Well, not for Tucson, but even though less than 10% of the nation is starting December with snow on the ground, all indications are that that will change in a hurry starting next week. The weather pattern that has kept record cold in Alaska and western Canada is fixin’ ta change and that means a White Christmas where you would expect one and maybe for a few places that you normally wouldn’t.
One of my weather friends says that it is too early to predict how much snow will be on the ground across the country Christmas morning. He has promised to send me $1 if I can name exactly all the states that will have a White Christmas this year. Since I have nothing to lose I’ll be taking a stab at it here in a day or two and you can make fun of me later.
Bottom line is the warm start to December will be a distant memory by mid next week for a lot of folks. Even here in Tucson our forecast high for Monday is just 60 (although it’s not likely to stay that cold for long).
I opened my browser minutes ago and my home page opened up. It’s the Borealis Webcam Multiview of their web cams scattered about Anchorage, Alaska. The current temperature at 3:53 a.m. local time just happened to be -13 F, which is also the coldest temperature I have had the pleasure to enjoy.
Enjoy? Well sure. I was a teenager and it was a great adventure. You may disagree if you have lived where it’s regularly colder. Especially if you’ve had to endure plugging in your car to keep the oil a semi liquid, or shoveling snow for an hour just so you can get out of the driveway only to have the snowplow come by and block your drive again. That does sound frustrating.
But my story is different. I was 16 years old and we took a Winter road trip to Grandpa Jones’ ranch in John Day, Oregon. Shoveling snow was not part of my life. We were visiting from the Willamette Valley were the rare snow doesn’t stick around long and temperatures rarely fall below the teens above zero.
It was already cold when we left Canby. In the 20s maybe and so my brothers and sisters and I were dressed warmly as we piled into the van. It was an evening/night drive to eastern Oregon. My first clue that this trip was going to be different was when we got into the mountains and ice started forming on the inside of the van windows! Yes, Dad had the heat on, but it was near zero outside. We stopped to go to the bathroom in the woods (you can do that in Oregon. Lots of trees and the wind blew through my jeans like I wasn’t wearing any! First lesson. Wear thermals when it’s nothing degrees outside.
We arrived in John Day and went to bed. The next morning it was get out of bed and feed the cows. No shower or breakfast first. The cows get fed at daybreak, which also happens to be the coldest time of the day, even in John Day. It was perfectly calm and clear and thermometer read -13 F. A personal best for me that stands to this day.
I bundled up the best I could and I was made to wear a handkerchief over my mouth and nose so I wouldn’t “frost my lungs.” I doubted then (and now) that that was a real danger at that temperature, but I don’t remember arguing. Maybe I rolled my eyes. You know how teenagers are.
I stepped outside into the squeaky snow and man it was cold! I just gotten up, so there was not much blood circulating in my body yet. Thankfully it was perfectly still so the wind chill was also -13 (unless you started walking fast).
We got to work. We loaded the trailer with hay and Grandpa drove the tractor while we peeled flakes off for the cows to enjoy. The cold was making my nose run and as I inhaled my snot (sorry about the visual) froze in my nose! It’s like someone crammed cardboard up there! The condensation from my breath turned the handkerchief into ice. It was also forcing moisture to exit near my eyes and one of my eyes actually froze shut! I had to take off a glove and melt the ice off of my eyelashes so I could open my eye again. (I knew that handkerchief was a silly idea) Crazy.
We were done before I knew it. The cows were fed and we went inside to warm up and have a hearty breakfast our own selves. That afternoon it got up to a toasty 10 degrees. With sunshine icicles were growing and we went sledding and sliding into, and through, one of the frozen ditches. FUN! The whole visit was fun. Later that Winter I got to return and my Uncle and I hiked up into the John Day Mountains and surprised a bunch of deer. We also almost got lost in a snow squall, but that’s another story.
I love cold and snow. Always have. It’s beautiful and fun. Of course, I’ve never had to plug in my car or shovel my way to work either…
Man do I love weather. It has been a passion and an obsession since I can remember. It truly is how God made me. Of course I have a very strong political and “religious” bent too. I joke that my favorite subjects to discuss are politics and religion and that’s why God gave me such a passion for weather. So I can relate to people with without offending them.
My weather fascination started very early. My folks tell me that I was always talking about it even as a very young child. I have early memories of unusual weather events when I was a wee lad in Los Angeles. Severe Thunderstorms one afternoon and ice in the puddles at school one morning. I was born in L.A. but we moved to Oregon when I was 8.
Growing up in Oregon was great for a weather freak like me. Numerous storms coming off the ocean and in the 70s that meant lots of surprises in the actual weather compared to the forecast. Fluctuating snow levels in the Cascades, east winds into Portland combining with overrunning warm air bringing epic ice storms, but not to our house and I could go on about the different weather phenomenon I got to witness first hand.
