Elwell: What we can learn from last week’s frustrating ice storm

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Photos and video from across the Miami Valley of ice and the damage caused by an ice storm on Nov. 15.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

With Thanksgiving week upon us, we must admit that one thing we should be thankful for is that we didn’t have last week’s ice storm at the same time this week.

Can you even imagine the issues that could have caused as thousands of travelers hit the highways and airports to try to get to see family? After the ice storm ended, the National Weather Service in Wilmington released some data suggesting that this was at least the worst ice storm since 2015 — and may have been on a similar scale of the pre-Christmas ice storm that devastated the region in 2004.

Dayton Power and Light said late last week that this was one of the top 10 impactful storms they’ve ever had to deal with in terms of mass amount and prolonged power outages. As we’ve gone through this weekend, most everyone has had their power restored and those that are still in the dark should have power before Thanksgiving.

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Ice storms this time of year are not too terribly uncommon. These type of events occur when shallow, Arctic air funnels into the region, but is not deep enough to allow for precipitation to fall as snow. Such a scenario tends to happen in late fall or early winter — and then again in late winter as warmer air continues to try to fight its way back into the area.

One thing is for sure, ice storms must be taken with utmost respect and seriousness, as they can be some of the most dangerous storms to hit an area. Last weeks storm outperformed most of the model projections in terms of ice across the Miami Valley and snow for the Northeast. It was late Wednesday night when the National Weather Service realized the storm was producing much more icing than expected, and upgraded to an Ice Storm Warning across much of the Miami Valley.

As we now arrive in Thanksgiving week, we can be thankful that the upcoming weather pattern promises to bring us a calmer and perhaps milder long holiday weekend. Average temperatures for this time of year are typically in the lower 50s, which is where highs will range by Friday into the upcoming weekend before tumbling again next week. It does appear a more winter-like weather pattern will resume once Thanksgiving weekend has passed.

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The Arctic Oscillation (AO) has been discussed in previous articles and its importance to our weather patterns during the winter months. When the AO enters its negative phase, which it’s been in for most of November, we can see big dips in the jet stream allowing colder than normal air to drop into the Miami Valley. When looking ahead to December we see that same negative phase occurring.

While colder than normal, there also appears to be a better chance of staying dry. According to the Climate Prediction Center, December has about a 30 percent chance of receiving below normal precipitation for the month. A drier December would agree with our Storm Center 7 Winter Outlook.

This year seems to be trending closely with the 2014-15 winter. During that winter, December recorded below normal precipitation and snowfall. In fact the Dayton area only received a tenth of an inch of snow compared to the monthly average of 4.5 inches. The same lack of precipitation and snowfall could be said for Columbus and Cincinnati that year, too.

One final thought is how quickly the average temperature falls this time of year. Outside of any weather pattern, due to the loss of daylight and lower sun angle, each day will trend colder. From now until the end of December, we will watch the average daily high fall from around 50 degrees to the middle 30s.

One positive point to December is the Winter Solstice occurs on the 21st. That’s the point in time when days slowly become longer again until late June.

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