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1st-5th�A raging low pressure system located over the Southeast brought unsettling weather activity to the southeastern quadrant of the nation on Wednesday. Rich and abundant gulf moisture fueled the system and allowed it to drench much of the Eastern Valleys, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Southeast with widespread rainfall and areas of scattered thunderstorms. Increasing instability and strong dynamics created a potential for severe thunderstorm development in the southern half of Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. These severe storms are expected to be accompanied by strong to damaging winds, isolated tornadoes, hail, and flooding. Thus far, a tornado was reported this morning in Okaloosa, Florida, while areas of localized flooding developed along areas of the Gulf Coast.
Two weather systems brought exceptionally wet weather to portions of the Gulf Coast and Florida on Friday as low pressure developed in the Bay of Campeche and a warm front lingered slowly over southern Florida. Florida saw the most widespread wet weather, 90 percent of the state received at least some rain. Thunderstorms were also noted across the state, but the most frequent lightning occurred off the eastern coastline of the state.
In the western Gulf of Mexico, low pressure developed rapidly on Friday morning as a trough in the jet stream dug into Texas. The combination of the strengthening storm and the cold trough brought rain and even snow to portions of Texas. In addition to the snow, the national weather service issued a Freeze Warning for Friday night as temperatures were expected to drop well below freezing, causing a hard freeze.
The first real shot of winter struck the Northeast on Saturday as a storm developed off the Carolina coast and began to make its way north along the Eastern Seaboard. Widespread snow was reported throughout the Appalachians in the morning, with rain along the coast, but at temperatures fell throughout the day many locations saw that rain change over to snow by the late afternoon. Accumulating snow was mostly limited to grassy surfaces due to temperatures just hovering around freezing. In higher elevation areas, such as northern New Jersey and portions of Central Pennsylvania temperatures were much colder and moderate snow accumulation was reported. To the north, in New England, temperatures were warmer as winds off the relatively warm Atlantic Ocean transported heat ashore. With the warmer weather came rain along the coast, with some wet snow in the highest elevations. The winds were expected to switch around to the West overnight dropping temperatures substantially.
6th-12th�Wet and wintry weather has fallen over most of the Rockies and started pushing into the Plains on Monday. A strong low pressure system moved from the West Coast, where it pulled abundant moisture in from the Pacific Ocean, and into the Central and Southern Rockies. This system pushed a cold front through northern California which brought scattered showers overnight with 0.18 inches of rain reported in San Jose, California, while higher elevations saw a dusting of snowfall. Winter weather advisories and blizzard warnings were issued for the Great Basin and Central Rockies as this system intensified while moving over the Rocky Mountains. Snowfall totals varied around 3 inches in Nevada and Utah, while snowfall also initiated in Colorado with up to an inch of rain reported in Denver, Colorado. Strong winds accompanied this system with gusts up to 23 mph in Elko, Nevada.
The first major storm of the season pounded the western United States before moving eastward into the Colorado Rockies and beyond, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. Alpine Meadows, California, near Lake Tahoe, received 42 inches of snow before the storm moved out of the region Tuesday afternoon, and a foot of snow was forecast to fall in parts of Iowa and Minneapolis. Sections of both states were under a blizzard warning. In Sacramento, California, it was snowy and 20 degrees -- unusually cold for this time of year, forecasters said -- as Tuesday began, but by the afternoon, temperatures rose to the mid-40s and the snow tapered off, leaving a light dusting. The city opened a shelter Monday, and planned to leave it open until Wednesday evening. Farther north in the Colfax area, roads were cleared of about a foot of snow and traffic was moving steadily along I-80 under sunny skies. Customers at the Bad Waitress Coffee Shop and Diner in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who are very familiar with snow, weren't too worried. "I haven't heard too much," said employee Ann Corn of the predicted snowfall. "I kind of expected it. I guess we're glad it came pretty late in the season." The storm headed east into the Plains States as the day wore on, then was to move to the Northeast, parts of which were under flood watch Tuesday night, according to the weather service. The storm will pick up moisture from the Great Lakes -- called lake effect snow -- a first for this season. Snow and sleet were raining down on Chicago, Illinois, by late morning, delaying flights arriving at O'Hare International Airport by nearly two hours, according to the Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control center. That delay was affecting flights throughout the country. The weather service predicted a low of 34 in Chicago on Tuesday night. The snow was to continue into Wednesday. In Kansas City, Missouri, snow, freezing rain and sleet were expected to snarl late-afternoon, rush-hour traffic. The overnight low will dip to 15 degrees, forecasters said.
