By January standards, the weather this weekend looks gorgeous, with sunshine and highs possibly reaching the 50s. This means, of course, that we're going to pay dearly for the nice weather.
You may remember that the weather was absolutely perfect during the weekend prior to the 2008 ice storm (the first one). We went from warm sunshine to "thundersleet" within 24 hours.
The computer models are projecting a major winter storm starting Monday for somewhere in the Midwest. Right now Missouri appears to be in the bullseye, and Southeast Missouri appears to be right in the middle of the "red zone" featuring freezing rain, sleet, and various other frozen-ish types of precipitation.
If it comes together, Winter Storm "Hendrix" will have plenty of Gulf moisture available, unlike the weak clipper systems that we've seen so far. As the Paducah NWS office explains in this morning's forecast discussion, "The Gulf of Mexico will be wide open for business."
What isn't clear is how cold it will be. If the system draws in more warm air from the south, we could see mostly Plain Old Uneventful Rain. If it we get more Arctic air from the north, we could see mostly snow. Right now, however, the forecasters seem to be leaning more toward a wintry mix.
Here's a simulation of the weather on Tuesday night from the GFS computer model, as seen on coolwx.com. It puts Cape in the freezing rain category (orange) with heavy snow (blue) and sleet (red) just to the north, and liquid rain (green) to the south:
The Paducah NWS forecast office summarizes the situation like this:
REGARDLESS OF HOW IT COMES TOGETHER TUESDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY WILL BE VERY INTERESTING. HEAVY RAINFALL IS LIKELY SOMEWHERE IN THE REGION OR JUST SOUTH OF US...AND A DECENT SWATH OF FREEZING RAIN/ICING WILL ALSO BE POSSIBLE IN OUR VICINITY. WILL HAVE TO WATCH THE MODEL EVOLUTION CLOSELY OVER THE WEEKEND.
This could be a total non-event, or it could be repeat of the '08 or '09 ice storms. It could even resemble the Blizzard of '79 if we get all snow. It's too early to make any dartboard projections, but it's never too early to start ransacking stores for bread, milk, and beer.