The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for Sitka and Port Alexander, in effect until 6am tomorrow (Thu 11-21-13). The forecast calls for 7 to 11 inches of snow on Wednesday night, turning into rain on Thursday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Tom Ainsworth says it’s the kind of weather Southeast usually gets this time of year, but with a twist.
“It really looks like a nice wet, October, November rain storm, but because of the recent cold air that we’ve had in place, it’s going to start out as snow,” Ainsworth said. “But in general, we should see several inches of liquid rainfall by the weekend.”
Between a major snow storm and recent freezing temperatures, it may feel like winter has shown up in hurry. But according to the National Weather Service, the snow is right on time. On average, we see our first snowflakes on November 21. The earliest recorded snowfall in Sitka was on Oct. 24. That was in 1966.
What is different is how cold it is. For the past few days, Sitka has seen freezing temperatures caused by the kind of arctic air mass that usually isn’t strong enough to make it all the way to the outer coast.
And this came after an unusually warm and dry fall: August, September and October were all 3 degrees warmer than usual. So even though, so far, November is on track to be pretty ordinary, the transition may feel more jarring than usual.
“We’re not gonna ease into anything here,” Ainsworth said. “We’re just going to go right for it and get some ankle-deep snow and get winter rolling.”
Ainsworth says warmer weather is on the way: Sitka can expect temperatures in the 40s on Thursday. But warm temperatures bring their own hazards.
“Because of that transition to a wetter precipitation, that snow-removal could be very heavy,” Ainsworth said. “So people should be careful in recognizing that this could be a lot of weight to be moving out of our driveways and sidewalks.”
Thursday will also be windy, with gusts up to 40 to 45 miles per hour.