Most of the focus among meteorologists this week will be on the winter storm now just beginning to take shape in the Rockies. From Utah and Colorado, through the middle of the country, to the western Great Lakes the storm will lay down a swath of snow totaling a foot or more in spots, blown into drifts by strong winds. Even though the surface low may not be quite as deep (intense) as was forecast a few days ago, it's still going to have a big impact over a wide area.
There are implications in the South as well with this storm's track. The warm sector on the east side of the storm and the associated upper air structure will be conducive to severe thunderstorms and possibly tornadoes on Tuesday. The area under threat right now is the Mid-South region centered around western Tennessee and northern Mississippi, which has been placed under an Enhanced Risk for severe storms. This outlook will change between now and Tuesday, and even though it shows a Marginal Risk as far east as the Alabama-Georgia line, it appears the system will weaken by the time it gets here, so I wouldn't be concerned about anything really dangerous reaching our area.
There likely will be a squall line sweeping across Alabama as the front trailing the low surges east, but some gusty thunderstorm winds and heavy rain is probably the worst we'll see here. The only note of caution is if the system winds up slower than forecast; if the storms aren't through here by Wednesday afternoon there could be a resurgence of daytime activity. But right now it looks like the squall line will move in late Tuesday night or very early Wednesday morning, which is down time for tornadoes and violent winds.
After that system's gone, we should have some pleasant weather for at least a few days. Down the road a bit, models show an interesting turn to something more wintry for a large part of the eastern U.S., focused on the February 8-10 time frame. Although it's too far away for a detailed forecast, the models seem to sense there will be something happening, and it probably means another big snow for somebody, and some real winter cold headed very far south. Unfortunately, I don't see the snow and cold coming together at just the right time and place to give us significant snow, but a lot can transpire between now and then. Crazy things can happen when arctic air plows all the way to the Gulf of Mexico!
Longer range, it's looking like a cold pattern is taking hold later in the month, not unusual in an El Nino winter. But now spring is just a month away, we're seeing more daylight each day, and any outbreaks of winter would be brief.
Kurt Schmitz, Senior Meteorologist