Storified by WeatherNation January 30, 2014

Plowable Snow Denver to the Twin Cities to Chicago (why was the southern snow/ice storm so severe?)


84-Hour Snowfall Projections. Upslope winds along the Colorado Front Range may dump as much as 4-7″ for Denver tonight and Friday, a clipper producing plowable snowfall amounts from the Twin Cities to Wausau and Green Bay, Friday’s storm dropping a few inches of snow from Chicago to Detroit, South Bend and Toledo. The southern USA thaws out – highs near 60 in Birmingham and Atlanta this weekend.




Snow Storms Hit The South. Seeing is believing, and some of the photos in this story from In Focus at The Atlantic are truly gawk-worthy; here’s an excerpt: “A rare winter storm swept across most of the Deep South yesterday, turning roads into sheets of ice, dropping several inches of snow in places, snarling highways, and causing at least five deaths. Unaccustomed to the weather, drivers slid into ditches, abandoned vehicles on highways, and became trapped in miles-long traffic jams for many hours. The National Guard was out, extracting stranded motorists and transporting them to shelters – thousands remain trapped on Interstates around Atlanta today..”

Photo credit above: “Traffic at a standstill on Interstate 65 northbound as officials work to clear abandoned vehicles in Hoover, Alabama, on January 29, 2014.” (AP Photo/Hal Yeager).


Atlanta’s Hell Commute Is Still Going On. Business Insider has a series of photos that really capture the surreal nature of Atlanta’s historic ice storm – here’s an excerpt: “Atlanta is in the midst of one of what will likely go down as one of the worst traffic jams in American history. It started with snow yesterday that snarled roads all across the city, and it’s still going on, now into the 16th hour. Here are a series of images that show what’s still going on...”


Snowed Out Atlanta. If you want to get a better sense of what’s really going on in Atlanta check out some of the urgent Facebook posts – it’s almost surreal.


Atlanta Snow Snarls Commute For CNN Staffers. Here’s an excerpt from TVNewser: “Atlanta-based CNN staffers ran into some traffic problems caused by the winter storm during their commute yesterday. On Twitter, Carol Costello detailed the experience of being stuck in the CNN parking lot for an hour before finally giving up and going back inside…”



Mea Culpa. Every storm is different, and it doesn’t take much of a jog in a storm’s track or intensity to throw the forecast off-track. The snow and ice came in 4-7 hours earlier than predicted, which contributed to the problem. I have a lot of respect for meteorologist James Spann, in Birmingham. He doesn’t try to spin the truth – he tells it like it is, and when he’s wrong, he owns up to it. He is the exception to the rule. Here’s a snippet from “Birmingham meteorologist James Spann, who was called just about every name in the book as an unexpected snow shut down most of Central Alabama, has apologized for what he called his worst “forecast bust” since the winter storm of 1982. Here’s what the Spann wrote on his ABC 33/40 weather blog today:

“In terms of human impact, yesterday’s forecast ‘bust’ was the most significant for me since January 1982, when we had a timing error of about six hours on the arrival of freezing rain and snow...”


What Happened? My Take. Based on what I know of the storm, predictings, onset and impact, I recorded a segment for WeatherNation TV explaining why 2″ of snow, coming at precisely the wrong time and temperature, coupled with decisions to close school early and send many office workers home prematurely, created a cascade of unintended consequences. That, and how traditional (chemical) snow removal and spinning tires can turn snow into a sheet of glaze ice: “WeatherNationTV Chief Meteorologist Paul Douglas goes over just what went wrong in the historic snow and ice storm that blanketed the Southeast. Cars were abandoned, people slept in grocery stores, kids were stuck on buses, and a 16 hour commute home. What what wrong?


Alerts Broadcaster Special Briefing: Issued Wednesday afternoon, January 29, 2014.

Here is what has changed since yesterday:
* latest model solutions a little milder for Super Bowl Sunday: highs may peak in low 40s AM hours before falling thru the 30s during the PM.
* I still don’t see widespread or heavy rain or snow – but an isolated rain/snow shower, or a few flurries/sprinkles, can’t be ruled out during the game.
* Winds are slightly lighter: west to northwest at gametime, average of 7-12 mph with higher gusts.
* Meteorologists and various pundits will be at a rare (and welcome) loss for words. No BREAKING WEATHER in East Rutherford, New Jersey Sunday.


Sunday Evening Weather Map. The (usually) more reliable ECMWF (European) solution shows a weak cold frontal passage for the Tri-State Area, lot’s of clouds, a west/northwest wind, but the heaviest precipitation well out into the Atlantic. Again, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a passing shower or rain or wet snow – but nothing that should result in traffic problems with temperatures above 32F until about 9-10 PM Sunday night. Model guidance: WSI Corporation.


High-Resolution Analysis. Here are projected temperatures, wind direction and speed for Sunday, showing a high in the mid-40s around midday, with a slow, steady drop in temperature during the PM hours; a gametime temperature falling from 43 in Q1 to 33 by the end of Q4. Winds turn from the west to northwest, averaging 7-12 mph, with gusts to 15 mph.


Model Continuity. Our confidence levels rise (and blood pressure falls) when all the various models converge on the same solution. That appears to be the case Sunday with GFS guidance (above) also showing a high in the low to mid 40s, then falling to 27F by 9 PM, a slight chance of a rain or snow shower, but no steady/widespread precipitation.


