The chances for appreciable snowfall on the northern Cumberland Plateau continue to dwindle, even as a cold front that will deliver snow barrels towards the region.
Some light snow is likely early on Tuesday, and minor accumulations are possible. Travel impacts may occur, as well. However, anyone hoping for significant snow accumulation is going to be sorely disappointed.
I’ve been hinting since Saturday that this “snow-maker” isn’t going to be as robust as it initially appeared it was going to be, and that’s become increasingly evident since then. I’ll get into the details of why in just a moment.
After issuing a winter storm watch on Sunday afternoon, the National Weather Service hoisted a winter weather advisory this morning, calling for 2-3 inches of snow. Many weather enthusiasts consider a winter weather advisory to be a downgrade from a winter storm watch. That’s actually not the case, but it’s merely semantics. The bottom line is that snow-lovers expect (hope) to see a winter storm watch upgraded to a winter storm warning, rather than the lesser winter weather advisory. But the advisory instead of the warning isn’t a surprise; I had anticipated last night that the NWS would likely go that route.
The setup: A southerly flow will make today quite pleasant, with highs in the 50s for most of us. Clouds will increase later in the day, ahead of the cold front’s arrival, but at least it’ll be mild.
Tonight, the cold front passes, with precipitation spreading across the region. It will likely begin as rain, with temperature profiles still too warm for anything frozen, but will quickly transition to snow, with several hours of light snow occurring before precipitation tapers off late tomorrow morning.
Accumulation totals are likely to be skimpy across the northern plateau. The front is simply moving too fast, with too little support, to be a big snow-maker. If we see more than an inch of snow, I’ll be surprised, to be frankly honest. If we see nothing more than a glorified dusting of snow, I won’t be nearly as surprised.
The bigger issue will be the cold temperatures that settle in behind this system. We may rebound into the mid 20s on Tuesday, but a follow-up cold front moves through the region on Wednesday morning, bringing a replenishing shot of cold air (and maybe some light snow showers or snow flurries). We may not get out of the teens on Wednesday, with temperatures dropping well into the single digits by the time the sun rises Thursday morning.
Timing: The National Weather Service’s winter weather advisory is in effect from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m., with forecasters expecting rain to transition to snow right around 4 a.m. here on the northern plateau. That seems reasonable. For our area, though, snow will end well before 4 p.m. Snow will be tapering off here by late morning.
The problem: Initially, it looked like an area of low pressure off the Atlantic Coast was going to cause this cold front to pump its brakes as it reached our region, while an area of low pressure developed along its southern edge to help feed moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the system. On Friday, when I first posted about this storm, I said that 3-5 inches of snow appeared likely for our region, and it wouldn’t surprise me if those totals were higher.
However, it has since become obvious that this system is going to be moving too fast for us to see much in the way of accumulation. The NAM model shows just about three-tenths of an inch of precipitation, but nearly half of that falls as rain before the quick transition to snow.
I don’t often disagree with the National Weather Service. Those folks are professionals and they know their job — and do it well. In this case, though, I will be surprised if we see anything more than an inch of snow…and if we see nothing more than a glorified dusting of snow, I won’t be nearly as surprised. To be fair, the NWS has trimmed back its accumulation forecast slightly, going from 2-4 inches last night to 2-3 inches this morning. For the northern plateau, I still feel that is too high — especially based on the latest modeling trends.
Impacts: A lot of high school basketball games throughout East Tennessee have been bumped up from Tuesday to Monday in an effort to beat the weather, including Scott High’s game at Alcoa. The Highlanders will travel to Blount County for a 6 p.m. start tonight. Also, the TMSAA Class A sectional at Anderson County has been rearranged, with all girls quarterfinals being played tonight and all boys quarterfinals being played Wednesday. There will be no Tuesday games.
Those are probably good calls. Even a little snow could cause travel impacts due to the quick plunge that temperatures are expected to take tonight. And although main routes will improve rather quickly tomorrow as they’re treated by state and municipal crews, any slick spots that develop on back roads could remain an issue throughout the day on Tuesday and even Wednesday, since it’ll be quite cold.
I don’t anticipate widespread travel concerns that bring traffic to a standstill, but some localized issues are certainly possible.
In A Nutshell: Do I think there will be school tomorrow? No. If I had homework tonight, I’d do it, simply because the precipitation that’s going to occur here tonight looks so meager. Better to be safe than sorry. But with all of their snow days still in the bank, and with rising absenteeisms due to illness, schools aren’t going to hesitate to pull the trigger on a snow day tomorrow. As for those of us who don’t have the luxury of a day off work or out of school when it snows, allow some extra travel time tomorrow morning, but it’s unlikely that travel will be rendered impossible by this quick-moving system.