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The Winter So Far and The Snow Potential This Weekend

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With little more than a month under our belt for 2013, you would think that we wouldn’t have experienced a lot of different types of weather by now, but that’s just not the case.  From sunshine and highs in the 50’s to clouds, snow, and lows in the 20’s below zero we have had quite the experience the last few weeks.  From rain in January to heavy snow in the north to wicked winds and wind chills 50 below zero… it was a pretty exciting month.  I think most would agree that January was a pretty wild ride.  But after all of that… we finished the month of January….. near normal. Huh???

I can just picture the puzzled look on your face.  After all of the ups and downs and rain and sun and ridiculous wind chills, it was actually a pretty average month.  But its actually these large temperature swings that keep months like this near normal.  When you combine all of the highs and lows of the month, when it comes to not only temperature and precipitation but also sunshine and wind speed… a lot of times you end up right around average.  Lets take that wicked cold snap for example.  Before the cold, it was 40+ degrees in many locations for at least a couple of days, and then highs were near zero for a day or two.  Well if you have an average high of 25 degrees (like a lot of us do in January) on any normal day, a high of 50 and another high of 0 averages out to that 25 degrees.  Put in those terms, its actually pretty simplistic.  But these large changes in temperature really play with our heads, which can often lead to many of us thinking that it was a pretty unusual month, when in fact, nothing about it was abnormal at all.  Just look at where our average temperatures ended up when it was all over.  These numbers combine the average highs and average lows to get an average number through the month.

Notice that about half of us were a tad warm and half of us were a tad cold.  This is also a pretty normal picture.  It is considered that if one location experiences an average temperature within a degree and a half of normal, then it is considered a “normal” month.  All but 2 locations fit those criteria.

Now take a peak at the precipitation across the area.  This was a little more variable with the south and north being driven apart by our one big storm that happened just a short time ago at the end of the month that dropped 4 to 10 inches of snow from Pierre to Sisseton.

January makes up another month where the hardest hit drought areas of the south and east are missed by some of the heaviest precipitation and are once again below average. It’s those same areas that continue to lack in the snowfall category this season (that’s probably pretty obvious by now).  Below is a look at total snowfall so far this season across the region.

Notice the most snow has fallen in the north with nearly 25 inches, which has many areas from Aberdeen to Pierre to Valentine running above average to this point in the year.  Contrast that with the meager numbers in the southeast where almost half of the precipitation that has fallen this winter has actually been rainfall.  Snow totals are upwards of a foot below average in the southeast.

But there is reason to be hopeful.  Computer forecasting models are showing an opportunity for a large winter storm across the south and east as we head into the weekend.  Unfortunately for those that want and need the moisture, this isn’t a guarantee, but its at least a shot at some significant precipitation.  The following image is the forecasted accumulating snowfall across the U.S. from Noon Tuesday through Monday night.  (Images courtesy of Ryan Maue.)

This shows a pretty large swath of snow that impacts areas of the Upper Midwest from northwestern Kansas through our southeast and into portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  This solution would give the southeast a widespread 4 to 8 inches, with locally up to 10 inches.  Another forecasting model shows a similar scenario, except this one shows liquid precipitation totals.

For the average storm, 1 inch of liquid equals about 10 inches of snow.  If we were to use that ratio in this storm, this shows much of our area receiving 4 to 8 inches of snow with parts of the far south topping a foot.  So both of these scenarios shows a pretty significant storm.  But I want to let you in on a little secret…. South Dakota and Minnesota rarely have a 10 to 1 ratio for snowfall.  Its usually more like 12 to 1 or even 15 to 1.  As you can imagine, this would drastically increase the amount of snow that would be possible with this storm.  So this is something that we will be watching very closely over the next several days.  Staty tuned!

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