Groundhog Day Blizzard & LRC

***Watch WISN 12 News for the latest weather information!***

Thank you for stopping by the Weather Watch 12 blog! 

The ‘Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011’ is now gone, but the memories for many will last a lifetime.  The storm now has a place in the record books here in Milwaukee.  Below is a breakdown of where the storm ranked!

  • Records
    The total snow amount that fell on Wednesday, February 2nd was 9.1 inches, a new daily record for this day for Milwaukee.
  • 16.0 inches fell between 6 pm on Tuesday, February 1st and noon on Wednesday, February 2nd. This total is tied for fourth for any 24 hour period.
  • 19.6 inches fell between noon on Monday, January 31st and noon, Wednesday, February 2nd. This total is fourth for any 48 hour period.

The pictures from the storm have been AMAZING!  The one below comes from Waterford where over 20″ was recorded.  The picture is courtesy of ‘painter’ from the U-Local section of

Waterford, WI February 2, 2011

So how does this storm compare to what is widely considered the worst storm in Milwaukee’s history?

January 28-30, 1947. 18.0 inches.

Arguably the worst snowstorm that ever struck Milwaukee. The three-day snowfall total from records was 18 inches, but this amount is likely to be far below the actual amount that fell, due to the considerable blowing and drifting. During the height of the storm the winds were northeast at 25 to 45 mph and visibilities were near zero in the moderate to heavy snow and blowing snow. Huge drifts, as high as 15 feet, brought all traffic to a standstill and not until the 31st was partial train and streetcar service restored. All stores, factories, offices, and schools were closed from two to four days with many people stranded in cars, buses, trains, railroad depots, and hotel lobbies. The snowstorm was perhaps the longest, worst, and most costliest in Milwaukee history.

Below is a link to memorable snowstorms in Milwaukee history.  This is courtesy of the local NWS office.


Now that this storm is complete.  Let’s take a look at how it compares to the previous 2 times through the cycle.  This is clearly the most dominate feature in this year’s LRC, and has earned the name the ‘signature’ storm.  Since we normally look at 500mb maps, let’s do something different and view the storm from a  infrared satellite perspective each time through the cycle.

First up is October 26, 2010.

October 26, 2010 IR Satellite

Now the next time through the cycle, December 11, 2010.

Finally, our most recent ‘signature’ storm on February 1, 2011.

I would expect this storm to return again, likely somewhere around March 22-25.  Let the anticipation begin!

In the meantime we will talk more about the rest of February coming up this weekend in the blog.  Stay safe if you are still digging out and watch WISN 12 News for the latest!



20 Responses

  1. Hey Jeremy and Mark,

    Great job covering this storm… I hope you guys are catching up on your sleep! I’m exhausted from shoveling and snowblowing 5 different places!!

    Am I mistaken if I say the low has shifted just a bit to the south and east with each storm that passes through? If this is true, do you think the March storm will move even a bit more to the southeast and bring us snow instead of rain? I suppose this is impossible to know, but maybe it’s a possibility, eh?

    The LRC theory is incredible and I am 100% convinced. The pictures you posted here are great too.. shows how similar they are!

    Do you think the February 16th system is something to keep an eye on? And what about next Monday’s?

    Dan K

    • Don’t get too specific on the date…give it room to breath a bit. The upcoming mid month storm came about 20 days after this last one, so it may be a bit further out than the 16th..but should be somewhere in that time frame. 😉


      • Cool, thanks for the info! Was that the 4″ that we had in Milwaukee?

      • Scott, if the temps spike like they did for the storm in reference by Dan K “February 16”, it most certainly should be a rain event. I recall feeling the warmth of spring on new years eve…

        The Arctic Oscillation has been interesting to watch. It is so demanding of our temperatures around here. AO is forecast to climb in the coming days paralleled with our temps almost breaking 30, then our temps forecast to plunge after the weekend as the AO is forecast to do as well. Amazing.

    • Dan K, for what it’s worth, I created a list of potential dates for precip/snow, in my backyard, for the end of the third and beginning of the fourth cycle. I used a constant length of 51 days. It could be used as a reference for dates if desired.

      • Josh – perhaps re: temps. But, we have a much deeper snowpack in place and arctic air even with the current AO has an easy time oozing south. I didn’t fully expect this last storm to dig so far south, and I am not convinced the next one doesn’t have the same opportunity. But certainly, ahead of it – a nice surge of GOM moisture is quite possible. Got to watch it.

