Winter Storm Watch…Christmas Storm Scenarios

***Watch WISN 12 News at 5, 6, & 10 p.m. for the latest on the Winter Storm Watch***

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 blog! Please make sure to check back often not only this week but in the future. We are dedicated to bringing you the inside information on the weather and hopefully help you learn something new each day. Keep in mind this is fully interactive, so if you have a question please leave it in the comments section and either Mark or myself will provide an answer. Also, the comments section can be used to leave storm reports that we may use during one of our newscasts!

Let’s start by discussing the Winter Storm Watch that is in effect for all of south central and southeast Wisconsin. The Watch takes effect Wednesday evening and will continue through Thursday(Christmas Eve). The initial band of precipitation will arrive sometime late Wednesday afternoon or into the evening. Locations near the Illinois border will see the area of precipitation first. If you have travel plans on Wednesday I think the main roads will be in good shape through the morning and for most of the afternoon in Southeast Wisconsin. If you are traveling to Minneapolis or LaCrosse on Wednesday afternoon or evening, the later we get into the day, the better the chances are of running into snow. The snow could be moderate at times, especially in the evening(after dark). The roads may be snow covered or slushy in those areas.

Now let’s focus on Southeast Wisconsin for Wednesday. Temperatures will be in the low to mid 30s for highs, so above freezing. By either late afternoon or into the evening the initial band of precipitation should reach the metro. Notice I say ‘precipitation’, because it could either be some snow, sleet, or a mixture.

The map below is from ONE model. This is the 12Z run of the NAM(North American Model). This model updates 4 times a day…so we are always getting new data in! The forecast map below is valid from 6pm Wednesday until 12am Thursday…a 6 hour window. The blue line near Milwaukee(represented by a ‘*’) on this map is VERY critical. This is the 0C (32F) line at 850mb, roughly 1500 meters above the ground. When Milwaukee is near or north of this line a good rule of thumb is that the precipitation would be snow or possibly a mix. When the line is right overhead it could be snow, sleet, or even some rain mixed in. And when the line is north of Milwaukee, the precipitation would mainly be a mix or rain. The farther north the 0C line moves from Milwaukee, the better the chance of ALL rain.

Wednesday evening and Wednesday night we will likely see slippery spots develop on the roads in Southeast Wisconsin if the initial round of precipitation produces a quick 1-3″ of snow/sleet or we see a brief period of freezing rain. The greatest chance of seeing the freezing rain would be in Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Dodge, and northern areas of Washington and Ozaukee counties. Again, I’m not expecting a great deal of freezing rain, but a brief period could still cause some headaches on the roads especially away from Lake Michigan. Areas near and west of Madison could see 2-4″ of snow/sleet on Wednesday evening and into early Thursday.

After midnight the 0C line will continue pushing north as the surface low strengthens to our south and pumps in warmer air aloft and at the surface. By Thursday afternoon, surface temperatures will likely be around 35-41 degrees, keeping the precipitation as RAIN. If you have travel plans in Southeast Wisconsin at this time it looks like the roads would just be wet. As you travel watch out for ponding of water on the roads or even some standing water. Not only will the rain create standing water if it rains hard enough, but also the snowpack in the inland locations will be melting or even blocking some of the drainage gutters.

The rain will continue Thursday Night and temperatures will only gradually begin to fall on Christmas Day in the morning. The map below continues to show RAIN at 6am on Friday…Christmas Day. By afternoon enough cold air should be wrapping into the area that there will be a changeover to snow.

At this time it does not appear that there would be much snow accumulation. In order for Milwaukee to get a big snow we would need the surface low to move to the southeast of Milwaukee, and that just is not going to happen with this storm. Snow totals are tough to predict 3 days in advance, but an early estimate for Milwaukee would be maybe around 1″ on Friday. By the weekend, colder air and snow showers will be over the region.

Here is a quick recap, late Wednesday an initial band of precipitation will move into Southeast Wisconsin. Likely starting as snow, but changing to a mix of sleet, freezing rain, and then transitioning to all rain by Thursday morning. Rain starts the day on Friday, with a change to snow showers. I would not recommend cancelling travel plans around southern Wisconsin, but just stay updated with the latest forecast on WISN 12 News and adjust accordingly. If you are traveling to Minnesota or western Wisconsin in the coming days, those locations stand a much better chance of seeing mainly wintry precipitation from this storm.

Total liquid precipitation around Milwaukee from this storm could be over 1″.  This also included any snow/sleet melted down.  In other words, this is going to be a very wet storm again for many!

