Freezing rain, sleet, rain, snow all in one day

Dry and tranquil but chilly conditions are on tap for Wednesday. Low pressure will bring a wintry mix of precipitation on Thursday before dry conditions return Friday and continue through the weekend. Below average temperatures will remain through the period.

First, the good news. There are no weather issues today. High pressure will bring a chilly but dry day with sunshine and a few clouds for interest. Temperatures this afternoon will struggle to reach the mid-30s.

Clouds will begin increasing tonight ahead of the storm system we’ve been discussing here for several days. This will be a quick-hitting storm, but it will impact your day tomorrow with a variety of wintry precipitation.

Two low-pressure systems – one over the Tennessee Valley and another along the Carolina Coast – will move north spreading precipitation into southern Ohio Thursday morning. Temperatures at any particular time will be crucial in determining precipitation types.

We will have plenty of dry air in place overhead here in east-central Ohio early Thursday. Any precipitation early in the morning will have a tough time making it to the surface – to start. So, the leading green areas shown in the simulated radar image here will most likely be virga – rain above that evaporates as it falls to the surface.

Once things start to moisten up during mid-morning, that rain above will eventually make it to the surface. Temperatures will be at or just below freezing at 8:00 – just cold enough for freezing rain. Temperatures look to remain around 32° until 10:00/11:00 AM and freezing rain will be possible through that period. Sleet (ice pellets) may mix in with the rain mainly during the morning.

Cold objects like your windshield, deck, patio furniture, etc. will likely get a nice glaze of ice as rain freezes on these surfaces. Treated main roads should be wet, but secondary and those lesser-traveled roads may have slick spots.

Temperatures should warm to 34°/35° by lunchtime. Freezing rain will then become just a cold rain. After sunset this evening, temperatures begin to cool again and any rain will transition to wet snow.

Snow will continue overnight with an inch or less accumulating locally by Friday morning.

IMPACTS
This will not bring any big impacts locally. Freezing rain Thursday should not amount to much more than a glazing. Main highways and treated roads will generally be fine. Secondary and untreated roads may have icy spots. Untreated walkways, sidewalks and such will also be slick. You’ll likely get a glaze of ice on your windshield. Total ice accumulation shouldn’t amount to much more than a couple hundredths of an inch (0.01″ – 0.02″). Most trees and power lines can handle this okay.

As for the wet snow Thursday night, expect an inch or less in most places. Most accumulation should be confined to objects sitting out in the open (vehicles, decks, patio furniture, etc.) your lawn and grassy areas. Main roads should be okay – light accumulation on untreated roads.

CAVEAT: There remains a very slight chance that temperatures will be slow to warm above freezing Thursday afternoon due to reinforcing colder air from the east. This would cause sleet/freezing rain to continue longer into the afternoon. I’ll publish an update here tonight if any changes occur in the forecast.

WHY THIS STORM WON’T BE A BIG DEAL
Lots of folks – especially on social media – completely freak out when they read or hear the term freezing rain. Tomorrow’s conditions will not provide a recipe for a crippling ice storm.

For a bad ice storm, one that causes major problems with travel, power lines, and trees, we need ground temperatures to be well below freezing – at least in the mid 20°F range. Ground temperatures locally are not that cold yet and most are slightly above freezing (32°F – 34°F). There also needs to be light rain showers. Raindrops are warmer than 32°F and heavy rain tends to warm the surface it lands on, reducing the potential for freezing.

Temperatures on exposed objects, overpasses, and bridges will be at or below freezing as light rain gets underway tomorrow morning. A glaze of ice is more likely to build on these (untreated) surfaces. Roads and highways on the ground, however, will be at or slightly warmer than 32°. Ice can form and slick spots are possible, but most will stay warm enough to remain wet. Less traveled and untreated rural roads are an exception and ice accumulation will be easier to attain on these surfaces.

The window for freezing rain appears to be relatively short. There is not a lot of time for ice accretion. Most places will only accumulate a glaze of ice – 0.01″ to 0.02″. It’s enough to make roads and walkways slick but not enough to bring down large tree limbs and power lines.

The bottom line is, the temperature at any one area both on the surface and the surrounding air is the critical factor for freezing rain. Of course, conditions can change. A small shift in temperatures can make a huge difference. I will continue to monitor the situation, but with what I know now, this doesn’t have the look of a big troublemaker locally. Take a deep breath, leave early, and be especially cautious on bridges, overpasses, and rural untreated roads.

FRIDAY THROUGH THE WEEKEND
Light snow may linger a bit into early Friday morning but for the most part, most of the snow will have pushed off to the east and north. High pressure will build and the sun will occasionally show up through the clouds. Temperatures should top out in the low 40s, but we’ll have a breezy west wind gusting to around 20 mph.

Saturday and Sunday will be dry with occasional sun. Temperatures will generally be in the low 40s for daytime highs and upper 20s for nighttime lows.

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