By MATT MILNER
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — Southeast Iowa residents face a one-two winter punch this weekend.
The first round arrives tonight, with rain shifting over to a wintry mix with freezing rain. The storm isn’t expected to be a major ice storm. But the forecast is plenty to make roads slippery.
Rod Donavon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Des Moines, said southeast Iowa will see the clearest impacts from this round.
“We are expecting precipitation to develop across southeast Iowa it looks like late afternoon and Thursday night,” he said.
The track for that storm is fairly clear to forecasters. It will result in some slick roads, but it is not expected to be a major winter weather event.
The bigger storm arrives over the weekend. Estimates vary as to just how much snow may fall. There are still some differences in the models used to predict amounts, and that’s pretty standard for storms several days out. But it could be a major storm.
“We expect another system to be moving in late in the day Saturday,” Donavon said. “Certainly the track will be critical with this system.”
How big are the differences in predictions? The Iowa Storm Chasing Network put up two storm paths on its website. One model predicts 7-10 inches for southeast Iowa. The second showed a different path, with southeast Iowa receiving only 1-2 inches of snow.
The National Weather Service waits until fairly close to a storm to issue official snowfall predictions. That allows the storm to make its path clear and reduces uncertainty. While surprises still happen, the goal is to make the best estimates possible.
“Right now it does appear we could see snow totals of 3-6 inches, especially in southeastern Iowa and in the Ottumwa area,” Donavon said.
It’s still early, and changes to the storm’s path are possible. But this is a storm well worth keeping an eye on.
While Iowa probably won’t see the worst of the storm, people here could easily see the ripple effects with travel. This is the last weekend before Christmas, and major airports in St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis are in the path of the snow.
“This weekend could certainly see hampered travel,” said Donavon.
Even with a glancing blow from the weekend’s storm, it looks like the question of a White Christmas in southeast Iowa has been settled.