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch blog! If you have questions on this storm please post them in the comments section and Mark or myself will try to answer your question.

Have a happy and safe holiday!

Jeremy Nelson


18 Responses

  1. Well maybe KC will still have a nice event??!! The new GFS looks nice

    • The latest run of the GFS put an area of heavy snow over you Andrew! Not much for Milwaukee…but I’m fine with that:)


  2. I have read most of the posts pretty cool stuff say Hi to the old timer (Mark) for me thanks Dan

    • Awesome…you are a part of the blog! Thanks for stopping by.


  3. Merry Christmas Jeremy!

    Hope all is well. KC misses you. You have done a great job with the blog!

    How many inches do you have on the ground now?

    • Our snow depths vary greatly from the lake shore to inland locations. The lake shore has a trace, while inland locations are still around 4-8″. The snow was freshened up today with the 1-2″ snow. I miss KC, but WISN is great and it is great to be back around family!


  4. Hey Jeremy,

    Great blog!! Your viewers have to just love all that detail you have in there, especially with trying to make travel plans for Christmas.

    Gary tries to tell us not to get too excited yet in KC, but he is not doing too well with that himself. 🙂 You can tell he is getting excited that these models have KC in the heavy snow, but I am still a little skeptical being two days away because we have been disappointed so many times. Too many model runs left. It sounds like we have a great shot at a White Christmas though!

    Happy Holidays to you and your family.

    • I always found that the biggest snows in KC would occur when you sometimes least expect it. Big snows are pretty rare in KC…that is seeing 4″ or more. Now in Milwaukee, that may be a heavy dusting:)


  5. I am from the kc area. I have followed you for a long time I have seen you grow as an on air meterologist. And I must say you are living your dream. And that to me is an inspiration. And I must say your friend Gary is very proud to have you colleague if I may speak for him. I will miss your personality and Gl with whatever you do

    • I think I would be happy doing the weather anywhere because I love talking about it, but it is great to be back in Wisconsin. Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to drop by at anytime!


  6. Hi Jeremy,

    This is a tough storm to figure out for Kansas City. A white Christmas is looking more likely here with the latest model runs, which will make all the kids happy (and some adults) if it verifies. After mostly missing the last storm, the KC snow lovers are ready to do the snow dance!! Enjoy the holidays in Wisconsin. We all miss you in KC.


    • I’m not that disappointed that the big snow will miss us this time around. Most of the travelers in southeast Wisconsin will just see wet roads on Thursday, with a change to some snow on Friday, but not too much.


  7. Looks like it will just miss ya. Maybe you catch some flurries. If you are going to get precip and not snow, I just as well wish you rain only. FZRA is no fun. The WAA on this is a monster.

    Seems like forever I have been waiting on this storm! Seems it is going to cause significant headaches for much of the area west and southwest of MIL.

    Is this three blizzards this year already?

    Hopefully, we can send you a box of snow for Christmas.

    • I see the GFS is taking our storm around Jan. 2nd too far south…when is that model going to learn where the pattern is this season:)


  8. Hey Jeremy,

    So here in Muskego we got around 3 inches of snow today and its still snowing around 7:30 tonight. We had around a 4 inch snowpack from the last storm. The weather service says 2-4 inches tomorrow. Can the rain forecasted for this storm melt away 9 or so inches of snow? I’m hoping for a White Birthday (December 24th – I’ll be 16) and a White Christmas!

    Also, I would like to say welcome to Milwaukee! We get all types of weather and being a weather “geek,” I love it! I may go into the meterology field for school. I absolutely love it. It just seems as if the southeast corner of the state (me) is getting jipped from all the big snows! 😦 La nina is a whole lot better. If there is a big snow – you will see a whiteboard with your forecasted totals, plus the other tv stations and the internet.


    • Bryan,

      Welcome to the blog! Thank you for the snow total! When Mark shows the totals tonight he will include yours in the list. If you plan on being a Meteorologist someday make sure to take as many math classes as possible in high school…even Calculus if possible.

      Rain is the ultimate snow eater…so if it rain for a long time the snow that is out there could quickly melt away. Not sure if you will have a white birthday, but there may be enough snow on the backside of the storm to get the ground white on Christmas Day.

      Thanks joining the blog!


  9. Jeremy, I don’t have anything weather related to say, but I just wanted to wish you a happy holidays and a happy new year. Hope you get everything you asked Santa for. =P


    • Nicole,

      Thanks for the Christmas wish, I hope you have a great holiday. You may finally see a white Christmas!


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