Prolonged Snow Event Likely to Have Impacts on Wednesday Evening, Thursday Morning Commutes

While the weather pattern of late has surely been more active than earlier on in the winter, snow enthusiasts are no doubt frustrated by the fact that while we've been able to establish a snow pack on numerous occasions, we've been unable to maintain it for any significant duration. The snow that fell over much of the Stateline Sunday has largely melted, and more melting is certain as temperatures quickly catapult above the freezing mark Wednesday.

The good news for snow enthusiasts lies in the fact that snow is certain to return Wednesday, and will carry through Thursday Morning, in all likelihood. The not-so-good news is that this storm, like so many others leading up to this one, is not likely to produce major accumulations.

There are two distinct systems we're watching, one over the southwestern United States, the other over the Northern Rockies. Earlier on, there was some hope that these two systems would merge, or phase in meteorological terms. Such a development would create a single, stronger storm capable of producing more significant accumulations. That will not be the case with this storm. Instead, we'll get more of a one-two punch from each individual system, with the first one coming from the southwest robbing most of the available moisture.

Snow is to overspread the area from south to north during the afternoon hours Wednesday. There could be some slushy accumulation of about a half an inch by the time the evening commute rolls around, enough to cause some slowdowns. Snow becomes heavier and more widespread in the evening hours. Accumulations should ramp up after dark, with another one to three inches of snow likely through the evening hours.

Overnight, as the second wave of snow approaches from the northwest, the snow is to become considerably lighter, both in intensity and in the composition of the snowflakes themselves. The first system will rob most of the energy and moisture, so the second system will be comparatively weaker. Temperatures will also be crashing as the second system moves in, meaning the snow will be transitioning from being heavy and wet to much more fluffy in nature. This may create some concerns with blowing and drifting, especially as the winds begin to pick up out of the north.

Light snow showers should continue until around sunrise, perhaps slightly after, but accumulations from daybreak on will be quite insignificant. That said, blowing and drifting will remain very much part of the equation thanks to the gusty winds and the light, powdery nature of the snow. Additionally, with temperatures continuing to crash, flash freezing is likely on many wet surfaces, so icy spots are very much a possibility.

When all is said and done, I expect most spots to pick up between 2 and 4 inches of snow, in total. A few 5 inch tallies are possible, especially east and southeast of Rockford. Farther north and west, some spots may be hard pressed to pick up much more than an inch.

Once the snow moves out, our attention clearly shifts to the incoming cold, the likes of which our area hasn't seen all season long. The first sub-zero temperatures since last March are all but guaranteed to occur Thursday Night, and an all-time record low temperature for Valentine's Day is very much a possibility. Right now, our current forecast low temperature of -9° Friday Morning would narrowly break the record for February 14 of -8° set all the way back in 1916.