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Whether Wisconsin faces a big snowstorm just before Thanksgiving depends on which track a storm system takes as it heads across the country next week, according to AccuWeather.
The potentially disruptive storm has its eyes on the Mississippi Valley and Midwest next Tuesday and Wednesday — the height of the Thanksgiving travel rush.
The latest indications are that the storm is likely to move along at a swift pace and have most of its impact on the Heartland, including Wisconsin, Tuesday and Tuesday night, which might spare the area the worst weather conditions for the busiest travel day Wednesday, AccuWeather said Thursday morning.
In this scenario, colder air, snow and slippery travel would spread farther to the south and east along the Interstate 70, 80 and 90 corridors and reach parts of the Ohio Valley, eastern Great Lakes and the central and northern Appalachians during Tuesday night and Wednesday.
But, said AccuWeather Meteorologist Courtney Travis, "Should the storm develop to its full potential and take a northward track toward the Great Lakes, heavy, windswept snow would fall just northwest of the storm's center with heavy rain and perhaps severe thunderstorms to its south and east."
In this strong storm scenario, the swath from Denver to Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; and most of Wisconsin would be in the heavy snow zone, but it could be a close call between rain and snow in Kansas City and the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois to near Chicago and Milwaukee — just south of the Madison area, which would be in the snow zone.
The strong winds may linger into at least part of Wednesday over the Midwest and may be more of a problem from the eastern Great Lakes to New England and the mid-Atlantic region at midweek.
"Depending on how quickly this storm system strengthens, we could be contending with severe thunderstorms from Arkansas and Louisiana through southern Indiana and western portions of Kentucky and Tennessee," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Randy Adkins said.
Regardless, if either of the two scenarios occur — or something in between — major travel disruptions are likely over part of the Central states and the risk of some weather-related disruptions will exist in parts of the South and the East just prior to and during the middle of the week of Thanksgiving.
Even a brief period of gusty winds hitting the major airport hubs of the Northeast with only spotty rain and snow can mess up airline schedules.
It also appears a second potent storm will move in from the Pacific Ocean and impact a large part of the West, including California, at mid-week. Snow is likely to cause disruptions over the major passes, including along I-80 and perhaps I-5. And while rain may greatly benefit fire-ravaged areas of Northern California, slick roads may create dangerous travel for a time.
The National Weather Service forecasts a 20% chance for rain Monday afternoon, a 20% chance for rain and snow overnight Monday into Tuesday, a 50% chance for rain and snow and then rain Tuesday, and a 50% chance for rain and snow and then snow overnight Tuesday into Wednesday, then a 30% chance for rain and snow on Thanksgiving.
Later on Friday morning, the Weather Service posted a tweet about the possible storm:
The potential exists for a winter storm next Tuesday/Tues night for WI, but confidence is very low on where the system will go and therefore how impactful it will be for WI.— NWS Milwaukee (@NWSMKX) November 22, 2019
If you have travel plans for Tuesday, stay up on the latest forecasts as the details emerge. #wiwx pic.twitter.com/XoSjCQLR24
27 Storm Track meteorologist Max Tsaparis predicts possible mixed rain and snow Tuesday into Wednesday, and again later on Thanksgiving day.
In Madison on Friday, look for mostly cloudy skies through mid-morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 37 and northwest winds at 5 to 10 mph turning out of the west in the afternoon, the Weather Service said.
After an overnight low around 25, Saturday should be sunny, with a high near 40 and west winds around 10 mph.
After a low Saturday night into Sunday around 29, Sunday should partly sunny, with a high near 44 and west winds around 10 mph.
The Weather Service said skies over Madison should be mostly cloudy Monday, cloudy Tuesday, mostly sunny Wednesday, and mostly cloudy Thursday, with highs near 45, 40, 37 and 37, and lows Sunday night through Wednesday night around 33, 33, 29 and 27.
27 Storm Track’s Tsaparis said skies over Madison should be mostly cloudy turning partly sunny Friday, partly cloudy Saturday, mostly to partly sunny Sunday, partly sunny Monday, mostly cloudy Tuesday, mostly cloudy to partly sunny Wednesday, and mostly cloudy Thursday, with highs near 37, 43, 47, 47, 40, 39 and 39, and overnight lows around 23, 27, 34, 31, 32 and 26.
Thursday’s high in Madison was 52 at 12 p.m., 11 degrees above the normal high and 15 degrees below the record high of 67 for Nov. 21, set in 1913.
Thursday’s low in Madison was 31 at 11:59 p.m., 5 degrees above the normal low and 38 degrees above the record low of 7 below for Nov. 21, set in 1880.
Officially, 0.51 inches of precipitation was recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport on Thursday, boosting Madison’s November precipitation total (rain plus snow converted to liquid) to 1.49 inches, 0.2 inches below normal. For meteorological fall (September through November), Madison has received 14.13 inches of precipitation, 6.91 inches above normal. For the year, Madison has received 43.72 inches of precipitation, 11.68 inches above normal.
Madison’s record precipitation for Nov. 21 is 1.94 inches in 1934.
With no snow on Thursday, Madison’s November total stayed at 7.6 inches, 5.9 inches above normal. For meteorological fall (September through November) and the snow season (since July 1), Madison’s total stayed at 15.7 inches, 13.5 inches above normal.
Madison’s record snowfall for Nov. 21 is 4.2 inches in 1945.