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For several days now I have waited while periodically holding my breath, hoping that we here in Oklahoma would get some kind of precipitation. Really I am not that picky, giant bowling ball hail stones, 4 inches of freezing rain, 2 feet of snow--really I am not picky at this point.

Anything--we are just about to the point that we will take anything.

And at this time, the National Weather Service has left these rather cryptic "predictions" about the possibility of a Winter Storm hitting this area. I say cryptic, because I have seen more specific details shared in newspaper horoscopes.

So here is the map of Preciptation Chances.

Then I go to one of the central counties [in the center of the state] and read the Hazardous Weather Statements, and this is what catches my eye:

OTHER HAZARDOUS WEATHER...
A LIGHT AND BRIEF PERIOD OF RAIN AND WINTRY MIX WILL BE POSSIBLE
STARTING LATE MONDAY NIGHT ACROSS PARTS OF OKLAHOMA AND WESTERN NORTH
TEXAS. THE WINTRY MIX IS EXPECTED TO CHANGE OVER TO SNOW AND BLOWING
SNOW CHRISTMAS DAY...WITH THE SNOW ENDING CHRISTMAS NIGHT. THE
FORECAST OF EXACTLY WHERE AND HOW MUCH IS STILL UNCERTAIN...SO
CONTINUE TO WATCH FOR UPDATES TO THE FORECAST...ESPECIALLY IF YOU
PLAN TO TRAVEL ON OR AROUND CHRISTMAS DAY. ALSO REFER TO THE SPECIAL
WEATHER STATEMENT FOR FURTHER DETAILS.
It's that last part that really vexes me:

The forecast of exactly where and how much is still uncertain...

Uh? Okay?

Please tell me that the Tornado Chances will not be predicted in this fashion, in the coming spring, because storm season already feels like a one is on the Whack-a-mole board, AS THE MOLE!

This is what happened with Hurricane Sandy if you will recall. The National Weather Service detected something hinky about the forecast models or some such, and refused to issue absolutes like they did in the past.

Should we be nervous? Or simple annoyed? Do I need to get the Tarot cards out and figure this out myself? Or perhaps a magic 8-ball?

Some kind of ball park estimate would be cool with me.
0-2 inches?
2-4? 4-8? more than that? A lot more or a little more?

Will I need tall boots to get the mail? Or will regular shoes do?

Should people be anticipating power outages or impassable roads? These are good things to know in advance so we can do silly things like stock up on food and fuel and make sure generators are in working order, and make arrangements to check on elderly relatives and neighbors.

In Oklahoma, the locals here stink at driving on ice and snow. Many simply do not slow down. 4 inches of snow, sometimes less than that, can shut this place down for a day or two.

So it's really lovely when we get winter weather to get some kind of idea what to expect beyond "It's going to snow somewhere in the state." I got grandpas all over the state that can make THAT prediction with their bunions.

I can tell we have a pretty significant front moving in. Today and the day before we have had days with mare's tales flying, lots of cloud iridescence which means ice crystals way up high, and very very cold air. Sun-dogs which mean there is a lot of moisture and, we also saw Moon-dogs too. I am not complaining about those issues, I would just like some kind of clue as to how much precipitation to expect and what kind, if any accumulation will happen.

Is that too much to ask?

Perhaps some local Weather Guru can explain to me what is going on, because I don't "get" this kind of prediction at all. I don't much care for it either.

Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 7:58 AM PT: It appears that NWS is now predicting more wintery mix for a large swath of Oklahoma. Like the middle third of the state. And then snow after that with very low windchill factors. You can click on this link http://www.srh.noaa.gov/... And click on any of the thumbnails to see the predicted path of the storm and the kind of precipitation expected.

If we get a lot of ice [wintery mix] then power outages could be a problem. The predictions of high winds blowing snow hard enough to create low visibility for motorists could also mean trouble even for a light icing on power lines. So heads up. Once those lines are weighed down and the wind starts blowing hard that stresses them and causes outages. I would check to see that one has adequate food, water, and fuel for an outage.

