We are now less than twenty-four hours away from the much anticipated ice storm beginning in the Southern Plains. With just 24 hours to go, there hasn’t been much clarity in the final hours. The hope is always that weather models all converge on a singular solution, but the opposite seems to be true here. For the most part, models have dug into their positions further, meaning there are some stark differences going into the event.
Models Are Just Tools
Weather models are just tools though. Models cannot make a forecast or replace forecasters who are working overtime on this setup to get the best possible info out. Here is one example:
Do you notice a difference? Indeed, model forecasts are about 4-5 degrees too warm on average right now. Consequently, they are underestimating the strength of the cold air which is moving down into the region. Ahead of a potential ice storm, that’s a big deal.
Currently, that warm bias is clear on both the NAM and the GFS for sure.
At this time, little things like that will add up to mean a lot when it comes time for precipitation to begin falling. A temperature of 28 is much more significant for icing than one of 31. That also means forecasts for ice storms are generally going to have a high degree of inaccuracy if you concentrate too much on one specific location.
Sadly, that is how we all mostly experience weather. So you know, catch-22 or something.
Who is Getting An Ice Storm, Who Is Not?
Let us start with the simple answers: Northwest and North Oklahoma, Kansas, and the Northeast Texas Panhandle you are definitely getting an ice storm which will likely be rather significant. Models continue to throw out impressive ice storm totals of 1-inch plus there.
If you are unlucky enough to be in the over one-inch ice zone, expect significant damage to power grids, trees, and anything else that’s not fully secured. Watch out for TV antennas especially!
For those of you following us on Twitter, you know we’ve been talking a lot about the other location for this ice storm. That other location is a strip of real estate south and east of what we just talked about which runs roughly 50-75 miles of either side of I-44 in the region.
Unfortunately, most of you reading this probably live in that region in places like Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Lawton.
Let’s take a look at a broad model consensus and then we’ll talk about it on the other side:
So Ice Storm in OKC, Tulsa, Lawton?
Many models have OKC, Tulsa, and Lawton right on the line. Only one (bottom left, which is the 3KM NAM) have them well behind the freezing line on Friday.
Where our discussion earlier about models perhaps underestimating the low-level cold air comes back into this post is now.
OKC, Tulsa, and Lawton on the model freezing line means the differences in reality versus models becomes significant. If that trend continues and models continue to come in too warm vs. reality, that means icing totals are going to be higher in those areas. Also, the line where ice begins and ends also needs to be adjusted south and east vs. model depictions.
Remember, models are just tools.
The likelihood of an ice storm impacting the I-44 corridor seems to be relatively higher than what models would suggest if the trend of lower actual temps vs. model guidance continues. The most likely solution is that there is going to be a lot of variability in this area. Also, there will be a lot within each metro of who gets a lot of ice and who doesn’t.
In fact, do not be surprised if say Edmond gets a half-inch of ice while Norman gets no glaze whatsoever. Or in Tulsa’s case, Broken Arrow gets very little ice but Owasso has a half-inch. There will be a lot of variability in this region, so take it easy on forecasters.
So What You Should Be Doing
If you live in NW Oklahoma or Kansas, today is the final day to get ready. You should be getting prepared ASAP in those areas. Don’t wait! A crippling ice storm is very possible and will happen somewhere in that region.
For that I-44 corridor we talked about, you should probably assume that you’ll see significant impacts as well. You may, you may not. The worst thing that happens is that no ice falls and you have a few extra groceries and preparedness items for the next ice storm which will happen eventually.