Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Update

Well, I've had 24 hours to cool off from the epic snow storm model parameter induced widespread panic we faced Sunday afternoon. Going to lower my storm total from 20" down to about 15" total for DeKalb, IL. Looking at 1-3" tonight with the first wave of warm air advection snowfall. Tuesday late afternoon the first bands of snow start making their way into northern Illinois before things pick up in earnest by late evening. I originally wished I was a little further south near Interstate 80, but am becoming a little more content with my placement here. Once you get into central Illinois near Interstate 72 you reach the rain/snow cutoff line. This line will be bouncing around between a heavy wet snow, sleet, and perhaps some freezing rain. This will have a chance to dramatically cut down on snow totals near Interstate 72. In Champaign, I'm going with 8" total accumulation.

Totals should dramatically increase as you head northwest. My bullseye at this point for snow maxima is west central into north central Illinois. Anywhere from Quincy/Macomb to LaSalle, IL I'd give a shot of 14-18" with embedded higher amounts. I was initially worried about my location in DeKalb being too far north, and that very well may be the case. However, once you near Interstate 80, from LaSalle eastward toward Kankakee you start running the risk of being dry-slotted. The dry slot on these powerful systems has a habit of working it's way northward and choking off the precipitation. Whether this happens or not again remains to be seen, but it's another key element in how widespread the heavier snow totals wind up.

All that said, in the deformation zone north of the dry intrusion and surface low, a benefiting factor for higher snow totals will be the strength of the system as it rapidly deepens/occludes, strongly forced bands of at times convectively induced heavy snow bands. Thunder and snow fall rates nearing 3 inches per hour are possible in these areas, and the placement of these bands will be the main deciding factor in snow totals. At this time I believe the best chance for an extended period of these heightened snow fall rates / thundersnow should be along that aforementioned Quincy to LaSalle line.

This is fairly disorganized, but I don't pretend to be a big winter weather guy. To summarize I suppose, along Interstate 72 in central Illinois I believe the composite parameter projections of 20+ inches of snow are likely being overdone and will be hampered by transitions between heavy snow/sleet/freezing rain. 8" forecast stands for Champaign. Further north, periods of very heavy snow Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning with a band of 14-18" with embedded higher amounts from Quincy to LaSalle, IL. Further east, potential dry-slotting lowers totals from Pontiac to Kankakee and eastward. I'll go with 15" total for DeKalb, including the 1-3" forecast for tonight. I didn't even touch on the ice storm potential with this system, but the real story could easily become ice accumulations with very strong gradient winds exacerbating that problem on Wednesday. If ice accumulations near 0.5"-1" along Interstate 70, as the surface low pushes to the east and strong northerly winds near 30 mph with higher gusts, power failures could become the norm.

I'm not sure what I'll have in the way of documenting the storm as I don't plan on driving anywhere for the next 72+ hours, but I'll be updating periodically with whatever little bit I have to share from the home stead in DeKalb in north central Illinois.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Midwest Winter Apocalypse

Well, the word is obviously out by now but I figured I would throw my two cents in to the hype. My current forecast for the DeKalb area is right around 20 inches total between the first wave on Monday and the main knock out punch on Tuesday night.

I'm somewhat busy so I'm not going to hammer out a big synopsis, but this is starting to look nothing short of insane.

Just look at this forecast surface wind/surface pressure chart for 3 AM on Wednesday morning. Northern Illinois will simply be shut down. That's got sustained winds anywhere from 30-40 mph with higher gusts underneath an unheard of period of up to 6 hours of 3"/hour snowfall rates, along with very likely embedded pockets of thundersnow with 850 mb mlcape as high as 400 j/kg. Thunder and lightning, blinding snowfall, and howling winds? I'm not normally a huge winter fanatic, but when I tell mother nature to go big or go home, this is certainly along the lines of what I'm talking about.

Friends and family down in Champaign are very close to the rain/snow cutoff line. At this point, Champaign could still stand to see almost a foot of snow. Any shift north or south (which is still likely to happen) could add another couple inches, or leave them in a soaking wet state with a rain/snow slushy mix. Too close to call right there as the rain/snow line literally follows Interstate 72 right through that area.

Up here in DeKalb, I'll be on apocalypse alert as we find ourselves bullseyed for late Tuesday into Wednesday.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Heavy snow band in northern Illinois!

