Major Winter Storm Looming?

***Watch WISN 12 News for the latest on next week’s snow chances!***

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 blog!  The #1 question on people’s minds right now in Wisconsin is either: “Are the Packers going to win the Super Bowl?” or “How much snow are we getting this week?”

Both great questions, but in this blog we’ll try to tackle the issue of snow.  For starters, I do think Milwaukee will see it’s biggest snowstorm of the season this week.  To date the ‘biggest’ storm produced 4.9″ on January 17-18.

If you are a snow lover, I think this week will cure your need for a ‘big’ or ‘decent’ snow this winter.  Two chances for a sizable snow are in the forecast.

Let’s start with what I’ll call round 1 on Monday.  A little disturbance running ahead of the main storm, combined with easterly winds off Lake Michigan will kick off what should be a long duration light to moderate snow across southern Wisconsin.  Right now the timing looks to have the snow starting Monday morning.

Below is the RPM forecast for Monday, showing light snow falling across all/most of the viewing area by 7am.  Notice the wind barbs, winds will be east pushing additional moisture in from Lake Michigan.

Snow Forecast Monday Morning January 31

Round one will continue Monday afternoon and should taper off to just lake effect snow showers early Tuesday.  Below is the HPC forecast ‘percent chance’ of 2″ or more of snow from 6pm Monday to 6pm Tuesday.

With the 18Z data that came in Saturday, I think this chance should be around 100% for most of our area.  This map above was issued around Noon Saturday.  Just an interesting way to view snow potential.

The long duration light to moderate snow with round 1 will add up to some impressive totals.  The snow totals from Monday morning to Tuesday at 7am push 7″ in some lakeshore counties.  Below are forecast snow totals from the RPM, our high resolution computer model.

Forecast Snow Totals Monday Thru 7am Tuesday

Right now I would basically agree putting a general 3″-7″ band in the area with the higher totals near the lake.  Please keep in mind, picking out exactly where heavy bands of lake enhanced or effect snow form hours or days in advance is nearly impossible.  Some snow totals where prolonged lake bands occur could exceed the numbers above.

I’m not 100% certain round 1 will completely end, since winds will stay out of a general northeast direction.  The snow may taper off and just occur over some lakeshore counties around midday Tuesday into the afternoon.

Round 2 will be the wetter and potentially bigger snow producer.  The big question mark is the exact track.  The models have been flucuating, and will continue to do so.  This is a very large and wet storm, and we are still 3 days away from the storm hitting the Midwest.

The issue right now is that the pieces of energy that will form the storm to produce round 2 are not even in the United States.  Below is a 500mb initilization map from the 18Z GFS.  500mb is the middle of the atmosphere.  On the map are labels on vorticity maximums, 1 and 2.  These two pieces of energy will move southeast, and eventually merge, or phase into one larger piece of energy by Tuesday.  If this occurs, it will likely translate into a large storm forming at the surface.

500mb Map January 29 Showing Possible Phase Position

Once the storm forms, the question is where will it track, and what will the impact be on southern Wisconsin.

Below is the 18Z GFS at 12am Wednesday.  This puts the center of low pressure of western Kentucky.  This track is more north than previous runs, and would put parts of southeast Wisconsin on the edge of the heavy snow band.  Keep in mind winds will still be out of the northeast or east, continuing the lake effect and enhancement.

18Z GFS 12am Wednesday Major Winter Storm

If this track were to play out, some locations could see an additional 6″+.  If the storm would track farther south, then totals would be less.  And if the low moves about 150-200 miles farther north, southeast Wisconsin could potentially be in for a huge snowstorm.

Still a lot that can happen between now and Monday, and even more between now and late Tuesday.

As the snow nears our area, the best way to track it day or night is with interactive radar!

Make sure to stay with Weather Watch 12 as this storm develops!  There are many ways to follow our forecasts…

  • Facebook: WeatherWatch 12
  • Twitter: WISN12News
  • Mobile Apps, including iPhone App: WISN
  • WISN 12 News at 4:30-7:00am, and at 5, 6, & 10pm

If you have questions or thoughts on the storm please include them in the comments section of the blog!

Have a great day!

Jeremy Nelson


74 Responses

  1. Good luck, I’m so thrilled to see what happens here!

  2. I do have one question involving the timing of the storm. I need to decide whether to make plans that are heavily dependent on traveling Wednesday afternoon. Will the storm be gone by then regardless of its track?

