First Winter Storm Looms, But How Much Snow?

***Watch WISN 12 News at 5, 6, & 10pm for the latest weather information!***

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 Blog!  The first potential winter storm of the season on the way!  In this blog entry we will go the possible snow totals that the storm may bring, and also some of the unanswered questions surrounding this ‘snowstorm’.

Let’s begin with what our confidence is highest in…

1)  Friday is a dry day from sunrise to sunset

2) Light snow develops after midnight, so Friday night into Saturday morning

3) The bulk of the accumulating snow will occur Saturday morning

4) Some lake enhancement or pure lake effect snow is possible

The above items I’m confident in as of this writing.  So is it going to snow…yes.

Now the tough part, how much snow and what role will the lake play?  Below is a forecast surface map.  This forecast map from the HPC brings together many different computer models to generate the map.  This forecast is valid at 6am Saturday.  Notice the snow over southern Wisconsin, with the main surface low over Missouri.


This is NOT a favored track for a storm to take to give us a major winter storm since it is moving southeast, BUT, this is a track that can bring our area a good snow.

Below is the snow forecast map that I showed on WISN 12 News at 5 & 6pm.  If you have questions about it please post them in the comments section, remember this is an interactive blog so I will provide a response.  Just click on the image to enlarge.

The map that I made was very close to the snowfall forecast that our high resolution computer model just came out with.  The big variable in either forecast is how much lake enhancement or lake effect snow will occur.  If a meso-low develops over Lake Michigan and moves across the lakeshore counties, totals could be higher.  This is about the only way I see totals getting over 2 to 4 inches right now.

Below is the RPM snow forecast thru Saturday.  Keep in mind this can and likely will change between now and when the first snowflakes fly!

Stay with Weather Watch 12 and WISN 12 News for the latest weather updates!

Jeremy Nelson


13 Responses

  1. What makes this storm different than most early December storms? What I mean is that usually when there is a wind off the relatively warm lake this early in the season, it brings in the prospect of a mix near the shore instead of a possibility of actually adding to the total. I believe this has been the case with the first big storm the past two years.

  2. Hi, Jeremy!

    I live in Reeseville, Dodge County, right between Watertown and Beaver Dam. When you show the anticipated snowfall amount maps on TV, our area of the county usually always ends right right on the division line between the less amounts and heavy amounts. It’s hard to tell what to get ready for. What usually happens is that snowstorms appear to “split” right over this area — the northern half of the county gets less, the southern half gets the most, and where we are, we usually end up with little or none. It’s like we end up in the “eye” of the storm. About the only times this area gets heavy snow is if the whole county is under a warning. Any ideas why this happens so frequently in the mid-section of the county? Also, which area — lesser or greater amount — do you think this part of our county will fall into?

    Also, how does this storm fit in with that new way of forecasting winter in the long term that you talked about recently?

    Don Steinberg

    • Don,

      If you live by the edge of the snow bands…say 1-2″ and 2-4″ you can probably assume you are closer to the 2″. You are away from the possible lake enhancement area, so you will just see snow from the main low pressure area.

      This storm is fitting perfectly into the LRC! As I mentioned in the blog many times, pinning down the cycle duration usually occurs in December, and it looks like that will hold true once again. I think the cycle duration is in the mid 40s for number of days. I know I took a guess early at 37ish days, but am pretty confident that the duration is in the 40s. I’ll go into the LRC more once this storm passes and I have more time.

      Thanks for the comment.


  3. How far does lake-effect snow move out? As in, does it usually/ only occur in the counties right next to the lake (Milwaukee, Kenosha, Racine, etc.)? I live in Waukesha.

    (Finally, the first big storm of the season! I posted a prediction on my blog []– It will be exciting as to what tomorrow’s models have to say).

    • It varies. Last year’s early February storm brought some lake bands all the way into Dodge and Jefferson counties. On the other hand, I was walking on bare, dead grass out in New Berlin during the early March 2009 lake effect storm that brought over 14 inches of snow to the airport.

    • Chris,

      If you read Daniel’s comment he is correct…it varies quite a bit. It depends on wind speeds and direction. Friday night into early Saturday the winds will be fairly light, that is when winds will be more easterly. So any early lake effect wouldn’t get pushed too far inland. Later in the day the winds will be more north-northeast favoring areas closer to the lake. Lake effect snow is one of the most difficult things to forecast…a meso low can ruin a great forecast in the matter of an hour or so.


  4. Hey Jeremy,

    I enjoy reading your blog. Very informative. I must say I’m going to enjoy being on the opposite side of this main low than you are. The cold air it is dragging south with it will be annoying, but at least I’ll still see the ground! I’ll be happy if we get less snow than Barrow, AK this year! LOL! Stay safe my fellow Wisconsinites!

  5. Jeremy, this is an excellent summary of the storm. I wish the TV networks would explain storms like this – rather than hyping up the chance for a major snow dump. I am really annoyed how the newspaper states in big letters that we are going to get 8 inches of snow, when anyone who would logically think about it would realize that only certain areas would have that potential. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR BRINGING SOME SANITY BACK TO REPORTING WEATHER. I wish other stations were as respectful to their viewers as you and WISN are! Thanks much!

    • Ralph…Thank you for the kind words. We always forecast what we think will happen. Sometimes weather folks will forecast off the NWS, but our forecasts and snow totals are 100% our own. While we are not always spot on, we will put our forecasts up against any other anytime, and let the results speak for themselves. This should be a nice warmup for winter, as even more exciting storms are waiting down the road.


  6. Hi Jeremy , I have more of a comment than a question.
    I am looking forward to your LRC forecasts.
    I know you had a overview winter on the news & the blog.
    If I recall last year you would have next months forecast at the end of the ending month.
    Will you still be mapping a detailed LRC forecast for December?
    I have told sooo many people about you & your forecasts after accidently stumbling on them last year.
    As I have talked with the people I told about you they said they have now become channel 12 viewers.
    I am sure you feel the pressure to have as good of a forecast year as you did last year.

    I really hope it works out for you , you seem like a nice person.
    I guess my question is when will you have your first more detailed LRC forecast?

    • Jim,

      If you remember back to last winter I didn’t start making detailed forecasts until either mid or late December. I promise that I will start talking more about the pattern in the blog next week. Thanks for reading and telling others! Jeremy

  7. Jeremy I see that winds for Saturday are out of the North, wouldn’t that push Lake Effect snows due south and away from land?

    • Bryan,

      The winds will start east and end north. So any lake effect would likely be in the or into the afternoon.


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