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Snowstorm to hit Saturday

January 18, 2019

Meteorologist Ryan Martin called it “the elephant in the room.” Now, it’s more like the elephant on the doorstep.

Martin, of Hoosier Ag Today, at the Fort Wayne Farm show Wednesday to present a long-term forecast for this year’s growing season, was referring to a winter snowstorm now predicted to hit northeast Indiana late today.

“Some things on social media are saying we’re going to get 19.9 inches. That ain’t gonna happen,” he said to laughter from his audience. 

But the National Weather Service late Thursday afternoon updated its prediction to 5 to 8 inches of snow for the Fort Wayne area from an all-day snowstorm Saturday : along with northeast winds gusting to 25 to 35 mph.

The weather service’s winter storm watch includes Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, Kosciusko, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells, and Whitley counties.

A separate winter storm watch was issued for LaGrange and Steuben counties for 4 to 7 inches. Northwest Ohio counties were covered in both, which indicated locally higher amounts were possible.  

But don’t expect a blizzard, said Geoffrey Heidelberger, meteorologist with the weather service’s Northern Indiana office near Syracuse and North Webster.

That would take visibility of a quarter mile or less and 35 mph winds sustained for three hours, he said Thursday.  

“The heaviest and most intense snow will be during the day Saturday,” he said. “Throughout the day we expect wind gusts of 20 to 30 miles an hour, and that could lead to blowing and drifting snow that could make travel difficult, especially snowplows.”

Heidelberger said the track of the storm was still under study. But it’s likely the heavier amounts will be in and just to the south and east of Fort Wayne, but the snow is expected to be the light and fluffy variety and not pose a threat to power lines.

Central and southern Indiana are likely to get rain from some of the storm, Heidelberger said.

Meanwhile, AccuWeather, based in State College, Pennsylvania, on Thursday afternoon issued a forecast for 6 to 12 inches of snow in northern Indiana : and blizzard conditions to develop in interior parts of the northeastern United States.

Locally, Heidelberg said, temperatures aren’t expected to rise above freezing during the storm : and then plunge Saturday night.

On Sunday, the high temperature isn’t expected to go above the teens, he said.

And Sunday night : the low in Fort Wayne could reach 5 below zero, with the wind chills reaching 15 to 20 below zero, Heidelberger said.

The storm comes on the heels of Thursday’s snow, which dropped 0.9 inch of snow Fort Wayne through early evening.

Martin said the two storms are somewhat similar, but the weekend snow is expected to be more powerful.

He said both were produced by a weather pattern that has high pressure parked off both the northwest and northeast U.S. coasts and a so-called Greenland block between them.

The configuration causes the jet stream to dive far to the south, and storms that come onshore in the northwest to dive south as well. Then, they take a turn to the northeast somewhere around Oklahoma, he said. 

“It’s called an Oklahoma hooker,” he said, calling it a classic winter weather pattern for the Midwest, including Indiana.

He said cold air typically comes in from the northwest behind such storms, but added the pattern usually dominates another typical winter storm type : the Alberta clipper. 

Clippers usually produce snow that moves in from over the Great Lakes, he said.

The weekend storm may have stirred up excitement, Heidelberger said, because it’s the first substantial accumulation for Fort Wayne.

“We’re behind roughly 10 inches in snowfall for the season, since November,” he said.   

rsalter@jg.net

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