Cover your external water spikots so that your pipes don't freeze. Expect to let your water drip inside to also keep water from freezing due to low temperatures.

Make sure that outdoor animals have plenty of shelter and fodder and a clean source of water.

Pack an emergency kit in your car if you must travel, so that if you get stranded you have some food, water, and a blanket or heavy jacket and fully charged cell phone.

Be sure and make plans to check on or move the elderly or infirm if the power goes out.

Have a safe and happy holiday.

Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 9:27 AM PT: KOCO has offered some predictions for accumulations and a potential timeline too. http://www.koco.com/...

Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 4:47 AM PT: Snow with widespread blowing snow. Temperature falling to around 19 by 5pm. North wind 16 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 4 to 8 inches possible.

From the updated NWS Forecast.

The snow happens on Christmas Day. Wintery Mix begins at midnight with falling temperatures on Christmas Eve.

KOCO's Weather Predictions for Monday and Tuesday:
http://www.koco.com/...

Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 8:06 AM PT: Not much snow. Just ice and sleet, and luckily not a lot of that either. A couple of times the power went out but not for long, we didn't have to run the generator. The roads are still dangerous though and it's frigid outside.

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Comment Preferences

  •  PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO REFINED FORECASTS (5+ / 0-)

    (I'm not shouting, the NWS always speaks in ALL CAPS)

    They're telling you that their models are predicting weather, but that their models are uncertain.     They're telling you that they can't really tell you much more than that right now, because that won't really be known until they develop.

    They're also reminding you that weather forecasting, like life, is an uncertain endeavor, and you can't find absolute answers where there are none.

    ========
    SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT
    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE NORMAN OK
    340 PM CST SAT DEC 22 2012

    OKZ004>048-050>052-TXZ083>090-231200-
    HARPER-WOODS-ALFALFA-GRANT-KAY-ELLIS-WOODWARD-MAJOR-GARFIELD-
    NOBLE-ROGER MILLS-DEWEY-CUSTER-BLAINE-KINGFISHER-LOGAN-PAYNE-
    BECKHAM-WASHITA-CADDO-CANADIAN-OKLAHOMA-LINCOLN-GRADY-MCCLAIN-
    CLEVELAND-POTTAWATOMIE-SEMINOLE-HUGHES-HARMON-GREER-KIOWA-JACKSON-
    TILLMAN-COMANCHE-STEPHENS-GARVIN-MURRAY-PONTOTOC-COAL-COTTON-
    JEFFERSON-CARTER-JOHNSTON-ATOKA-LOVE-MARSHALL-BRYAN-HARDEMAN-
    FOARD-WILBARGER-WICHITA-KNOX-BAYLOR-ARCHER-CLAY-
    INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...BUFFALO...ALVA...CHEROKEE...MEDFORD...
    PONCA CITY...ARNETT...WOODWARD...FAIRVIEW...ENID...PERRY...
    CHEYENNE...TALOGA...WEATHERFORD...CLINTON...WATONGA...
    KINGFISHER...GUTHRIE...STILLWATER...ELK CITY...SAYRE...CORDELL...
    ANADARKO...YUKON...EL RENO...MUSTANG...OKLAHOMA CITY...CHANDLER...
    CHICKASHA...PURCELL...NORMAN...MOORE...SHAWNEE...SEMINOLE...
    HOLDENVILLE...HOLLIS...MANGUM...HOBART...ALTUS...FREDERICK...
    LAWTON...DUNCAN...PAULS VALLEY...SULPHUR...ADA...COALGATE...
    WALTERS...WAURIKA...ARDMORE...TISHOMINGO...ATOKA...MARIETTA...
    MADILL...DURANT...QUANAH...CHILLICOTHE...CROWELL...VERNON...
    WICHITA FALLS...MUNDAY...KNOX CITY...SEYMOUR...ARCHER CITY...
    HOLLIDAY...LAKESIDE CITY...HENRIETTA
    340 PM CST SAT DEC 22 2012

    ...WINTER PRECIPITATION REMAINS POSSIBLE CHRISTMAS DAY...