Super Bowl Weather Planner. Temperatures thaw out across metro New York City in the coming days, rising above freezing Friday, low to mid 40s possible both Saturday and Sunday. The approach of a cooler front may set off a stray (isolated) shower or rain or even wet snow Sunday, but temperatures should be warm enough for (mostly) wet roads, parking lots (and runways). A dry Monday gives way to a rain/snow mix Tuesday, changing to mostly rain (heavy at times) Wednesday. Graphic: Weatherspark.

Summary: meteorologists live in a state of perpetual paranoia. I keep analyzing the maps and models, wondering (out loud) what can possibly go wrong. Confidence levels are very high that there won’t be a major storm for the Super Bowl, certainly no blizzards or coastal storms that would impact operations, safety or comfort of fans, players and officials. My confidence level is high that temperatures will fall thru the 30s, with a light to moderate west/northwest wind. So windchill won’t be a huge factor. There is a risk of a (nuisance) shower or rain or snow, but no meteorological show-stoppers.



Super Bowl Weather Conditions Since 1967. I thought this document (PDF) from NOAA was interesting, highlighting the coldest, warmest, snowiest and wettest Super Bowls. Sunday’s game may go down as the coldest (for a game played without a dome).


Norway: Rare Winter Brush Fire Burns Numerous Structures. Shouldn’t Norway be smothered in snow and ice right about now? I can’t remember the last time I heard of major fires – in Norway – in late January. Wildfire Today has more details and video: “…A rare January brush fire has burned scores of structures in the Norway villages of Hasvag and Smavaeret. Police believe the fire started Monday when strong winds blew two powerlines together. The reports on the number of homes and other structures that have burned vary greatly. There could be as many as 95 that are damaged or destroyed...”

Photo credit by Crews RS Harlald V.


Hundreds Evacuated From Blaze In Norway. Here is the Wall Street Journal’s take on the fires.



Popular Flood Insurance Law Is Target Of Both Political Parties. In light of Superstorm Sandy major overhauls to insurance laws were proposed, but now many politicians are getting cold feet. Here’s an excerpt of an explanation from The New York Times: “A major flood insurance bill was a rarity when it passed what is widely derided as a do-nothing Congress in 2012, but a year and a half later, there is now an enthusiastic bipartisan effort to gut it. This week the Senate is expected to approve a measure that would block, repeal or delay many of the key provisions of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which was sponsored by Representative Judy Biggert, an Illinois Republican, and Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat…”




Talking About The Weather: The Next Level. The Atlantic provides some good resources for weather nerds (um, enthusiasts) to track the weather on their own; here’s an excerpt: “…The data keeps going. NOAA can give you surface temperatures from 9,000 weather stations, some of which have data stretching back to the beginning of the 1900s. In certain local areas, like San Francisco, people have made this history easier to access. Perhaps the coolest of these projects is @datapointed’s look at rainfall patterns in the Bay before and after Valentine’s Day.  Or if you prefer a more visual interface, brings you Quicksilver...”



Oil Boom: See A Modern-Day Gold Rush In Motion. Yes, what’s happening in North Dakota is awe-inspiring. NPR takes a look – here’s a clip: “If you’ve seen any coverage of North Dakota’s oil boom, you’ve seen the images — oil rigs, truck traffic, “man camps,” miles of temporary housing. But there is something about this place that just can’t be captured by a still photograph. It’s a feeling you get when you cruise down an endless highway under a vast, big sky — until suddenly: BOOM. You’re wedged between semitrucks dwarfing what was once a quiet farm town…”

Image credit: “Ritter Brothers, a jewelry and gift store in Williston, N.D., sells miniature oil rigs and other oil-related novelties.” (Annie Flanagan for NPR)



The 2013 NFL Season In 160 Seconds. Because you’re in a hurry. Check out the video clip from ESPN and “If you haven’t been watching the NFL at all this season but are planning on tuning into the Super Bowl, this video by ESPN will prepare you by recapping the entire season in under three minutes…”




If You Can’t Wait For Super Bowl Ads. The Wire has a run-down on many of the spots, some of which are already online; here’s a clip: “You have wait until Sunday to see the Super Bowl, and as usual, you won’t have to wait that long to see the famous commericals. Many of the big advertisers will be unveiling their commercials online during the week, to build buzz and get a little extra mileage out of their very expensive, celebrity-studded production. Others prefer to keep you in suspense. Here is a collection of the ads that have been released so far, but keep checking back as we’ll update this post as the week goes on and new ones arrive…” (Image credit: YouTube and Budweiser). Why am I thirsty all of a sudden?



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Welcome to the WeatherNation blog. Every day I sift through hundreds of stories, maps, graphics and meteorological web sites, trying to capture some of the most interesting weather nuggets, the stories behind the forecast. I’ll link to stories and share some of the web sites I use. I’m still passionate about the weather, have been ever since Tropical Storm Agnes flooded my home in Lancaster, PA in 1972. I’ve started 5 weather-related companies. “EarthWatch” created the world’s first 3-D weather graphics for TV stations – Steven Spielberg used our software in “Jurassic Park” and “Twister”. My last company, “Digital Cyclone”, personalized weather for cell phones. “My-Cast” was launched in 2001 and is still going strong on iPhone, Android and Blackberry. I sold DCI to Garmin in 2007 so I could focus on my latest venture: WeatherNation. I also write a daily weather column for The Star Tribune And if you’re on Twitter, you’ll find me @pdouglasweather.


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