Winter Storm Bella to bring first snow of season to parts of the Midwest, including Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee
Winter Storm Bella has been named by the winter storm naming committee at The Weather Channel. Bella is the second named winter storm of the 2015-2016 season, following behind Winter Storm Ajax earlier this week.
Bella could bring the first accumulating snow of the season for some in the Upper Midwest, Corn Belt, and Great Lakes. A swath from northeast Nebraska and southeast South Dakota into much of Iowa and northwest Illinois, is covered by winter storm warnings, as issued by local National Weather Service offices. In the much of the Upper Midwest, this means a likelihood for at least 6 inches of snow in 12 hours, or 8 inches of snow in 24 hours. The warning includes the Quad Cities vicinity and Des Moines.
See photos of the recent weather across the US:
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Winter storm watches and less significant winter weather advisories are in effect for a broad area from eastern Wyoming to southern Wisconsin and northeast Illinois, including Chicago. Some of the watches could be upgraded to warnings as the storm approaches.
The low-pressure system from Ajax has merged with a powerful jet-stream disturbance responsible for a major Northwest/northern Rockies windstorm to usher in more typically cold mid-late November air into the northern half of the nation.
(FORECAST: Cold Returning)
With the cold air in place, another jet-stream level disturbance will intensify as it sweeps eastward over the boundary of this cold air from the northern Rockies to the Great Lakes and eastern Canada Friday into the weekend.
However, the strength of the jet-stream disturbance, forcing a wave of low pressure along the frontal boundary, then strengthening it over the Great Lakes, will still squeeze out a swath of snow Friday into the weekend from the Plains to the Great Lakes and northern New England.
Winter Storm Bella Snow Forecast
The relative lack of moisture and quick-moving nature of Winter Storm Bella should mitigate this from becoming a crippling, heavy snowstorm for many.
However, a swath of moderate to locally heavy snow is still expected from northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota to Michigan. Where smaller-scale, more intense snowbands temporarily set up, we can't rule out some 1 inch per hour snowfall rates for a time.
These are the areas where at least 6 inches of snow is most likely through Saturday.
Even this close in time, the exact placement of the heaviest snow may shift a bit north or south, depending on the exact track of the surface low.
Warm ground from what had been an exceptionally warm first half of November may take a small cut from total accumulations of snow, particularly on pavement. Also, while winds off Lake Michigan will contribute low-level moisture to the storm, relatively warm lake temperatures may also mitigate snowfall totals a bit near the lakeshore.
Surface low pressure is expected to strengthen once it reaches the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes, thanks to the intensifying jet stream disturbance.
The pressure gradient between this developing low and high pressure building in the Rockies and High Plains will produce increasing winds in the snow area Saturday, leading to some reduced visibilities in blowing snow.
Once the surface low wraps up in eastern Canada, some bands of lake-effect snow are possible off Lakes Ontario and Erie, and wrap-around snow may blanket the Allegheny Plateau, Appalachians, Adirondacks and high country of northern New England.
Given this first snow of the season in some of these areas may be locally heavy, slow down, leave extra time if you must travel, or consider postponing your trip.
Flight delays are probable Saturday, possibly even late Friday night, out of Chicago-O'Hare Airport, and are possible out of smaller regional airports, as well. Check your flight status before leaving for the airport.
Winter Storm Bella Snow Timing
Light snow will spread out of the northern Rockies and northern High Plains into the Missouri Valley during the day, then into the Mississippi Valley and western Great Lakes (southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois) Friday night.
Season's first accumulating snow cities:
Snow continues in northern Illinois and southern to eastern Wisconsin, later spreading into much of Lower Michigan and northern Indiana.
Snow will end by afternoon in Iowa and northern Missouri.
Any rain may change to snow in northern Ohio, northwestern Pennsylvania and western New York Saturday night.
Increasing winds Saturday night may produce areas of reduced visibility in Michigan, and all the Great Lake snowbelts with the exception of the Lake Ontario snowbelt.
Season's first accumulating snow cities:
Lake-effect snow will linger in the Great Lakes snowbelts, south of Buffalo, New York, and north of Syracuse toward Oswego, New York, and the Tug Hill Plateau.
A brief round of light snow is also possible in the mountains of northern New England before ending.
Gusty winds may persist around the eastern Great Lakes and New England.
A few flakes may even fly across the central Appalachians from West Virginia into interior Pennsylvania.
(MORE: Winter Storm Central)
Check back with us at weather.com and The Weather Channel for updates and the latest forecast of this latest winter weather event.November Heavy Snow: It's Been Awhile For Some
Despite the Upper Midwest's snowy reputation, heavy snow in November outside the Great Lakes snowbelts isn't as common as you might think.
According to National Weather Service data, Chicago hasn't seen a November with 6 inches or more of snow since 1978, much less 6 inches of snow in one November storm.
Average November snow in the Windy City is only 1.4 inches, just under 4 percent of their average seasonal snow. Their average date of the season's first 1 inch-plus snow is December 7.
Similarly, Milwaukee hasn't seen a 6-inch-plus November snow total in 20 years. In terms of snowfall so early in the season, Milwaukee has only recorded four 2-day snowfall totals of greater than 6 inches before Nov. 22, dating back to the late 1800s.
Five of the past nine Novembers in the Brew City haven't even produced one-half inch of snow, total.
Across the lake, however, Grand Rapids, Michigan, has had a break so far this November, lacking measurable snow prior to this weekend system. November 2014 was their record snowiest November, with 31 inches of snow during the month.
Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at weather.com and has been an incurable weather geek since a tornado narrowly missed his childhood home in Wisconsin at age 7. Follow him on Twitter and Google Plus.
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