    WEATHER FORECAST MODELS CONTINUE TO DEPICT THE POTENTIAL FOR A
    WINTER STORM TO AFFECT OKLAHOMA AND NORTHERN TEXAS CHRISTMAS EVE
    NIGHT THROUGH CHRISTMAS NIGHT...WITH THE BEST CHANCES FOR
    PRECIPITATION ON CHRISTMAS DAY. A BRIEF PERIOD OF A VERY LIGHT
    WINTRY MIX WILL BE POSSIBLE CHRISTMAS EVE NIGHT ACROSS WESTERN
    OKLAHOMA...WITH LIGHT RAIN POSSIBLE ACROSS SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA AND
    WESTERN NORTH TEXAS. THE PRECIPITATION WILL THEN CHANGE OVER TO
    SNOW ON CHRISTMAS. MODERATE TO STRONG WINDS COULD ALSO LEAD TO
    SOME BLOWING AND DRIFTING OF THE SNOW IN SOME AREAS BUT BLIZZARD
    CONDITIONS APPEAR UNLIKELY. THE SNOW IS EXPECTED TO END FROM WEST
    TO EAST CHRISTMAS NIGHT.

    THE AMOUNT OF SNOW AND WHERE THE HEAVIEST SNOWFALL WILL OCCUR
    REMAINS UNCERTAIN...AS DIFFERENCES REMAIN BETWEEN THE SOLUTIONS
    FROM THE COMPUTER MODELS. SOME MODELS CONTINUE THE TRACK OF HEAVIEST
    SNOW ACROSS NORTHERN PORTIONS OF OKLAHOMA...WHILE OTHERS TAKE IT
    ACROSS SOUTHERN OKLAHOMA INTO NORTHERN TEXAS. CONTINUING WITH A
    CONSENSUS APPROACH...THE HIGHEST SNOW TOTALS ARE EXPECTED FROM WEST
    CENTRAL OKLAHOMA INTO CENTRAL AND SOUTHEAST OKLAHOMA WHERE AMOUNTS
    COULD AVERAGE THREE TO SIX INCHES.

    WITH THE VARIATION IN FORECAST TRACKS AND SNOW AMOUNTS...EVERYONE
    ACROSS THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA AND THOSE ACROSS NORTHERN TEXAS
    SHOULD PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO REFINED FORECASTS OVER THE WEEKEND.
    IF YOU ARE PLANNING TO TRAVEL ACROSS THE SOUTHERN PLAINS FOR THE
    UPCOMING HOLIDAY WEEK...HAVE A CONTINGENCY PLAN IN PLACE AND
    PREPARE FOR WEATHER-RELATED DELAYS AND CANCELLATIONS.

    •  Thank you for stopping by (0+ / 0-)

      3 to 6 inches is significant for this area, but not catastrophic like past blizzards.

      The big baddie is accumulated ice. If we get a lot of ice and then snow, power lines snap and trees can loose limbs. Not to mention the roads.

      I missed the amounts on the special weather statement, so thank you for posting that in particular. That was what I was looking for.

      THANKS!

  •  The current weather pattern is very active. (16+ / 0-)

    Models tend to waffle when big weather events are coming, more so this time because the event is still several days away.

    Weather forecasting is an inexact science. Winter weather is even harder to predict due to its nature. Very subtle changes in temperature between the surface and 10,000 feet makes a very big impact on whether precip will fall as snow, sleet, freezing rain, or regular rain.

    If the storm jogs just a few dozen miles to the east or west of the forecast, the whole forecast is blown and a lot of people get very angry.

    Accumulations are also challenging to predict. If the snow is expected to fall in a relatively narrow but intense band (as is expected with this upcoming storm), just a few miles means the difference between a dumping and a dusting. Snowfall accumulations also depend on how much moisture the storm has to work with. If it's a dry fluffy snow the accumulations would be much higher than if it were a heavy wet snow.

