Major Storm Unfolding in the Midwest

The megastorm that weather people have been talking about for several days has materialized, and it is already bringing very high wind and long lines of severe squalls and tornadic supercells to the Midwest and upper Tennessee Valley. Rain and thunderstorms associated with the cyclone extend as far south as the Gulf states. Blizzard conditions are expected for areas on the cold side of the storm, which is expected to bottom out its pressure in the 960 mb range. The low, centered over Minnesota as of this writing, is already at 966 mb. The factors causing this powerful system are many: Very unseasonable heat in the Southeast has led to a powerful warm sector for the cyclone, and a surge of cool air to contrast with this has caused development of a strong jet stream (>100 knots) in the upper levels of the atmosphere. Had Hurricane Richard’s remnant low been drawn more to the east, as the models were suggesting a couple of days ago, the system would have become even more powerful. A mid-latitude cyclone of this magnitude is not common. It is a credit to modern technology that our computer models were able to accurately predict this rare of a system several days in advance.

The Storm Prediction Center issued a high risk for today, a rare occurrence, but with dozens of tornado warnings already called for the Midwest where the storm’s warm sector meets its area of highest vorticity advection, I expect that this will end up verifying.