on it.

I was about over the cold rain til I saw my garden this morning. It's grown.
yes,for the plants etc this rain is great
well most of the models put a storm in the midlantic-northeast states around the 10th,the temps then will decide what kind of storm it will be..snow or rain
Quoting 519. oldnewmex:


20 feet... That's one estimate for the depth of snow the winter the Donner Party got stuck here.Link



the stumps indicate the height of the snow

Good Morning. Only in Florida; Arctic freeze and ice and snow in parts of North Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday and highs in the 70's forecast this weekend.
Quoting 520. LargoFl:
man i did the upper-lower tests yesterday..man im glad thats over whew..tests werent bad..its the not eating for 24 hours and the ugh purging thats a bitch..


Yeah, the prep is often worse than the test. Although, the one where the camera goes in the backside is debatable.

--

We are not comparing the southern winter storms to the Donner incident are we?



Quoting 528. KEEPEROFTHEGATE:



the stumps indicate the height of the snow



I guess the did cut down and eat everything in sight to stay alive, so that makes sense.
532. ARiot
Quoting 475. MsZola:


We are also in WV, and at this point, I personally am just making sure we are well-stocked in case of power outages so that if something DOES get going, we don't have to deal with the panicked rush to the store.

I'm not even all that sure that such a storm would cause massive tree damage, to tell you the truth. The derecho a couple of years back plus several t-storms with micro-bursts have really gotten rid of most of the weak trees/bad branches, at least locally.

All the panic in the world won't stop the storm if it's going to form, nor will panic stop us from losing power, so I'm going to focus on being prepared.


OK, are we talking about the stuff in the models for Tues/Wed/Thursday, the stuff that's about to be in the five-day.

Or is the big viral thing the longer term model that had a snow bomb going off, first on or around 15 FEB but now moving back to 10 or 11 FEB, the WVA,PA,VA,MD, NJ, NY, MA storm like the rarely seen 90s era storm?

New GFS strong for the south, lots of snow north

rain seems to be breaking up a bit this was needed. e.cen.fl.
Quoting 534. islander101010:
rain seems to be breaking up a bit this was needed. e.cen.fl.


yes and it was appreciated, but not as needed in SFL. Now a drying out period would be nice.

I wish I could have sent some to California though. They needed it more than we did. This is supposed to be the Florida dry season.
what most don't realize...is california's water supply...comes mainly from snowpack...not rainfall
Quoting 536. ricderr:
what most don't realize...is california's water supply...comes mainly from snowpack...not rainfall
rain just runs away but the snow trickles down filling everything up
Florida has what, 12-16 wet & dry "Seasons" ?
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