By Jason Hoekema
The National Weather Service office in Springfield wants residents to keep a keen-eye on the forecast for this weekend.
A significant weather system was expected landfall in California earlier this week, bringing ample rain to a state already dealing with the aftermath of deadly wildfires.
This same system has the potential to deliver heavy snow to the area, but forecast models are disagreeing in what meteorologist Gene Hatch calls a “transitional period.”
“There is a significant difference between weather models we use to do the forecast,” said Hatch.
Forecast models use atmospheric data to help meteorologists create weather forecasts. Between fall and winter, when seasonal weather patterns are changing, models rely heavily on this data to increase forecast accuracy.
On Monday, the system lingered off of the Pacific Coast keeping meteorologists from getting atmospheric data needed to aid the forecast.
The gap is attributed to a lack of readings and information provided by weather balloons. Most offices launch twice each day to take readings of actual atmospheric conditions. As soon as balloons gather data on the system, forecast models can be run to better-determine the path an area of low pressure will take.
Hatch believes that the area will have the elements needed to drop some accumulating snow Friday into Saturday in areas south of Interstate 44. That, like the forecast models on Monday, can still change.
“The weather here in the Ozarks is always subject to change,” Hatch added as he noted the strong storms last Friday.
The question eluding forecasters is the precise track of the storm system, which in-turn affects how much snow the area could see through the weekend.
“I would like to have the information of potentially heavy snowfall this weekend put out there, instead of not having it and getting slammed,” said Hatch.
On Tuesday, the NWS office in Springfield issued a hazardous weather outlook for the weekend stating, “Small forecast changes to the track of the system could result in large changes to the weather forecast.”
This means if the system tracks further north, Douglas County could see significant and potentially dangerous winter weather. If it tracks further south, the likelihood of significant winter weather decreases.
“I would say at this point, the expectation of the NWS for Friday and Saturday, is 2-4 inches for the Douglas County area,” Hatch said.
Hatch says there is a low probability of heavier snowfall, but urges residents to prepare ahead of the system’s arrival late Friday into Saturday regardless of the current forecast.
Individuals requiring medication refills or other necessities should complete errands before snow begins to fall.
“Make sure, if you need anything – medications, food – things that get you through a day or two, get those things ahead of time,” said Hatch. “You don’t want to be out when snow is falling to run out and get the essentials.”