On the West Coast, the California Highway Patrol shut down the Grapevine section of Interstate 5, a major north-south artery, near Gorman between Los Angeles and Bakersfield. "They told us it was coming, and it's the Grapevine. It snows half an inch, and they shut it down," a motorist told CNN affiliate KTLA-TV. Truck driver Ruth Sanderson described the dangers of driving in snow in the mountains: "Being turned over, getting stuck up here and not going nowhere," she told CNN affiliate KABC-TV. "You go to the nearest exit and you park ... the best you can. You're stuck there until they open up the roads." Fellow driver Karen Lobina took a softer view: "I like it. We need the snow, and it's good, even though it's a big hassle to drive in," she told KABC. Blowing and drifting snow in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest were expected to reduce visibility, likely leading to closures of major highways. Meanwhile, a strong low-pressure system moving across the southern Rockies brought damaging wind to southern New Mexico and western Texas, the weather service said.
Gusts of nearly 100 mph ripped off roofs, shattered windshields, felled trees and caused power outages in the region, forecasters said. The police station at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico was heavily damaged, and two people were injured, forecasters said.
The wind blew into western Texas with gusts near 80 mph in parts of El Paso. Gusts from 60 mph to 70 mph caused "significant damage" elsewhere, forecasters said. Debris and blowing dust closed several roads around El Paso and Deming, including highway 54, which was closed in El Paso.
"People across the region should avoid travel and going out of doors through the late afternoon," the weather service warned. Winds are to decrease in the late afternoon and evening as the storm moves further east, forecasters said. Tornado watches were in effect Tuesday night in parts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, the weather service said. It was raining in the South, including in Atlanta, where the wet weather was forecast to continue through the night.
A major winter storm produced active wintry weather from the Upper Mississippi Valley through New England on Wednesday. Significant amounts of snow fell throughout the Upper Great Lakes, while blustery winds of 20 to 30 mph and gusts to 45 mph whipped across the region. This combination created periods of blowing and drifting snow, as well as lowered visibilities. Whiteout conditions developed in the open areas of Southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa, as well as the ridge tops along and east of the Mississippi River. Temperatures and wind chill values across the region continued to fall during the afternoon, with wind chill values falling to below zero values. In addition to this storm, dynamics from an associated frontal system in the Mid-Atlantic and a weaker low pressure system along the coast dumped moderate to heavy rain and snow with freezing fog in the Northeast. Meanwhile, the southern half of this frontal system sparks areas of light rain showers across southeastern Georgia and northern Florida.
13th-19th�Plenty of active weather developed throughout he nation on Sunday. In the West, mostly cloudy to overcast skies blanketed the northwestern quadrant of the nation as a potent Pacific storm advanced from California and the Pacific Northwest to the Central Rockies. Abundant moist flow poured into the region and interacted with energy associated with this system to produce swaths of low elevation rain showers and high elevation snowfall during the afternoon. Significant snowfall throughout portions of the Intermountain West will aid in creating heavy snow accumulations by the evening hours. The majority of the Intermountain West remained under Winter Weather Advisories and/or a Winter Storm Warning. Widespread clouds and areas of fog also covered much of the Eastern US on Sunday while low pressure climbed up the Northeast coast and an associated front lined the remainder of the East Coast. The system pulled a rich plume of gulf moisture northward into the Great Lakes and the Northeast and produced light to moderate rain showers from the Southeast through the Mid-Atlantic. A few embedded thunderstorms accompanied rainfall in the Southeast. Meanwhile, a light to moderate mix of wintry precipitation, with snow, sleet, and freezing rain, fell across the Northeast.
The main weather event in the country was a storm system in the Gulf of Mexico that brought continued heavy precipitation to the Gulf Coast on Thursday. Parts of Louisiana saw more rain on Thursday and accumulated rainfall totals were up to 10 inches for this storm.
