For the past several days, we've been closely monitoring the potential for another significant winter storm system to impact the Midwest, including the Stateline. Now, less than 24 hours ahead of the first flakes flying here, we have a much clearer understanding as to how the storm is to unfold.
Winter Weather Advisories have been hoisted for the entire Stateline beginning Friday Afternoon and extending well into Saturday, quite possibly continuing through Saturday Evening. Latest model guidance suggests that the storm is to be primarily a snow maker for most of the Stateline, though there's still at least some potential that a mix with sleet, freezing rain, and rain could still occur, especially in the southern portions of the area.
Snow is to begin between 2:00 and 4:00 Friday Afternoon, and will pick up in coverage and intensity into the evening hours. The most significant accumulations are to occur sometime between 6:00pm Friday and 1:00am Saturday. After that time, enough warm air may surge far enough north to perhaps allow for some mixed precipitation, especially along and south of Interstate 88. The rest of us should stay as snow though sunrise Saturday, before the precipitation rapidly tapers off or ends entirely.
As for travel impacts, there are likely to be some for Friday's commute home from work, though accumulations by that time will be quite small. The heaviest snowfall, and greatest accumulations are to come Friday Evening and into the early overnight hours. It's during that time that travel conditions are expected to be at their worst. Travel may still be impeded after the final flakes fly Saturday, due to gusty winds causing considerable blowing and drifting of the snow. Temperatures will also be crashing during that time, eventually falling below zero Saturday Night, as wind chills fall to as low as -22°.
Accumulations, while substantial, will hardly be earth-shattering. Most areas are to be on the receiving end of 3 to 5 inches of snowfall. Lighter amounts will be found along and south of I-88, while a few 6 inch totals are possible along and north of the Wisconsin border.
It's extremely important, however, not to pay attention EXCLUSIVELY to the snowfall numbers. Rather, it's good practice to examine the overall impacts of the storm, because, in this instance, lower snowfall totals would actually be a bad thing. Should snowfall tallies fall short of the current 3 to 5 inch forecast, it would almost undoubtedly mean we'd be on the receiving end of considerably more freezing rain and sleet, and that road conditions would be much, much worse off.
At the end of the day, this storm will not be a barn-burner. It will not produce historic amounts of snowfall, rather, it's to be a rather typical medium-strength January storm. It will cause impacts and difficult travel, quite likely for an extended amount of time. But those in search for a major winter storm will have no choice but to wait a little bit longer.