Winter storm watches have been issued for parts of eastern New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle and Plains. That’s where a widespread 4 to 8 inches of snow is likely as early as Saturday night. By Sunday, the system will be rolling east, approaching states along the Gulf Coast.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, it’s a tricky forecast, with the region likely on the edge of accumulating snowfall to the west and lesser amounts to the east. But the potential exists for more snowfall and greater impacts than expected.
Some on the East Coast have been watching the system, too, which initially looked to curve northward and bring a chance of rain and snow to the Mid-Atlantic. Now, that risk is dwindling, but the system bears watching.
The brewing storm
The instigating upper-level energy behind the nascent system was arriving in the Pacific Northwest on Friday morning, a lobe of spin and punch of mid-level dry air kicking up downpours and mountain snow to the east over Oregon and Washington. The dramatic overnight shift in computer model simulations was expected, the system’s movement over land allowing it to be better sampled by the weather enterprise’s ground-based observation network.
The high-altitude disturbance will dive southeast throughout the day Friday and into Saturday, passing over the Four Corners region before sliding into Texas early Sunday. It will intensify a surface low over New Mexico and the west Texas Trans-Pecos, which will begin drawing cold air south while dropping frozen precipitation.
The snow begins
Snow will begin in eastern New Mexico overnight Saturday, shifting into the Texas Panhandle by daybreak Sunday. A few hours of moderate to briefly heavy snow are possible along the Interstate 27 corridor between Amarillo and Lubbock.
A general 3 to 5 inches appears likely for most, with localized 7-inch amounts.
The snow will continue most of Sunday over the southern Panhandle of Texas into the Plains and northern Hill Country. It could affect areas along Interstate 20 west of Dallas and Fort Worth, perhaps coating the Metroplex with some snow or a wintry mix.
“Overall confidence is increasing on accumulating snowfall across North and Central Texas, but the exact amounts remain uncertain,” wrote the National Weather Service in Fort Worth.
Temperatures will cool Sunday night into Monday, probably enough to support snow in the northern Crossroads and Louisiana. While uncertainty is high regarding possible totals, a coating or more of snow in parts of the ordinarily mild Bayou State is looking more probable. There’s an outside chance that some spots could see a couple inches, something that’s most favored in northwest Louisiana and southwest Arkansas.
The system progresses east
On Monday, the storm will propagate east along a stalled front near Interstate 20 in Mississippi and Alabama. With temperatures sufficiently frigid, any moisture north of the front could fall as snow. This could lead to some accumulation from Jackson, Miss., to Birmingham, Ala., including cities such as Meridian and Starkville, Miss., and Tuscaloosa.
Snow in Jackson isn’t overly common. About half of years record measurable snowfall, with only 10 years since 1950 tallying four inches or more. They’re expecting an inch or two this time, which would be the heaviest snowfall there since Dec. 8, 2017.
The statistics are similar in Birmingham, where only a dozen years since 1933 have featured four or more inches of snow. The snow forecast there next week is iffy.
While totals with the upcoming system are unlikely to approach that benchmark, some minor accumulations are possible. Temperatures will warm quickly during the day Monday, so a speedier system — and an earlier onset of precipitation — would favor a greater chance of snowfall before a changeover to rain.
As the system swings northeast, a rogue snow flurry may be visible Tuesday morning in the Appalachian foothills of northwest Georgia and from Nashville eastward. A dusting is possible in the Cumberland Plateau of east Tennessee.
The system then looks to slip offshore east of the Mid-Atlantic with little fanfare, but some light snow and rain are possible in the region Monday night into Tuesday. Because temperatures are predicted to be above freezing east of the mountains, little or no accumulation is expected from Roanoke to Washington, D.C., if it snows at all. A light accumulation could occur in the mountains to their west.
The weather pattern toward mid- to late January is one that, broadly, would favor an increased threat of wintry weather in the northeastern United States. For the time being, however, it doesn’t appear that any specific systems are on the horizon that could take advantage of that conducive pattern.