Tia and I reporting on the spot via Android in northern Illinois this morning. This is mostly just a test to see how the blogger application for Android works. NYC got 20 inches of snow dumped on them last night, but 2 inches here is still enough to warrant some complaints on this end. Hoping we are reporting on the spot from a cumulus field sooner rather than later!

I have some stuff planned for the blog for the month of February that I will touch on soon, when I'm not writing on a cell phone touch screen. Here's to hoping this all posts well, and I've got an easy solution to posting frequent updates via android this chase season. I'm not likely to stream anything live, but blog updates are something I like doing.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oldie, but a goodie.. 10/29/04

Trying to keep the warm weather withdrawal at bay, so I've been playing with some older video and photos recently. I revisited one of my favorite chases of the decade that didn't produce a tornado... the October 29 2004 McLean, IL classic supercell. A beautiful catch during the fall season on a fairly low attention day. Most chasers were in Iowa and Minnesota where there was a moderate risk and 15% area outlined for tornadoes. I liked a pre-frontal wave in central Illinois that was barely given any attention. Sure enough, Iowa busted, and central Illinois lit up.

Back in 2004 I chased with paper maps and a weather radio, so this was a very fulfilling catch at age 17. I headed out during the afternoon and approached an area of towers near I-55 southwest of Bloomington. I encountered some hail in the town of McLean, and decided to stick with the storm. Once the hail ceased, a rain free base came into view to my southwest, and I knew the show was on.

Put together a little time lapse showing the evolution of the supercell from where I watched it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Whispy snow bands

Just a quick post sharing a neat satellite image I saved the other afternoon. The white bands across the mid-west, namely across the state of Illinois and surrounding states is snow on the ground. This is not overly unusual, but I found the thin whispy bands interesting. During the overnight hours thin bands of snow spread across the area, and the result was narrow paths of measurable snowfall. Champaign ended up in the middle of one of these bands, and while amounts were only around an inch, the pattern at which the snow/no snow lines set up across the area were interesting.

Radar image from the overnight period showing the thin bands of snow:

Satellite image of the thin bands of snow covering the ground:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Block, IL revisited

Another down evening, and another trip to Block, IL. This time I got an earlier start to get some twilight in the star trail images. I had a few places in mind, but went right back to where I was two nights ago. The place had a few more angles that I wanted to try, and I could already see trains in the distance so I wanted to utilize the creating angles that were possible using the tracks.

I ended up having a great time! Even though we were hovering right around 20F degrees, I managed to stay out there for about 2.5 hours. I was joined by a pack of coyotes in the distance, as well as an owl that perched in a tree across the tracks hooting at me every 30 seconds or so. At one point an elderly gentlemen drove down the road in his Cadillac and briefly investigated what I was up to. He left with the statement "boy, you must really want those photos bad to be out here in this weather."

Looking south a little while after sunset. Even nabbed a little shooting star up at the top.

Now looking back northwest towards Champaign:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Block, IL Star Trails

Went out for another night of star trails on Saturday night. I wasn't sure where I wanted to go once I got in the car, but getting outside of town I decided to visit an old favorite spot of mine. Southeast of Champaign by about 15 miles there is a tiny unincorporated town (6 hours or so) called Block. Just south of there is a neat rail road crossing down in a valley that was left by the glaciers. There is a nice area of small hills in that area called moraines. Back in high school I used to frequent this spot.

The place has always given me a weird vibe, I'm not sure what there is to that. I have never been bothered being alone in the middle of nowhere taking photos at night, and in fact enjoy it quite a bit. However, just as it did in the past, I was unable to keep from looking all around myself the entire time I shot this exposure. It was the most still night I can remember experiencing. Not a thing was moving, and it felt like I could hear someone talking to me from 10 miles away if they tried. There wasn't a single hint of movement all around me, but I couldn't help but feel like I was being watched the entire time. This has never happened to me, and after about an hour out there both the cold and my head got to me. Just weird, since normally I love that kind of night. Something just felt off.

Either way, here is what I came away with. That streak above the horizon is a helicopter that left Champaign, and did a complete circle around me before returning to Champaign.

I spotted a couple of other spots that I used to frequent on my drive back that I'll probably hit up for star trails this week as well if skies cooperate.