2012 Begins with Monster Low That Will Effect Most of the U.S.

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The U.S. has been experiencing a lack of weather for the past couple of weeks. Of course, that’s not scientifically true — there’s always weather: good weather, fair weather, bad weather, severe weather, changing weather, subjective weather. By “lack of weather” I mean that, for most of the country, high pressure has been in control with a noticeable lack of — well, bad weather.

Friday, 12/30/11. One low pressure area is already impacting the eastern third of the country, while the next moves through western Canada and the northwestern US. Click for larger size. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

Those that have been experiencing a change in the weather have had periods of bad followed by periods of good, over and over again. Check out my blog post from earlier this week about the lack of snow and the skiers’ lament, Where’s the Snow… We can thank a progressive pattern that’s moving “bad weather” quite quickly from west to east, mainly across our northern states.

Saturday, 12/31/11. The first front is already offshore into the North Atlantic, while the second front is quickly gathering significant strength. Click for larger size. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

Many times these fast-moving frontal systems are weak little things without much punch — like a speed boat compared to an ocean liner. Both have their specialties, but you typically don’t see speed boats throwing out a monster wake or moving massive amounts of water as they pass by. The next couple of frontal system however, will indeed be speedy yet with a massive wake and moving lots of water.

Sunday, 1/01/12. The well-developed low is creating blustery conditions for the eastern half of the US, and downright dangerous conditions for the Great Lakes region. Click for larger size. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

As of today, there’s a low pressure center over the Great Lakes. It’s powerful, far-reaching and fast — it will reach the Atlantic Ocean early tomorrow. With the exception of the southern states, people from the Mississippi River to New England will experience blustery conditions. Those in the Great Lakes regions will experience rain and for those in Wisconsin and Minnesota, snow.

Monday, 1/02/12. Still strong, the low is moving quickly into Eastern Canada. Click for larger size. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

It’s the next front however, that is really grabbing attention. Within 24 hours, it grows from just another winter cold front in Canada to a powerful storm system in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, then a monster low just north of the Great Lakes a few hours later. Sustained winds of 40 and 50 mph with higher gusts will be commonplace. If you have hatches to batten down, you best get to battening.

Consider this, too: The Great Lakes, by and large, are not iced over. The typical gales of November are blowing over into January and boating/shipping interests on the lakes should take heed and be well prepared. In fact, model projections bring this next low to the northern Great Lakes with almost the same intensity of the infamous November storm in 1975 that was a major factor in the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald.

September 10, 1975: This surface analysis shows the strong low over southern Lake Superior. It was measured to be 982 millibars. About 12 hours later, the Edmund Fitzgerald vanished from radar with all 29 members of her crew lost. Computer models project this weekend's low to reach 988 (or perhaps a bit lower) millibars. Click for larger size. Image: NOAA

Despite the strength of this low, and its far-reaching punch (from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast to New England to Canada will feel the effects), this speedy storm system will nearly traverse North America from west to east in about three days.

For more on the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, read Fred Pickhardt’s blog, The Gales of November. Wikipedia also has extensive information on the infamous shipwreck. You can also read more about the 1975 “Edmund Fitzgerald Storm” using today’s technology here.

Tuesday, 1/03/12. The eastern US is still experiencing windy conditions while the third low creates gusty winds across the Plains. Click for larger size. Image: ImpactWeather StormWatch

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