    Right now the weather models have a narrow but intense band of snow swooping down through Oklahoma and back up towards the Ohio Valley. The band of heavy accumulation isn't expected to be but 50-100 miles wide, so any shift in the track of the storm could have a drastic impact on how much snow a certain area gets. Therein lies the problem -- the models are disagreeing on where this band of snow will fall. The GFS (one model) has it falling primarly between OKC and the KS/OK border, while the other (NAM) has it falling primarily between OKC and the TX/OK border.

    That's a big difference. They should start to come into more agreement as we get closer to the storm. The atmosphere is an incredibly complex machine, and we're mere mortals trying to make sense of it. Cut your weather guys some slack. They're doing the best they can with what they've got. ;)

    Facebook
    If you say "gullible" real slow, it sounds like "green beans."

    by weatherdude on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 09:03:48 PM PST

    •  In the past, even with active models, NWS (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      weatherdude

      usually had a pretty good guess a week out or at least 4 days out.

      So this is really a departure from the usual. This makes me nervous because the weather patterns in this area tend to always be active, esp when the winter and spring, and it never stopped them before. So it must be more so than usual which is a disturbing thought.

      If you want an idea about winter activity, check out this link, I have provided pictures ice storm accumulations.

      Thank you for stopping by.

      •  I grew up outside of Washington DC. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreenMother

        Stuff like this is the norm for me. The DC area is almost always on the rain/snow line when winter storms roll through, so good amounts of uncertainty are typical. I guess out in Oklahoma it's a bit more uncommon to be right on the rain/snow line, but that's the way this storm is moving.

        Facebook
        If you say "gullible" real slow, it sounds like "green beans."

        by weatherdude on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 12:00:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That is a lovely area. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          weatherdude

          I have always wanted to get up that way, and take the kids hiking on the Adirondack trail, and visit take them to S. Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay.

          The rain snow line here- when you think about it, the same basic weather set up that brings severe storms and tornadoes is the same that brings us freezing rain and ice storms.

          Bands of Warm Moisture from the Gulf meets sinking polar air from the North. The ambient temps are much colder this time of year, so tornadoes don't usually form [ usually ;) ]
          the moisture falls through layers of cold atmosphere to finally freeze on contact with everything else.

          We are just at the cross roads for all that stuff. I guess that is why this surprises me with this forecast. I posted an update from local weather stations that were calling it, however, a friend who is going on vacation told me that Weather Channel and Weather Underground are not in agreement either on this matter.

          So this one must be different though local forecasters are trying to reassure us that it won't be another 2009 or 2010 Blizzard.

          Those are genuinely unusual in this area. Usually only the Northernmost tips of the state get anything like that, because they are technically part of a different climate/biome?

          However we have not gotten the fall rains that we should have, and so we are thankful for whatever lands on our plate at this point.

  •  Think of it as a warning because of XMas (5+ / 0-)

    They know that a lot of people will be travelling so they are telling you about events that have a lower probability than they might otherwise tell you.    

    What you really need to do if the weather is critical (as a mariner the weather is always critical to me) is go to the forecast discussion.  There is always a link to it.   Here is the one for the Stillwater region.

    http://forecast.weather.gov/...

