Wet system provides relief from developing drought; Heavy snows along the I-80 corridor

Much needed rainfall is expected over the forecast districts this weekend. We’ve a wet system moving out of the Southwestern U.S. into the Plains which has the potential to produce anywhere from 1/2″ to 1 1/2″ of rainfall over the region.  Check out this total weekend rainfall forecast:

2015-01-31-0741-WEEKEND_PRECIP

The heaviest totals fall from eastern KS through NW/N MO into north central IL. (Some of this as snow). Areas here may see totals near or slightly above 1″.  Keep in mind average January precipitation is an inch or less in many of these areas.  Totals are lower, but still quite respectable over the eastern district with amounts from roughly a little less than 3/4″ to around 3/4″.

As of this morning, the system is still organizing with a good slug of rain falling from northern MO through KS/OK.  Temperatures are just above freezing and will rise slowly during the day.

2015-01-31-0906-SATSFCRAD

That’s snow over SE NE and N KS.. and there will be a significant winter storm for the I-80 corridor and just south from Omaha to well off east of Chicago/Indianapolis and yet another heavy snow for the NYC/Boston areas early next week.  Here’s the weekend snowfall forecast:

2015-01-31-0741-WEEKEND_SNOW

If you have a road trip or airline flight scheduled to any of these areas, check travel conditions and adjust your plans accordingly.  This was once expected to track a little further south with potentially accumulating snows for parts of the district, but the storm has shifted further north and the temperatures within 2000 feet of the ground will be just too warm.  In fact, NWS Kansas City reported this morning that snow was melting just 1000 feet above the ground — or roughly twice the height of some radio towers – that’s the only difference between a cold rain and what would have been a winter storm.. for some the first winter storm of the season.

This rain arrives just in time.  January has been lacking in terms of rainfall with totals ending January 30th well below average in most areas.  This map shows the percentage of average precipitation received as of January 30th (before today’s rain).  The western district has seen totals only 10-50% of average.  For the east, it has been a little better with totals 50-90% of average.  The far SE, roughly along and SE of an Ironton MO-Pinckneyville IL have actually seen a surplus. Keep in mind “average” January precipitation ranges from less than 1″ in Topeka KS to just over 2″ in STL. That means 10-50% of average means some areas out west have had just over a tenth of an inch of moisture all month long.

2015-01-31-0852-JAN_PRECIP_PCT_AVG

 

Let’s take a look at a series of maps showing the January precipitation totals for our area as of Friday morning. Click on each image to make them more readable and check out the color scale to see the observed totals.  Anything in grey is less than 1/10th of an inch, and anything in greens or blues is less than 1″.

2015-01-31-0852-JAN_PRECIP_EAX 2015-01-31-0852-JAN_PRECIP_LSX

It’s easy to see the lack of rain for the west and how the far southeast corner of the eastern district was clipped by a band of significant rains early in the month and that corresponds to the map above.

For comparison, here’s the average January precipitation for the region.  2″ for the eastern district and around 1/2″ to 1″ for the west.

2014-01-31-2057

It’s not all that surprising that this week’s edition the U.S. Drought Monitor has placed the western district in an area of developing drought. Drought has been parked over KS for several years now and has not ever really been that far away.  Drought is also established in the Ohio Valley area and has been creeping northwestward toward the southern reaches of the eastern district as well.

2015-01-31-0852-DROUGHT MONITOR

This weekend’s rains have the potential to erase the January rainfall deficits over the region just in time.

We’ll have our weekly outlook post up this weekend and we’ll take a look at weather trends for the coming week.  January 2015 goes into the record books tonight and we’ll also have a look at where January finished in terms of temps/rain and snow.  January’s close also means 2/3rds of Meteorological winter will be over, and that’s a good time to take stock of the many winter forecasts issued last fall (hint: the prognosis is very poor for several).  We’ll also take a look at weather trends into February to see if Winter will be able to stage a rally or if it will finish the season AWOL.

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