National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce


A large low pressure system projected to track south and undercut the Panhandles stalled over the four corners region early on Tuesday.  While the track did eventually take the system south of the Panhandles, the stalled out period provided a shortwave that tracked along the southwest flow right across the Panhandles.  The area was primed with moisture from the south for a good day or two prior to the arrival of the shortwave.  The strong surface cold front was already ahead of the moisture, and our temperatures were well into the low 20s to upper teens as the air became more saturated.  The increased depth of moisture allowed for more snow, and at times larger snowflakes.  The shortwave just added more lift to enhance the convective nature of the precipitation.  This allowed for convective banding to set up over the southwest Panhandles. 

This is very hard to forecast when it comes down to the local scale, as convective bands are typically only 30 to 60 miles wide.  That distance separates the areas that get hit hard versus the areas that see nearly nothing.  It's very much like trying to forecast a line of thunderstorms and where they will set up.  Only in this case we're forecasting where a line of heavy snow will set up, and the impacts that go with them.  The path of the system was projected to drive right through the southwest Panhandles and hit the Amarillo and Canyon area directly.  Adding insult to injury, the system was timed to hit right at the late afternoon work/school release, and through the evening rush hour.  This resulted in high impacts to the evening commute that included multiple accidents, some of which were jack-knifed semi trucks, extensive traffic delays, and very icy roads as they began to refreeze after the sun went down.  Areas to the northwest were impacted with about an inch of snow earlier in the day as there was a round of moisture with the initial cold front, it just wasn't as abundant and lacked the additional dynamic support that the second round had.  All in all, we had to pivot very quickly around 9 AM on the 4th when we noticed in real time that the potential for impacts to the southwest Panhandles could be quite significant.  The images on the snow amounts tab will tell the story. 

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