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Arctic Air Set to Return

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Its been no secret around here that the last few days have been pleasant to January standards.  Highs generally above average, reasonably light winds, and some sunshine; who can ask for more this time of year??  Well, its about to come to an end in a pretty big way.  Although another day or two of mild temperatures is expected, bitterly cold air will return through the day Friday and certainly stick around through the weekend.  It will start with some areas of light rain, drizzle, and light fog Thursday and Thursday night before switching over to snow, lots of wind, and cold on Friday and Friday night.  But it doesn’t look like the snow will be the big story for many of us this time as the heaviest will stay to our west and north.  Now that doesn’t mean we wont get any, but I bet the cold will be far more irritating for many, and actually quite dangerous during the first half of the weekend.

Expecting still mild conditions and some actual rain showers east of the James River as we go into Thursday.  Below is a look at what the radar could look like Thursday afternoon.

Light rain lining up in a northwest to southeast band that travels northward through the afternoon and evening.  Looks like overall rainfall accumulation will stay under a tenth of an inch.  Although, in events like these, it may seem like more because areas of drizzle and fog area expected through Thursday night.  But far colder air will be flying in late Friday and Friday night that will shove the area back into the freezer again and freeze anything that has fallen or melted the last couple of days.  Temperatures will still be mild Friday afternoon as the cold front will not arrive until very late in the day and evening so don’t expect to wake up Friday morning to the frigid cold.  Here is what temperatures could look like mid afternoon Friday.

30’s pretty much across the area can be expected through the mid afternoon, but cold air will shift quickly east after that.  Check out temperatures by midnight Friday night.

Dropping into the single digits and teens already by the midnight hour with several more hours of cooling to go.  But this doesn’t even begin to describe how cold it will be.  Check out what the winds look like for the overnight hours Friday.

This map shows sustained winds of 15 to 35 mph across the area with higher gusts.  This puts temperatures in the single digits and teens with gusty northwest winds meaning that wind chills will be dangerously cold.  The wind chill chart below will show you how cold it will feel with those crtiteria.  The red square is where the majority of us will be by midnight.

That’s already 10 to 25 degrees below zero and its will continue to get colder right into Saturday morning.  With temperatures that cold, frostbite can occur in 15 minutes so layering is something you will need to do.  Don’t expect a big warm up over the weekend either.  Even though winds will be slowly calming through the day Saturday and Sunday should be reasonably calm, temperatures will stay 10 to 25 degrees below average making for miserably cold weekend.

Now some of us can expect snow, but as I mentioned before, the heaviest will stay north and west of the area.  The images below are from the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC).  The first one shows the probability of an area receiving more than 2 inches of snow.  The second image shows the probability of an area receiving more than 8 inches of snow.

Looks like our northwest will see the highest amount of snow in our area with at least a 70 percent chance of areas west of a line from Aberdeen to Pierre of getting 2 inches of snow, but very little if any chance for 8 inches of snow.  Notice that the heaviest snow will stay in parts of Montana and North Dakota where many areas have a 50 to 70 percent shot at 8 inches.

Let me show you what most of us meteorologists look at to make our snowfall predictions.  Below are 2 pictures from computer forecasting models of anticipated snowfall between now and Saturday night, which includes the entire upcoming storm.

The first image shows snowfall staying in the north and west with as much as 8 inches in the Mobridge area but 2-4 inches from Pierre to Aberdeen.  It also has generally 5 to 8 inches for much of western South Dakota.  Now if you look at the 2nd image, you see a very big difference.  This one shows the potential for massive amounts of snow in western South Dakota and much of North Dakota and Montana.  In fact, more than 18 inches in some spots toward the Black Hills and Montana.  Still has around 8 inches in the Mobridge area, but brings the snowfall a little further east giving Pierre and Aberdeen areas generally 4 to 6 inches with accumulating snow as far southeast as Huron and De Smet.  So these totals are far from concrete.  In fact, its quite the opposite.  The heaviest snow may move and shift a little bit over the next couple of days so stay tuned.

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