A powerful storm system raked across the Gulf states and then moved off the Carolina coast on Friday January 29th through January 30th, dumping widespread heavy snowfall on east Kentucky. In many instances it is very tough to have a cold enough airmass in place for a system like this to produce all snow, however a strong cold front moved through the area on Thursday January 28th allowing a polar airmass to build in along with strong high pressure from the northwest. (See below for a comparison at how close we were to a repeat of the January 27th-28th, 2009 ice storm) This polar airmass was able to keep the temperature profile cold enough for all snow and set the stage for the heavy accumulating snows. In general, 6 to 8 inches of fluffy snow fell south of the Mountain Parkway with 8 to 12 inches along the Virginia border. Many reports from the higher elevations suggested a foot to a foot and a half of snow had fallen above 2500 feet. Further north in between the Mountain Parkway and the Interstate 64 corridor, 4 to 6 inches was observed. A sharp gradient of heavy snow was then observed north of this line as the northern part of Fleming County averaged around 2 inches and the southern part of the county saw around 4. Due to the fluffy nature of the snow, some settling was observed and the actual snow depth is likely a little less than the amount of snow that fell. Luckily, the snow that fell was not of the heavy and wet nature that produced devastating results just over a month ago. At this point, it looks as though the biggest impacts were on road conditions.
Below is a map of estimated snowfall totals based on reports from cooperative observers, emergency management, trained spotters, law enforcement, HAM radio, department of highways, media, and the public as of 5 PM EST on Saturday.
As mentioned above, the comparisons to the weather pattern setup of the January 27th-28th, 2009 ice storm and our storm on Friday and Saturday were very similar. Just 1 year and 2 days later, the lower Ohio Valley almost observed a repeat of the devastation. Below are two graphics comparing the storms.
January 29th-30th, 2010
Comparing the two graphics will yield a conclusion that not much was different between the two storms. Basically, a more southerly low track with the 2010 storm kept the accumulating sleet and freezing rain further south, while the lower Ohio Valley stayed all snow. Essentially, the ice storm received by areas in the lower Tennessee Valley yesterday, mirrored our ice storm from 2009.
January 27th-28th, 2009