    • Noaa is forecasting heavy snow for our area and in the forecast discussion says that models continue pushing the storm north. Do you believe anything that noaa is saying, and how much do you think you can trust them?

      • Justin,

        Outside of relying on NOAA for the watches/warnings/advisories I don’t mix their thoughts with mine. I may discuss with other Meteorologists at WISN, but the forecast I put on the air are my thoughts or the teams. If I miss a forecast it will not be because of outside influences. In the past I’ve had very good success with this approach. The 18Z NAM moved the storm a touch farther south…

        This is what in Kansas City we called the ‘panic period’. And try not to get modelitis along the way:)


    • Daniel,

      The storm would have to slow down more for the snow to continue too far into Wednesday afternoon. Still a chance there could be some lake effect snow showers. If traveling by car snow could still be on some roads(assuming we get snow), and the winds would be at least 10-20+.


      • I’m in the same boat, driving to Arlington through St. Louis/Joplin/Tulsa. My choices to depart are Monday late evening (earliest) through Wednesday late morning (latest). Guessing the latter will be my best option…

  3. NWS is saying 4-8 inches just on Monday! Didn’t know that we would get that much on Monday. They are still looking at the tracks moving northward for Tuesday and wednesday. 1.5 QPF in Kenosha!

  4. Wow, in addition to Monday and the LES, we could be looking at 2 feet of snow. I hope this storm doesn’t blow over; I’m looking forward to one huge snowfall.

    Also, which model website do you recommend? I jump around a lot, but would like some “pro” tips.


    • It may be tough to do, but keep expectation in check. The over running and lake enhancement does set up for a nice snow on Monday. Biggest of the season in Milwaukee? That is just the first part of the storm, the bigger question is where will the main energy go?


      • 18z GFS looked decent. I think it is placing the surface low in the wrong spot, but general trend seems north. I am throwing out the 18z NAM. WSWs hoisted in our neck of the woods.

      • Guessing we will see a Winter Storm Watch posted for southeast Wisconsin for Monday-early Wednesday by Sunday morning if the trends continue.


  5. Jeremy,

    A few things. First, impressive # of responses in this short amount of time posting 3 relatively short paragraphs. Congrats! 🙂

    Second, the potential, at least according to the NWS is 1′ – 2′ feet in various areas. And, because of the complexity of this long duration storm, and a good handful of variables (at least), some places could get 6″ total, some could get 24″, or even 30″ (lake-effect bands can be strikingly intense and narrow!)

    Third, if you don’t mind me asking, you seem to ‘belittle’ for lack of a better word the NWS/NOAA. I understand you want to have your own opinions, based on your own research, and produce a legitimate forecast that you strongly believe. That all is fine. But, in your own words, why do you seem to dismiss any insight or forecasting abilities they may be able to produce?

    Thank you very much for the post and eagerly await (again!) tomorrow mornings model(s) results…


    • Michael,

      We have nothing against the NWS. But our weather team all has Meteorology degrees, and we discuss the weather within our team. If we get more than 4 opinions in the mix, adding in the NWS, that is ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ so to speak.

      We will put our forecasts up against anyone’s any day of the week. Will we always be right? No, but we like our odds. Thanks for adding your thoughts.


    • The fact that the NWS would even take the Euro’s QPF with a grain of salt is plenty reason enough. While the Euro is more reliable with storm tracks, it is horrible with overblowing precip amounts from this far out.

  6. Jeremy, great job with the 5pm weather segment… you couldn’t have laid it out any better!

    I can officially say I have snow forecast addiction. 😀

  7. Ready for warmer weather any day now.

    Had enough shoveling snow for one Winter.

    Hope the bulk of it all misses us.

    Thanks for the updates Jeremy!

    • Dave…new blog is done.


  8. Saturday, January 29, 2011

    Hi Jeremy,

    It’s beginning to look like the snowfall could be quite significant in my location. Any suggestions and or ‘special requests’ with regards to measurements, etc that I’ll be trying to post?

    Tony (Pleasant Prairie)

    • Tony,

      Anytime you can post a total about 30-60 minutes before our newscasts it is appreciated. I think you are in a pretty good spot for this storm:)


      • Saturday, January 29, 2011

        OK, will try hard to get you some good numbers at the requested time(s)
        I was in a ‘pretty good spot’ for the 8 -10 inches of lake effect Xmas day too! I guess some guys just have ALL the Luck!