I had the TV weather down. KOIN would have the weather on first so I would watch that. Then I’d switch over to KGW and catch most of their forecast. Then it was over to KATU to watch the tail end of their weather. This was especially important on the rare nights when the snow level had a chance to come down to the Willamette Valley Floor. I remember many a frustrating evening watching it rain while I would stare at the thermometer stuck at 36 degrees trying to will it to come down.
So obviously I was going to go to school to study Meteorology. I had it all planned out. Go to the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and get a BS in Meteorology and minor in Communications. They had a TV station on campus. I had a great score on my ACT and was even accepted into their advanced math program. I was set. One big problem. My drug problem. I still had some growing up to do and I blew my chance to go to school.
The story doesn’t end there however! I ended up moving to Roswell, NM a few years later. At 21 years old I took what I could carry and bought a bus ticket and started re-pursuing my dream to be on Radio and TV. Math and Science were always my favorite subjects in school so naturally I went into broadcasting.
I got a part time radio gig in the early Summer of 1984. That turned into a full time radio gig. First overnights and then evenings and then Music Director. After two years I jumped over to TV as a Master Control Operator, directing news cut-ins and also voicing, shooting and editing commercials. From there it was into the News Department at another station as a news photog, then a reporter who shot his own stuff and also backing up the weatherman and then finally the weatherman!
Lots of detail left out in the above story, but God helped make a way for me when I had messed up and didn’t choose the easier way. After another 8 or 9 years on the morning show in Lubbock, Texas as a weatherman, news anchor and feature reporter my life took another turn. Through it all I have never ever never stopped loving and studying the weather.
Now here I am in Tucson, Arizona. I have a web site and morning weather web show dedicated to my weather passion. I just can’t help but share whether the audience is big or small. When you have a chance, check out the site. TucsonWeather.us and tune in to “Coffee and a Forecast” every morning (yes, weekends too) at 5:50 Tucson time for the live recording. Or you can just catch up with it later when I post it on the site and in the Facebook group Tucson Weather.
Whether it is mud in the Pacific Northwest, Baseball sized hail in Lubbock, or Monsoon storms with amazing lightning in Tucson, I love weather. I especially love snow and cold! But that is another blog entry (or two).
Of course I have other passions and other web sites that support those. There is also a lot of detail left out of the above story. All fodder for future blog entries. I better post this and get to work. “Coffee and a Forecast” airs in less then an hour.
New record low of 18 this morning which is also tied for the second coldest ever for a February Tucson morning. There’s a chance we tied the all-time record February low of 17. We won’t find out for sure for a few hours. If we didn’t reach it, no worries. We have an even better chance tomorrow morning!
This could be the coldest February chill in Tucson’s history. I go through all of that plus take a look at the cold, snow and freezing rain forecast for Texas in this morning’s “Coffee and a Forecast”
Another storm system approacheth Arizona as El Nino continues to flex. This storm is much weaker than the last two, but we should still get a fresh coat of snow above 6,000 feet. From the National Weather Service:
A STORM SYSTEM OFF THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA COAST WILL TRACK THROUGH NORTHERN MEXICO WEDNESDAY INTO THURSDAY. THIS SYSTEM WILL BRING A CHANCE OF VALLEY RAIN AND MOUNTAIN SNOW TO SOUTHEAST ARIZONA LATE WEDNESDAY INTO EARLY FRIDAY. STORM TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 3 TO 5 INCHES ABOVE 6000 FEET…WITH LOCALLY HEAVIER AMOUNTS ABOVE 7500 FEET CAN BE EXPECTED.
The road to Mt. Lemmon FINALLY opened today after a couple three feet of snow from the last two storms. Maybe another shut down after tonight/tomorrow’s storm but the skiing at Ski Valley probably hasn’t been this good in years, maybe decades!
Meanwhile, I hear that because of the recent power outages on the mountain, no credit or debit cards can be accepted. Kinda crazy. If you go, have fun! Maybe I can join you, but I doubt it any time soon. The good news is it will take a LONG time for this snow to melt, and with El Nino still going strong, it’s more likely we will add more before this Winter is done.
The National Weather Service in Tucson has issued a Winter Storm Warning above 4,000 feet in effect from 8:00 tonight until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.
Here’s what they say about possible accumulations and snow levels:
SNOW ACCUMULATIONS…SCATTERED ACCUMULATIONS OF 2 TO 4 INCHES ARE EXPECTED ABOVE 6000 FEET THIS AFTERNOON. TONIGHT INTO SATURDAY MORNING…EXPECT ACCUMULATIONS OF UP TO AN INCH AT 3500 TO 4000 FEET…2 TO 4 INCHES FROM 4000 TO 5000 FEET…4 TO 6 INCHES FROM 5000 TO 7000 FEET…AND 6 TO 10 INCHES ABOVE 7000 FEET.
