The National Weather Service posted a “winter weather advisory” for the entire region for 2 to 4 inches of snow on Friday — and possibly as much as 5 — broadly in line with what private meteorologists said Thursday afternoon.
All meteorologists were certain that the snow would fall significantly, and it would likely begin before dawn on Friday and continue intermittently throughout the day. They couldn’t agree on who would get the number 2 – or perhaps less – or 4, or more.
On what turned out to be the brightest January day in two years, with the sun shining unobstructed on the snow and the trees showing their icy glow, meteorologists said they were facing blizzards to come. how much Questions about Friday.
They’re used to it, said Eric Hoeflich, a meteorologist at the weather service’s office in Mount Holly.
This is understandable: snow is the ultimate game of inches. When it comes to snow, that’s what people want to know, whether the forecast is for a tenth of an inch or a blizzard, said Dave Dombeck, chief meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc., who was seeing 1 to 3 inches in the immediate Philadelphia area. And from 3 to 5 to the west. “With rain, no one really cares whether it’s a third of an inch or a quarter of an inch,” he said.
Why are there doubts in the snow forecast on Friday?
Forecasters said the meteorological setup will be complex, as an upper air system approaches the region from the west, likely to be the main snowmaker, while a storm brews off the southeast coast.
Heavy snow is expected in the area, said Paul Dorrian, a Valley Forge meteorologist with Arkfield Weather. “I think smaller, heavier snow bands will develop during this storm, given this overall pattern.” His forecast Thursday was the most optimistic, calling for 3 to 6 inches across the region.
»Read more: Snow forecasts can constantly change. this is the reason
Banding is a perennial problem in snow forecasting, said Steve DiMartino, a meteorologist who runs NY-NJ-PA Weather in North Jersey. “The smallest details like a wind shift or a medium-sized process like a snow band can have big impacts on who gets the heaviest snowfall and why.”
Although computer models are a marvel, nothing happens in isolation from the chaotic three-dimensional universe of the atmosphere, and the global observing network on which computers rely for their calculations is imperfect. “The first hurdle for predicting snowfall is obtaining sufficient observational data from all parts of the country,” DiMartino said.
Whatever may or may not happen on Friday, it looks like the roads should be in good shape when the snow starts falling.
Road conditions improved significantly Wednesday, although highs never exceeded the 20s. The weather is expected to improve on Thursday, with temperatures expected to break below freezing for the first time since Sunday.
»Read more: How Philly’s street department prepared to clear roads after two years with little snow
Before Monday, it had been a record 716 days since Philadelphia had seen an inch of snow — a record of less than an inch — but road crews in Pendot and Philly cleared away the cobwebs and plowed and salted the roads, turning the snow and ice into slurry. Melted which turns out to be a lifesaver.
If the freezing rain that followed the snowfall had fallen on bare, untreated roads, the storm could have been far more devastating, said Ray Martin, chief meteorologist at the weather service’s office in Mount Holly.
Despite the long stop, road handling was like riding a bike, said Steve Lorenz, chief engineer for the Philadelphia Streets Department. “Even though we didn’t use (plows and salt spreaders) last year, we were getting it ready to go,” he said.
» READ MORE: Wednesday was the first real “snow day” in the region since January 2022
Many school districts delayed the opening of schools Wednesday as leftover snow and ice packs froze due to temperatures in the teens.
One notable participant was the Philadelphia School District, which took plenty of heat to keep schools on a regular schedule Tuesday, despite icy rain falling on top of more than 3 inches of snow.
» READ MORE: Philly’s decision to open schools on time Wednesday sparked a storm
The district may get another chance to get it right Friday.
Snow will occur with the approach of another polar front, and temperatures may not exceed the twenties at the end of the week.
But the warm-up is scheduled to begin Monday, and it could rain until Wednesday.