  9. 0z NAM and 0z GFS both have around 6-9 inches for Milwaukee. This is for both storms combined though. In each case the main low has trended south from previous runs.

    • Daniel,

      The 00Z NAM is farther north than the 18Z run for round 2. Guessing the 2nd round will still be up in the air until Monday…


  10. Jeremy —

    Since lake effect snow usually doesn’t reach as far inland as Dodge County, what do you see as happening here with the upcoming snows?

    As of 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, the Winter Storm Watch passes us just to the south — as usual!! Do you expect any changes to the watch/warning territory?

    Don in Reeseville

  11. Do you anticipate the models edging this thing north? And how much are we going to see in Sheboygan?

  12. Don and Robert,

    I believe they’ve still been trending north. I know I’ve mentioned this a few times yesterday, but Skilling’s facebook page is great. There’s been people there posting the latest models results and stuff the past few days. One latest model has QPF of 1.5″ at the WI/IL border. Hopefully the north trend continues.

  13. Latest nam just came out and has the storm a little more north than in the previous run. hope this trend continues!

    • 12Z NAM was very close to being a snow lovers dream! Any more of a shift north and I think almost our entire viewing area would see heavy snow in round 2. This has the potential to be the biggest storm for parts of the area in years. Now keep in mind December 8-9 of 2009 produced a big storm, mainly inland. There was also the odd lake event that produced around 18″ of snow in Milwaukee in March of either 2008 or 09.

      Adding up the snow from Monday-Wednesday should put parts of the area in over a foot of snow if the current trends hold.


  14. gfs is farther north too. Im starting to get more hopeful that southern wisconsin will see a lot of snow.

    • Justin, which GFS are you looking at? Could I get a link? 😀

      • here you go dan. if you ever need it again just go to, click on active weather alerts, and on the left side click on numerical models. have fun!

      • If you are a snow lover, a slight shift farther north would still be good for you, but watch out what you wish for. Remember December when the storm moved too far north. This is a little different but just wanted to remind everyone how far that storm in December shifted within about 72 hours of its arrival.


    • Many thanks, Justin!

  15. I remember the December storm. But isn’t this storm much colder than that storm? Temperatures will be in the 20s for most of the storm. Wouldn’t we need a dramatic shift for us to see rain or a mix?

    • Yes…but keep in mind that storm back in December was going to miss our area completely just a few days out, then the models made a huge jump west. Just saying with 2 days before the main storm arrives the final track is not set yet.


      • Guaranteed Jeremy is right again haha…. also thanks to the LRC

      • Dan,

        I should have never doubted my initial thoughts from weeks ago. The big parts of the pattern always come back. It has never failed in my 5 years of learning about the LRC.


      • Haha, I don’t doubt that one bit… this theory is incredible!! Jeremy, if it followed the exact same path as the December one, we would still be all snow, right? But would we be in the bullseye or more likely just south of it? Exactly like you said, everyone seems to be getting excited and hoping for it to pull north, but I would be willing to bet that you’re correct and it’ll go too far north in 2 days!

      • Dan,

        It would have to move a decent amount farther north for us to get the mix or a change. If it moved another 100 miles north or so we’d be closer to the bullseye.


      • Yeah, because I believe the ice will hit just south of the Indianapolis area?

        Thanks for all your work on this! I want to major in meteorological science now! 😀

  16. Catastrophic ice storm (1-1.5 inches of ice) in the making for Indianapolis and other areas of Indiana and Ohio. Just be glad we don’t have that coming our way.

    • Daniel,

      Even though I mixed up the waves for this storm last week, you can see why I called this storm within the cycle the ‘signature’ storm. It always seems to produce. Mark down somewhere around March 23-25…more fun then:) We’ll have to watch out for severe weather or snow with the next go around:)


  17. NAM Snowfall! WOW!

    • I like that alot!!! Bring it on!!!

      • Holy crap, me too! 😀 nice share Bryan 😀 I hope it’s right!

    • Bryan,

      If that happened, I think it would qualify as a major winter storm.


  18. Jeremy, I don’t know…… haha 😉 it most definitely would!

    What model are you favoring right now Jeremy?

    • I thought the NAM looked pretty good this morning. The models will change before this arrives. We also have to watch out for the wind, they will be around 15-30+ on Tuesday Night early Wed


  19. Sunday, January 30, 2011 11:45 am

    Hi WW12 blog!

