Winter Storm January 11-13, 2019

Millions of people from the Rockies into the Mid-Atlantic felt the impacts of the most recent storm to hit the US, although those living in Missouri suffered through the biggest blow, with portions of the state receiving over 20 inches.

Figure 1. Event total snow fall, courtesy NOAA NWS WPC

The significant storm had widespread and, in some circumstances, devastating impacts across the US. Power outages were also widespread across the country, due in part to the weight of heavy snow in some locations and due to significant ice accumulations in others (areas of Virginia and North Carolina reported as much as 0.5” of ice accumulation!) Firefighters in Columbia, Missouri reported that the heavy weight of the snow was likely the cause of the Canine Sports Center’s roof collapsing on Saturday.

Figure 2. Nearly 10 inches of wet snow caused tree limbs to break in jefferson city, MO. Courtesy NWS KLSX – Eric Cunningham

At least thirteen deaths have been reported as a result of this storm, and all of these deaths have been attributed to car crashes. An Illinois State Trooper stopping to help at a three-car crash on his way home from work on Saturday was hit and killed by a passing vehicle. Thousands of motorists became stranded on snow covered roads for hours, and hundreds were involved in car accidents. Roads in Missouri were shut down Friday night, but even after reopening on Saturday morning, conditions remained treacherous. Falling trees closed many roads in North Carolina, and led to North Carolina’s governor declaring a state of emergency. Similarly, Virginia’s governor also declared a state of emergency.

As is common in winter storms, the travel headaches associated with the widespread heavy snow, sleet, and freezing rain weren’t limited to ground transportation. 1,500 flights were cancelled, although four of the United State’s biggest airlines waived rebooking fees for some airports because of the storm. Passengers on a flight from Dallas to the Columbia Regional Airport in Columbia, Missouri reported the plane sliding off the runway with the wind almost hitting the ground. Luckily no injuries were reported. Similar conditions led to another plane sliding off the runway at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Figure 3. Deteriorating weather conditions led to accidents across Missouri, including this one on I-44. Courtesy Missouri DOT.

Although the Northeast remained safe from the first winter storm of 2019, another is well on its way. A few inches of snow fall are expected this evening into tomorrow morning, but the bigger picture is the potential for a strong winter storm Saturday night into Sunday. At the time of this writing, it is still too early to say exactly how much snow will fall. Multiple factors (such as where the storm center tracks, mixing with sleet and freezing rain, and where heavier bands set up) will determine snowfall amounts. Following the storm, very cold and windy conditions will dominate, with dangerous wind chills possible as well. In the upcoming days leading up to the storm, we will be sharing preparedness tips and the latest forecasts from the National Weather Service on our Facebook page. Stay tuned!

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