Probable storm, followed by freezing cold

The build-up of the winter storm that is expected to sweep through the Peoria area on Saturday is difficult to predict, according to a meteorologist.

But it’s almost certain: it won’t be a good day to hit the road, according to Ed Shimon, a National Meteorological Service Lincoln-based meteorologist.

“Don’t put a number to zero,” Shimon said Thursday of the snowfall. “Just understand that traveling is going to be tough Saturday throughout central Illinois. We just don’t want anyone to be caught off guard with this one.”

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At this point, there is probably little chance that this will happen. Forecasters have warned of an impending storm on New Year’s Day all week. The only question was where might the lines that separate the snow from the rain fall, or the lighter snow from the heavier.

As of Thursday morning, the transition zone was to be between Interstate 55 and the Illinois River, according to Shimon.

Once the storm starts early Saturday, 3-6 inches of snow could fall over Peoria before things abate late overnight. North-northeast winds between 15 and 20 mph are also expected on Saturday, with sustained gusts of up to 30 mph.

The most snow on January 1 in Peoria is 4.6 inches, reached in 1999.

After the snow on Saturday, local temperatures are expected to drop to near zero and stay there or in the teens until Sunday evening.

Snowfall from this storm is hard to predict

A possibility of freezing rain increases the difficulty of forecasting snowfall, according to Shimon. The same is true of the dynamism of the low pressure center in the heart of the storm. It is likely to cross the far south of Illinois along the Ohio River.

“This heavy snow is going to be shifted further north than you would see through a typical snow trail,” said Shimon.

“Illinois is really a very big state, north to south. Going up the Ohio River Valley and Davenport, Iowa in a patch of heavy snow is a little unusual.”

As of Thursday morning, the Peoria area was under effective winter storm watch all day Saturday. A forecast of at least 6 inches of snow over 12 hours or 8 inches over 24 hours would trigger a warning, as would a quarter of an inch of ice, according to Shimon.

More specific alerts may be issued on Friday. But even within a county, this storm can vary widely. Shimon cited the forecast for snowfall for Knox County – between 4 and 9 inches.

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Snow in southeast Knox County near Yates City could be closer to the lowest number. But further northwest, the county seat of Galesburg could receive snowfall closer to the highest total.

“Snow accumulation is so dependent on what it falls on,” Shimon said. “Is it a warm floor?” Obviously, it will start to melt right away. If it’s a very cold road, it might hold snow for longer.

“Snow measurements are very unstable, depending on where the storm is falling and how the wind is blowing. There are a lot of variables that come into play.”

Really cold, then back to the 30’s and 40’s

There is more consensus that the temperature in the Peoria area will be cold for about a day after the snowfall.

A low of 1 degree is expected Sunday evening in Peoria, with wind chills of minus 10 to minus 15. But the cold will be short lived. High temperatures on Monday are expected to return to the low 30s, with 40 likely by midweek.

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Regarding New Years Day, it is wise to be prepared, according to Shimon. This could be especially true given how little snow and cold Peoria has had so far this winter season.

The city’s first measurable snowfall of the season, 2.7 inches, didn’t come until Tuesday.

“The main message is safety and planning,” Shimon said. “We’ve had snow before, but it will have a bit more impact for sure.”


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