    Present ground cover at 8 3/4 inch. Paved driveway bare. Will keep you undated best I’m able to.

    Tony (Pleasant Prairie)

  20. Blizzard watch just issued for chicago. you think there’s a possibility that southern wisconsin could be added to that as well?

    • Yes…it’s possible.

  21. I find this fascinating…..seems to be giving us the heaviest of the snow…. not Chicago only

  22. GGEM Model: (click on 063 hours ahead on the right side and hit refresh prog)

    • If the Canadian is right, and you love snow, we don’t want the low to move too much farther north. Good place on that model for heavy snow.


  23. So excited!!!! Winter storm watch from monday aft to tuesday aft, then blizzard watch from tuesday aft to wednesday aft for lakeshore counties. noaa says totals could range from 18 to 24 inches especially near the lake.

  24. Not getting my hopes up at this point so I’m not disappointed later, but Blizzard Watch issues for looks like Sheb down to Kenosha. Not for Waukesha county, yet…

    Things are looking good for some serious sausage (sorry, family joke), but again, anything can still happen.

    Latest NAM Model has 18″+ for Eastern Waukesha county and almost all of MKE County!!!


    • Michael,

      The blizzard watch does include Waukesha county! The NWS map on the front page just shows the WWA (light blue) on Waukesha county because that’s first for us. All counties that were in the Winter Storm Watch area are now under a blizzard watch as well, you just have to click on the Winter Weather Advisory to see it.

  25. Blizzard Watch just issued for MKE and eastern counties!!

  26. Jeremy,

    Whoa! NWS saying 4′ – 8′ drifts possible, probably closer to the lake! Looking nifty.

    One quick logistical question Jeremy. At this point, is Mark scheduling the WISN 12 Weather team now for who will be in the studio and when?

    Just curious. I would imagine you and Mark would spend some ‘overtime’ early this week… 🙂

    Thanks again for all the posts, and, I have to include again in this post that things could change and drop our snow totals, but here’s hoping they go up!!!


  27. Does anyone out here recall the last time we had as much snow as they are predicting?

    • I’m only 18… but the most I remember is the 15″ we had in West Allis and 18″ in Madison 😀

      • Dan,

        I’m 17 and that’t the biggest I can remember. The one where they closed UW-Madison, right? Otherwise I remember getting 12 inches in 2006, but other than that, I don’t remember.

        And Jeremy, is today the day with the mosts hits ever on here? 62 comments… very nice!

      • Bryan,

        That’s the one I’m talking about 🙂 By the way, I added you on FB. Saw you on Skilling’s page 😀


    • Just read the watches on NWS and they are comparing this storm to a storm we had back in January 99

  28. Which website do you guys recommend for weather models? Is there one that contains the NAM, GFS, ECWMF, and all of the other “famous” ones?


  29. Blizzard Watch now issued for SE Wisconsin. It’s coming folks!!

    • Ooops. Didn’t see that this was already posted. Sorry about that.

  30. I’ve been stalking this blog all day and I’m really liking what I see!!! I hope this storm puts SE wisconsin in the bullseye for this winter storm! We are LONG overdue for a storm of this magnitude to hit us. Can’t wait to see what the next three days has in store for us.

  31. I think it’s WAY too early for the National Weather Service to issue a Blizzard Watch or even to be using the word “blizzard”. Apparently they didn’t learn their lesson in the December storm. I wouldn’t doubt if the storm moves a lot farther north than the models are forecasting now, so much so that we have to worry about a mix here and Chicago ends up with mostly rain. We’re still over two days away from the main storm. So much can happen yet.

  32. Enjoy everyone! Many who follow should have had awareness weeks/months ahead that this storm would have potential to threaten the region. I will contend that at times, humans misinterpret the pattern and subsequent forecasts, but the pattern itself never lies. Without it, there would have been absolutely zero way to know this type of storm would happen and happen in this time frame.

    Have fun and be safe!


  33. I don’t think it’s too early to post a Blizzard Watch. A watch is just that, it’s a watch for the potential and possibility of blizzard conditions in the area. If they had posted a Warning this early out, then I would say that’s too early. I think with the severity of this winter storm, they are wanting to get as much information out there as possible for ppl who may have travel plans and what not. I agree so much can happen, and maybe we may only end up with a few inches, but I don’t know if that’s going to be the case with this storm. Should be interesting. I’m getting a little excited over here in Northeast Walworth County! 🙂

  34. Miserable weather… all of it.

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