SNOW LEVELS…SNOW LEVELS WILL HOVER NEAR 6000 FEET THIS AFTERNOON BEFORE FALLING TO 3000 FEET TONIGHT. THEY WILL RISE SLIGHTLY TO 3500 FEET SATURDAY MORNING AS THE STORM DEPARTS.
So who lives at or around 3,000 feet? Residents in Catalina, Northern Oro Valley, Vail, Parts of the Foothills. My apartment is at about 2,600 feet. Much of Tucson Metro is around 2,400 feet.
A robust storm, as it were, is barreling toward Arizona and the effects across the area promise to be dramatic. The headline is the strong wind. A strong southerly jet stream is driving this strong storm and the combination will translate into very strong winds in the lower elevations and even stronger winds higher up. Gusts to 55 mph by this afternoon will be likely in the Tucson area and gusts to near 70 mph are possible in the mountains. That’s why the National Weather Service has issued a HIGH WIND WARNING from 11 this morning until 2am Friday.
Tonight is when the main impact of the storm will be felt. Normally winds will decrease at night because you lose the mixing of the atmosphere leaving the strongest winds above your head. Tonight that may not be the case as scattered thunderstorms will have the capability of pulling some of those higher winds down to the surface. It’s possible that the high winds won’t decrease tonight at all.
Last time we had winds this strong there was a fatal pileup on Interstate 10 near Casa Grande. Thankfully we had some rain yesterday morning and again this morning. I’m hoping that the rain we’ve had combined with what is coming will be enough to keep the dust down. Still, caution should always be observed driving on the Interstate near those usual blowing dust areas. Also high profile vehicles may have difficulty with this wind. Definitely a two hands on the wheel kind of driving day. It’s also going to be possible to see some damage from these winds. Downed trees and stuff like that may occur in town.
Higher up, the winds will combine with a lot of snow. That’s why the National Weather Service has issued a BLIZZARD WARNING above 7,000 feet for tonight and tomorrow morning.
Initially, the snow level will be around 8,000 feet. Our last storm left a few inches of snow as low as 6,000 feet. The rain combined with some melting snow could result in some flooding in mountain streams and perhaps downstream. Otherwise, snow levels will drop below 7,000 tonight and 1 to 2 feet of new snow is possible in the mountains around Tucson combined with winds gusting as high as 70 mph. The White Mountains could get as much as 4 feet of snow from this storm!
As far as rain amounts in the lower elevations, we are expecting generally 3/4 of an inch to an inch and a half with this system. Some areas could exceed 2 inches if they get a thunderstorm or two. This is great news! We need the rain. The snow pack will help us out too.
Snow in Tucson?
Well, maybe in the Foothills and out towards Vail. After the cold front moves through tonight, temperatures will start to drop and so will the snow level. It’s possible that by early Saturday morning there may be some snow showers right down to the valley floor! Accumulating snow is expected above 4,000 feet, but it’s worth watching. This will be the back side of the storm so we aren’t talking about a whole lot of snow, but it’s possible that Oracle, Tombstone, Sierra Vista, Benson, and some other places could pick up a few inches. IF the snow level can manage to get down to the 2,500 foot level maybe we could finally see snow here at the apartment in Oro Valley. It’s not likely, but when the possibility gets this close, I start holding out hope.
Bottom line to all this? Enjoy the adventure but be careful out there!
Another much much weaker storm is headed our way early next week as the El Nino pattern is kicking in. El Nino dried out or Monsoon last Summer, let’s hope we can now make up for it in the remaining months of Winter into early Spring.
Thanx to the internets! There is a Christmas Blizzard brewing right now pretty much over Lubbock, Texas’ head. The storm started as rain in California, but brought snow to some areas south of Tucson. The storm sank further southward than originally expected and the forecast for Lubbock changed from rain and some snow to some rain and more snow! Right now the Hub City is covered with about 6″ and it’s coming down sideways. The 7am observation at LBB is: “Snow, Freezing Fog, Blowing Snow and Windy, 26.” I’m jealous, especially since I should have been there had I had a few extra $$s. Thankfully, there is the internets.
This gathering storm is now plowing east. The kids and grandkids north of Dallas are under a Winter Storm Warning and they could see rain changing to snow by this afternoon and maybe an inch or three just in time for Christmas!
Add this snow to what is already on the ground and a large chuck of the U.S. is fixin’ ta have a White Christmas. If you aren’t, then just surf some web cams, put on some Bing Crosby and dare to dream!