The Woodward News

December 28, 2012

More winter weather possible

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Another holiday will bring another winter storm to Oklahoma.

However, unlike the Christmas storm, no blizzard-like conditions are anticipated with the system that is predicted for New Year's Eve.

In fact, several Oklahoma meteorologists say they believe that only a minimal amount of winter precipitation will be associated with the approaching system.

Jonathan Kurtz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norman, said the approaching storm will be fueled by "a pretty decent upper level system that will spin down the Pacific coast this Sunday, bringing a cold front across our area around Monday and Tuesday."

However, Kurtz said that the forecast models for the storm are still evolving, which makes it "hard to tell at this point if we'll see any kind of snow accumulations, but right now it looks like it will be more of a wintery mix type of situation."

He said it is also difficult to determine right now exactly what type of precipitation to expect, whether it will be rain, sleet or snow, because it depends on when the precipitation falls.

"Because during the day on both Monday and Tuesday, temperatures are not expected to dip below freezing for highs in the afternoon," Kurtz said, noting that for the Woodward area the high on Monday will be around 38 degrees, and on Tuesday the high will be around 34 degrees.

"Any precipitation that starts falling then will either fall as sleet and melt as it hits the surface or fall as rain for the most part," he said.  "Where it gets tricky is overnight the temps will fall into the 20s, so that any precipitation that falls then will come as either snow or sleet."

Local meteorologist and Woodward Emergency Manager Matt Lehenbauer agreed that possible precipitation for Monday into Tuesday "could be anything, rain, sleet or snow."

However, both he and News 9 meteorologist Michael Armstrong believe that sleet is more likely as they believe the Woodward area temps will "most likely be just below freezing" on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

But Lehenbauer said that "there doesn't look to be a lot of moisture to work with associated with the storm, so probably there will just be a minimal amount of precipitation" if any rain, sleet or snow does fall with the New Year's Storm.

Armstrong agreed "the precipitation probably is not going to be real heavy, but the flip side to that is that if any precipitation falls in winter, it can cause driving problems."

Kurtz also spoke to how the chance for precipitation could lead to icy roads.

"Even if it's raining during the day or you get a rain/sleet mix, then during the day and afternoon hours it may still be liquid on the ground, but then as you get into the night time or get into the early morning hours, those roads could ice over," Kurtz said.  "Especially secondary roads that are not treated, they could be very slick, especially during the morning commute or evening commute."

All 3 meteorologists expressed different levels of confidence about the likelihood of any additional precipitation falling during the New Year's storm.

Lehenbauer said he believes there's only "a slight chance, I would say maybe 1 in 3 chance of any precipitation."

Armstrong was only slightly more confident, saying the News 9 predictions showed a 40 percent chance of precipitation on Monday, with a lower chance of around 20 percent on Tuesday.

While Kurtz gave the storm its best chance, saying "I'm fairly confident we will see some type of precipitation sometime between Monday and Tuesday."

However all 3 meteorologists agreed that the forecast models were still developing and the chances for precipitation will likely change as the storm nears.

That's why Kurtz said it was important for people to "continue to monitor forecasts as we go through the weekend" to see how the storm predictions change.

If any winter precipitation does fall, all 3 meteorologists seemed to agree that the greatest chance will be around Monday evening.

"That is what is of most concern to us with all the New Year's Eve activities," Lehenbauer said.

So with slick roads as a definite possibility during the holiday, Armstrong said he would encourage people to keep a watchful eye out, "especially if you're going out to celebrate on New Year's night."

Lehenbauer also encouraged caution for those planning to travel for the holiday.

"Drive slower than normal and be ready for a patch of ice even if you don't see it, because black ice is certainly possible," he said, noting "most of the accidents we saw during our recent snow event were because of the overconfidence of drivers.  So just slow down and take your time."

He even encouraged people to "be ready to adjust your travel plans," in case the forecast should change and more dangerous winter precipitation becomes expected.

For those who do venture out, Lehenbauer recommended being prepared.

"For the folks in vehicles, make sure you have a cell phone that's fully charged up with you and a charger, so that you can call for assistance if something should happen.  Also be sure to have a basic vehicle emergency kit with a flashlight and blanket and things to keep you warm and comfortable until assistance can arrive," he said.