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Gusty winds to send temperatures soaring Wednesday, create potential fire danger

Major cooling follows, season’s first snowflakes possible in coming week
Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 6:53 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - For the sixth time in the past seven days, temperatures reached into the 70s across the Stateline, continuing a trend of mild, pleasant weather. Gusty winds played a large role in Tuesday’s temperature surge, and they’ll likely be a key contributor to another reading above 70° Wednesday. With cloudiness expected to be far more abundant Wednesday, it won’t be as pretty a day as Tuesday, but gusty southerly winds should be more than enough to warm us well into the 70s areawide.

While our skies will be mostly cloudy Wednesday, it will definitely be warmer.
While our skies will be mostly cloudy Wednesday, it will definitely be warmer.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

The wind will be a factor from start to finish Wednesday, with gusts reaching as high as 40 miles per hour in spots in the afternoon. Those gusts could make travel a bit tricky, especially on east-west oriented roadways.

Expect another very windy day Wednesday/
Expect another very windy day Wednesday/(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

In addition to the potential travel concerns, there’s another risk the winds may present. The combination of the gusty winds, the extremely dry air mass in place, and increasingly dry ground poses at least some danger for fires to ignite, especially during the warmest afternoon hours. Parts of eight states, including a portion of West Central Illinois, find themselves under Fire Weather Watches or Warnings through Wednesday.

Several ingredients are in place
Several ingredients are in place(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

A much stronger cold front’s to drop through the region Wednesday Evening, sending temperatures crashing. Thursday’s high temperatures won’t get out of the 50s, even though much of the day’s expected to be sunny.

Sun returns in full force Thursday, but much much colder.
Sun returns in full force Thursday, but much much colder.(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

Even colder air’s due in late in the weekend or early next week, air cold enough that the notion of the area seeing its first snowflakes of the season isn’t inconceivable. But, before anyone goes into full panic mode, allow us to pump the brakes a little bit.

Several pictures began making the rounds on social media Tuesday, suggesting that multiple inches of snow could come late this weekend. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be EXTREMELY CAREFUL in what you believe on social media, and even more careful about what you share on social media. It’s important to note that the image immediately below is NOT OUR FORECAST, but merely a representation of some of the images circulating on social media that are not to be believed at this time. We’ll dive into why that’s the case in just a second.

This is not our forecast, this is just an example
This is not our forecast, this is just an example(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

The following three tips can be employed to best assure we’re believing and sharing only the most pertinent and accurate weather information during the coming winter months.

1. Only share information from credible sources. Those include your local television stations, the National Weather Service, or, to a lesser extent, national weather networks. Various storm chasing “organizations” and local “scanner” sites are NOT reputable weather sources. If there’s a social media page or website that you’re unsure of potentially being credible, drop us an email at weather@wifr.com, and we will give you an answer!

2. Pay close attention to the day! The map above is a forecast for Sunday. That’s five whole days out! As a rule of thumb, maps beyond two to three days in advance are to be taken with a grain of salt. While computer models have advanced in accuracy over the years, they simply lack the skill to precisely forecast snowfall amounts more than 2-3 days out. That’s why you will NEVER see a snowfall forecast more than that far out.

3. Use common sense! If and when you see maps with outlandish snowfall totals of 20+ inches, keep in mind that the biggest snowstorm EVER to hit the Stateline produced 16.3″ back in January of 1918. I know it’s 2020, and strange things have happened, but if you EVER see a snowfall map with numbers that high, be extremely wary of its accuracy. Also, consider our area only gets, on average, one storm per winter that produces over 8″ of snowfall, so the odds of getting even a foot or more are extremely uncommon.

With that said, here are three reasons why the map above is WRONG, and why we will NOT be getting that much snow this weekend.

Temperatures, Model 'La-La-Land' and history
Temperatures, Model 'La-La-Land' and history(Mark Henderson, WIFR)

First, air temperatures and ground temperatures are both going to be in the 50s. Even if somehow snowflakes managed to get to the surface, they’d melt immediately upon contact, and wouldn’t stick. Secondly, this is one run of one model which has a track record of being extremely trigger happy when it comes to early season snows. That, plus the fact that the system in question’s still five days away, this is simply a case of being in “Model La-La-Land”. Lastly, just using history as a guide, it makes it impossible to believe such a snow could occur this early in the season. Going back over well over 100 years of meteorological records, we found the “biggest” snow on or before Sunday’s date is a measly 0.2″ back October in 1909. With that in mind, it’d be a fools errand to put any credibility in the notion of a 3-4 inch snow event here this weekend.

That said, I would not be surprised if our area would witness a few snowflakes mixing with rain showers either Monday or Tuesday of next week. No accumulation would come out of it, though.

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