Blizzard Warning Upcoming for the Mountains

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A series of powerful storms will make travel across the mountains difficult if not impossible late Wednesday through Thursday. In the short term, the valley is under a Winter Weather Advisory tonight into early tomorrow morning, with accumulations of up to a few inches in the valley with more possible in the foothills. Wednesday starts with a bit of a break, before a very powerful storm brings high winds and heavy snow to the mountains (and possibly significant rain to the valleys.) A Blizzard Warning is in effect above 7,000′ for the mountains from 7 pm Wednesday until 7 am Thursday. A Winter Storm Warning is also posted starting 4 pm Wednesday running into early Friday morning. Conditions dry up Friday and Saturday before the next storm (not as strong this time) comes in on Sunday.

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Treacherous Mountain Storm Approaching

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A very active week is setting up weather-wise in our region. A series of storm fronts will move through the region before drying up at the end of the work week. The first storm will likely result in fairly light precipitation of rain and snow into Tuesday morning, with the focus of heavier precipitation off to the east. After a brief break, a couple of stronger storms will move through the region Wednesday and Thursday, with very strong impacts on travel, especially in the mountains. Snow levels will vacillate between the valleys floors to just above Lake Tahoe as the storms move in. The strongest storms will likely come late Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. High winds could create blizzard conditions over the mountains on Thursday.
Conditions dry out by Friday, and the weekend is shaping up to be dry and mild.

Bit of a Break… And The Difference Between Freezing Rain and Sleet

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After closed passes, heavy snow and high winds, the weather conditions will calm down as we head into the work week. Warmer air will move into the region and scattered rain and snow showers will decrease Monday morning after heavy snow causes a very difficult time getting across the Sierra. Temperatures will be mild through the rest of the work week (near the 50 degree mark in Reno) with the next storm moving through on Wednesday, with mountain snow above 6,500’ and valley rain.

sleet

Many have asked me what the difference between freezing rain and sleet is. Sleet is basically snow that starts to melt on the way down, and falls as a mix of rain and snow. Freezing rain is precipitation that has completely melted into rain on the way down, and then falls into cold air at the surface that is below freezing. This rain usually freezes rapidly as it hits the ground, and is perhaps the most dangerous winter weather pattern. How do you get it?

sleet-formation

In general (and perhaps obviously) you need to have warm air aloft on top of cold air at the surface… along with (again obviously) some rain. This can occur a couple of different ways. A warm front will always shove warm air up over colder surface air, and is a relatively common way to get freezing rain in the central plains states. Here in Nevada, these cold air inversions that we have been having can also trap enough cold air in the valleys to create freezing rain, although it is fairly rare.

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Back to a Stormy Pattern

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After a dry and warm Friday, the weather pattern will change as we go into the weekend, with a series of storms lined up to come through. None of the storms are particularly strong in and of themselves, but cumulatively they could add a nice boost to the mountain snowpack. The strongest of the storms gets going Saturday, with snow levels that will approach the valley floors, but it isn’t likely we will get any valley accumulations, and we will see significant shadowing out due to strong southwesterly flow over the mountains. A Winter Storm Watch is posted for the mountains starting early Saturday morning and going through Sunday morning. Snowfall amounts will range from a few inches at Lake Tahoe to a foot or more on the passes.

The weather remains unstable through the middle of next week with scattered valley rain and mountain snow.

Happy (Cold) New Year!

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We will have a very cold introduction to 2019, as clearing skies and a cold airmass will combine to ring in downtown Reno temperatures down into the 20s with wind chills that could drop into the teens. And the first day of the New Year will start out at sunrise in the tees (without wind chills, topping out in the mid-30s under mostly sunny skies. The first week of the New Year will be mostly dry, with a warming trend into the weekend with the low 50s reachable by the weekend. A weak storm system gives us our first chance of 2019 rain or snow by Sunday.

Cold New Year’s Eve!

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The last weekend of 2018 should be dry and mild, with a Sunday cold front coming through that will drop our temperatures back enough to make a chilly start to 2019. Saturday should be sunny with highs in the 40s pretty much everywhere, followed by a similar low pressure center to Thursday’s that will drop down across the eastern side of Nevada, dropping the highs from the upper 40s on Sunday to the mid-30s on New Year’s Eve Monday. At midnight on New Year ‘s Eve be prepared for temperatures already in the 20s with just a few clouds. The skies clear out and temperatures will rebound back into the low 50s by the end of the week.

Winter Officially Starts… With a Winter Storm Watch

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For those of you keeping score, winter officially began at 2:22 pm local time today (Friday.) And as is not always the case, this time the weather will play along.

A few light mountain showers should dry up for Saturday, before a moderate winter storm makes its way into the region late Sunday into early Christmas morning. Saturday’s high temperature will peak in the upper 40s with light winds, climbing to the low 50s on Sunday. By Sunday afternoon some light to moderate precipitation should start in the mountains, with winds picking up, especially along the ridgetops. A Winter Storm Watch has been posted for the mountains starting Monday morning and going into Christmas morning, with a few inches likely at Lake level, and a foot or more possible in the upper elevations.

As for the valleys, rain showers with gusty winds are likely Monday. As the cold front moves through the snow levels will drop to the valley floors, giving us a chance of a white Christmas, although the airmass should dry up with the passage of the front and accumulations should be limited in the lower valleys.

Odds of a White Christmas?

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A weak storm system will bring some clouds, gusty winds and perhaps an early Friday morning shower to the region, although the mountains should block most if not all of the precipitation before it gets down into the valley. Temperatures will drop to the lower 50s after hitting a record high in the 60s today. The front passes quickly, and the weekend should be dry with seasonable temperatures.

The next storm system moves in on Monday, with the heaviest precipitation Monday night into Christmas morning. Snow levels will start out at or above Lake Tahoe and could drop to the valley floor by Christmas morning, but the odds are that you will have to be in the foothills at least before you get any real accumulation. So while a White Christmas isn’t out of the question, your odds improve the higher you go.

Triple Header…Cloudier, Windier and Warmer

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Three things will occur in our weather picture, all involving increases. First, the clouds will increase overnight tonight, ahead of a storm system that is likely to miss us here in western Nevada. Along with that frontal band, the winds will also increase overnight tonight, which should be enough to keep the temperature inversions from forming, and will keep our overnight low temperatures on the mild side. Finally, with the ejection of the inversions and the rebuilding of a ridge of high pressure, temperatures will also increase to the upper 40s on Wednesday and peaking in the low 50s by Friday. A couple of weak systems bring only a slight chance of rain showers late Friday night, and then a better chance of rain Sunday afternoon into Monday morning.

We’re Not Quite Done

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While we won’t see the kinds of storms that we saw last week which resulted in several feet of snow cumulatively in some areas, we do have a chance to see some more rain and/or snow in the days to come. A moderate-strength low pressure center will start to move onshore Tuesday, bringing a chance of scattered snow showers Tuesday and Wednesday, even though the bulk of the low itself will slide down to the south of us. With this pattern, we will probably see a little less shadowing here in the Truckee Meadows since the flow will wrap around and come up from the south.
Showers will wrap up by early Thursday morning and the rest of the week should stay dry and cool with variable clouds.