20th-26th�A blizzard-like storm rocked the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Saturday, crippling travel across the region and causing tens of thousands of power outages. Those who did venture out were treated to nearly desolate stores on what is usually one of the busiest shopping days of the year. There were virtually no lines to get a picture with a mall Santa on the last weekend before Christmas. The National Guard used Humvees to rescue stranded motorists in Virginia and some 500 people had sought warmth and refuge in emergency shelters. At least one person was killed in a traffic accident in Virginia. "The snow has not stopped falling, the storm isn't over, and folks should not think this is crying wolf," said Laura Southard, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Nearly two feet of snow fell in some areas, and the nation's capital was under a blizzard warning. Public transportation nearly ground to a halt, but it wasn't enough to keep senators from staying in session to debate health care reform. The slow-moving storm was headed to the northeast. Snowplows cleared the runway at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Washington as President Barack Obama returned from climate talks in Copenhagen. The White House said Obama rode in a motorcade back to the White House, instead of taking his helicopter, because of the conditions. In western Virginia, officials said several hundred motorists became stranded and had to be rescued by four-wheeled-drive vehicles. "Some folks have decided to stay in vehicles, others have been taken to shelters," said Virginia Department of Emergency Management spokesman Bob Spieldenner. "We're definitely trying to keep people off the roads." Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said traffic was moving, though slowly. There were reports of jackknifed tractor-trailers and some semis on their sides. Troopers had responded to more than 4,000 traffic crashes and disabled vehicles. "It's looks probably a lot worse than it is," she said. At Crump's Store at the intersection of two country roads outside Richmond, VA, owner Suzanne Rudd stood with a man dressed as Santa and waved to the few motorists who dared to hit the slick roads. Rudd said only six children had come by midmorning to visit with Santa. The same was true at the Cherry Hill Mall in New Jersey, which would typically be a place where down-to-the-wire Christmas shoppers would create a mob scene. Instead, parking spots were plentiful.
Inside, there was no line for a picture with Santa. Mayors in Washington and Philadelphia declared snow emergencies and forecasters said the conditions could worsen. Governors in Virginia and West Virginia declared states of emergency. "It's going to be an all day thing. It's going to be on and off," said National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Witt in Sterling, VA. Most of the flights at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport had been canceled, creating a ripple effect of delays across the country. The runways at Reagan were closed until 6 a.m. Sunday. Dulles had one runway open, but were expecting many, if any, flights. "It's going to be very challenging for people who weren't able to get out today to rebook on flights this week," said Tara Hamilton, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Joy Rood, 20, played solitaire as she waited at Reagan for a flight to visit family in Los Angeles with her husband, who was asleep at a table outside an airport cafe. Snow, ice and freezing rain also hit western North Carolina on Friday, knocking out power to almost 60,000 customers around the Asheville area. After a warm start to the ski season that delayed openings of many resorts, the storm arrived just in time for West Virginia, dumping more than 20 inches on some slopes, said Joe Stevens, a spokesman for the area's ski association. "These are midseason conditions," he said. "The storm couldn't have come at a better time."
Highway crews in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia were spraying brine on heavily traveled roads to help prevent snow and ice from sticking. The storm came from the Gulf and drenched South Florida with rain starting late Thursday, leaving flooded homes and stranded drivers.
Low pressure over the Central US will drew significant moisture from the Gulf of Mexico across the Gulf Coast on Wednesday. This high flux of moisture spread northward and produced areas of light to moderate showers and heavy rainfall with thunderstorms through the Mississippi and Eastern Valleys. Moisture also kicked up mixed precipitation in the eastern portions of the Central and Southern Plains.
Residents across the central United States who made it home for Christmas were digging out on Friday after a fierce snowstorm while those who spent the night in airports and shelters tried to resume their journeys. Meteorologists warned that roads across the region remained dangerous.
Slippery roads have been blamed for at least 21 deaths this week as the storm lumbered across the country from the Southwest. Ice storm warnings and winter weather advisories were issued for parts of the East Coast on Friday, but the region was largely spared. The National Weather Service said blizzards would hit parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin through Saturday. The storm had already dumped significant snow across the region, including a record 14 inches in Oklahoma City and 11 inches in Minnesota on Thursday. Interstate highways also were closed in North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming. Meteorologists warned that massive snow drifts and blustery winds could cause whiteouts across the northern Plains. Officials urged travelers to stay home and pack emergency kits if they had to set out.
In Texas, volunteer firefighters and sheriff's deputies rescued hundreds of people stranded along Interstate 44 and Texas State Highway 287 near Wichita Falls. The area recorded up to 13 inches of snow, said Doug Speheger, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Even residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area briefly experienced a white Christmas, their first in more than 80 years. Not since Dec. 25, 1926 � when 6 inches fell on Dallas and Collin counties � had the area had a true postcard-looking Christmas. But by late afternoon, the 3 inches of snow measured at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport on Christmas Eve was all but melted.
Winds were gusting from 45 mph to 60 mph across the Dakotas and Nebraska on Friday. Crews were working to restore power to thousands of customers in Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, Illinois and Iowa. The storm also grounded flights at South Dakota's biggest airports. Sioux Falls Regional Airport was closed until Saturday morning at the earliest, manager Dan Letellier told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. Flights also were canceled at Rapid City Regional Airport and Pierre Regional Airport. The total number of flights affected wasn't immediately available.
Jim G. Munley, jr.
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