    • Anything is possible, but the jet stream usually starts to shift a little more north as we get closer to spring so a further SE track next time isn’t as likely as holding in the same place or even moving NW.

    • Thanks, Dan,

      It was an incredible storm. Indeed the lows shifted to the south which is expected as winter moves along. I would not expect the shift to move back toward the north in March. Just a typical seasonal shift.


  2. Thursday, February 3, 2011 3:17 pm

    Hi Jeremy,

    I’m still working on coming up with a number for the recent event. Interestingly enough (or, maybe not) is that one spot I used for a baseline that had 8″ ground cover, only measured out after the storm to 10″!! Within 10 to 15 feet of that spot is an object that is completely covered indicating at to me that at least 8 to 9″ of snow had accumulated. Tell you more when I know more!
    If it’s a few days or week from now, is it ‘old news’ and hence I shouldn’t bother? I assure you no offense or ‘PR’ blunder on your part or WISN if your reply is ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

    Tony (Pleasant Prairie)

    • Truth be told Tony, we probably won’t use it any more. However, I am still curious. Thanks for providing us with accurate reporting of conditions. It is greatly appreciated.

      • Friday, February 4, 2011 7:49 am

        Hi Mark,

        No problem. You’re welcome for the report posts I made. I assure you I strived to be as accurate as possible. Looking forward to being at least a regular reader of the blog and posting if I feel I have something worthwhile to contribute.
        As for your being curious, perhaps I’ll drop you a ‘snail mail’ letter along with some photo’s for you to check out. Like I said, it might be awhile.


  3. That 5 degrees next Thursday has to be some kind of model error because it doesn’t line up at all with the LRC. Next Tuesday’s cold lines up perfectly with what happened one week after the last signature storm. Afterwards, it proceeded to get warmer and stayed around or slightly above average for a whole week. The additional arctic surge is out of place from what I’m seeing.

    • Daniel – Keep in mind the arctic control measured by the AO has a significant impact during the winter months regarding cold air..but also it is managed within the polar easterlies. This influences the LRC, but is not the LRC. I believe there is a pattern there as well, but it is not the same duration as the LRC and knowing both helps manage some of the variability otherwise seen in using the LRC alone. A key take away is not to get very specific with localized conditions using just the LRC. It has time and location variance. It is a tool like many other models, but singularly should not be used for point type forecasts. That said, it is awfully useful in long range forecasting and understanding the cycle/pattern trends. Even in this last storm, when even as close as 3 days out, there was a bias south in the models and knowing the LRC – it was especially useful in knowing where the long term long wave features were and where the storm ultimately wanted to go in a more northern track…

      • Thank you, Scott. As for the counting on the LRC as the storm approached, I got tentative. I have a trust issue.


      • @Mark – it happens to all of us time to time. The more you see it, the more you learn about it..the more you will trust it – even when models as close as 48hrs out are still missing it.

    • Daniel,

      I’ll post an update to the February forecast probably this weekend, just adjusting the dates moving forward. The cold next week actually fits perfect, and also the possible East Coast storm.

      When I made the forecast I thought(for all of about 3 days) that the first upper low that cruised by would be the signature storm. I thought it was odd because it was about 47 days, and everything had been closer to 50 recently. I learned to trust the LRC even more after my misreading the pattern.

      But overall I’m happy, the signature storm repeated and should have taken no one by surprise. We were forecasting a big storm at least 5 days out. Even farther back I found a comment I made on January 8 saying to watch the last day of January or around the 1st for the ‘signature’ storm.

      I’m already looking forward to the 4th week in March!


  4. Thanks for replying, guys… always just as fun to read the comments here! And Josh, thanks for sharing your snow/precipitation stats!

    What do you all think the temps will be next week around Milwaukee? Think we’ll reach anywhere like -8 or colder in the city? I know the NWS is calling for WC’s down to -30 possible.

    • Dan,

      I think late next week could be absolutely brutal. Double digit below zero certainly possible.


      • Thanks, Mark! Whenever you forecast below zero weather on your newscast, you’re always right! That’s why I love watching you guys… you don’t hold anything back and are accurate! Have a good night

      • @Mark – Looks like Feb might be your month of below temps. The past two have been near normal.

        Looking back –

        Several below zero temps – check

        Near normal temps with one month being colder – check/likely

        Dec/Jan forecast – pretty good

        Identification of signature storm week[s] in advance – check

        Total snowfall – on track

        Not bad so far….

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