    CONFIDENCE REMAINS IN WINTER PRECIPITATION OCCURRING ACROSS
    THE MAJORITY OKLAHOMA AND WESTERN NORTH TEXAS. SNOW AMOUNTS AND
    ASPECTS OF THE TIMING REMAIN IN QUESTION...WITH THE BEST CHANCES
    LATE MONDAY NIGHT THROUGH CHRISTMAS MORNING. PRECIP WILL START OUT
    AS RAIN/SLEET MIX BEFORE TRANSITIONING TO SNOW EARLY MONDAY
    MORNING. FORECAST SOUNDINGS SUPPORT THIS TRANSITION THROUGH 12Z
    CHRISTMAS MORNING...AS MAX TW VALUES DROP BELOW -1 C IN THE LOWEST
    5 KM...SUPPORTING SIGNIFICANT CLOUD ICE...AND SURFACE TEMPS DROP
    NEAR AND BELOW FREEZING. SNOW AMOUNTS REMAIN A CHALLENGE AS
    CONFIDENCE REMAINS LOW ON EXACT TIMING AND LOCATION OF GREATEST
    SNOW AMOUNTS. HOWEVER...GREATEST CHANCES FOR SNOW WILL CONTINUE TO
    LIE SOUTH OF THE I-40 CORRIDOR...WHERE LOCATIONS COULD SEE 2 TO 4
    INCHES OF SNOW FALL. SNOW CHANCES WILL QUICKLY DISSIPATE THROUGH
    THE EVENING CHRISTMAS DAY AS THE SYSTEM MOVES OFF TO THE EAST.
    I prefer this to the digested forecast because in my case I care a lot if they say "well, this one model predicts a major storm but the other two do not so we will wait and see a little longer before putting up a warning."   Since the problems caused on the water by a major storm far outweigh the pleasure of getting to wherever I planned to get to, I plan accordingly.

    Sometimes they put in funny things as well, I recall one NWS Seattle forecaster bemoaning the fact that the slugs had crossed the line he told them not to go and his roses were in danger.

    The main word to look for in my case is "bomb"; if they say there is a chance of the system bombing up, I head to shore...

  •  Roughly speaking... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tinfoil Hat, GreenMother

    When winter storms develop, there is frequently a fairly narrow band separating snow and rain.  At other times, precipitation segues gradually from snow to sleety snow to ice to rain as you move from north to south.  Furthermore, the type of precipitation may change during the course of the storm,  particularly if the low passes overhead.  Finally, to compound matters the form of precipitation you get depends partly on the temperature profile overhead.  If it's above freezing at cloud level but below freezing at ground level, you will get an ice storm.

    "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

    by Yamaneko2 on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 10:44:10 PM PST

    •  Those ice storms are normal for these parts (0+ / 0-)

      I provided a link to photos under Weather-Dude's comment.

      We expect that.

      Usually we get some kind of ball park estimate of accumulation, and warnings if they believe there will be power outages.

      So this forecast is weird by normal standards because it fails to predict anything but snow and sleet.

      Okay--how much?

  •  Thank you all for taking the time to stop by and (0+ / 0-)

    give me explanations.

    I deeply appreciate that.

    I will be sure and take some pictures when the weather hits and post them in a new diary.

    Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday season as well.

  •  tornado chances have always (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother

    been forecast like that.

    pseudoscience can kill

    by terrypinder on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 12:20:10 PM PST

    •  Not out here. (0+ / 0-)

      Not for the last 15 years. With the advent of doppler radar, and other technological advances, Tornado probabilities in Oklahoma are pretty sharp.

      In the last 7 years, their predictions have been getting more and more accurate days, sometimes even a week out. They might not be able to tell you down to the street before it happens, but they have a pretty damn good idea of the towns that need to be alert for rapidly developing situations.

  •  I'm impressed how well the NWS does... (0+ / 0-)

    forecasts and updates when the conditions of the fluid atmosphere are constantly changing.

    Last week, the entire state of IA was forecast with blizzard warnings. Our spot was to get 12+ inches with howling winds. Every few hours, I read the Forecast Discussion by the people at our office. The dynamics they contended with were discussed. The various four or five models were handling the changes differently. Their experience and knowledge were showing how challenging it was to pin down what was going to happen in the next hours.

    We went to bed that night to the most vivid display of lightning and thunder I've ever seen in a winter storm. It didn't dump snow here. North it was.

    In the end we missed the big snow and got 4". But, the winds howled all night and the next day blowing it and cutting visibility to zero. Did they make the right forecast? Or, did they miss it? I think that's the wrong question. Were they able to update quickly and accurately using recent data and models? Absolutely.

    I think the NWS is doing a great job.


    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. ~ Ben Franklin

    by jim in IA on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 06:42:43 AM PST

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