National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Overview

A deepening low pressure associated with a strong, closed-off 500mb low moved from the central Gulf Coast to central PA Sunday and Sunday night, taking an unusual track across the spine of the Appalachians. The low pressure bottomed out at a central pressure of approximately 980mb over central PA Monday morning. This placed the eastern ⅔ of Ohio and western PA in the area of snowfall on the northwest side of the storm Sunday evening into Monday, with snow only slowly departing the Snowbelt on Monday as lake enhancement contributed to continued heavy snowfall there well into the day.

The combination of the storm's size, track, intensity, and amount of moisture led to a heavy snow event for all of Northeast Ohio and Northwest PA, dropping off to no snow towards Northwest Ohio. Eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania were sandwiched between warmer and more humid mid-level air drawn up east of the storm and colder, drier air being pulled in from the west. This tightening temperature gradient aloft (known as frontogenesis), along with strong easterly flow aloft bringing in Atlantic moisture contributed to heavy snowfall across eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The atmosphere was less stable than it usually is in a winter storm situation, which contributed to several hours of heavy banded snow over Northeast Ohio and Northwestern PA overnight Sunday night into early Monday morning. Snowfall rates of 1-2” per hour were common in this banded snow and lingered well into Monday in the Snowbelt of Northeast Ohio and Northwest PA as the departing system snow became enhanced by the lake. These prolonged heavy rates made roads nearly impassable in many areas come Monday morning. KCLE, KCAK, and KYNG all have weather observers that provide hourly (or more often as needed) weather observations, and all of these airports had 1-2” per hour snow rates reported for a several hour period late Sunday evening through early Monday morning.

The snow was initially wet Sunday evening, with some brief mixed precipitation occurring in parts of eastern Ohio and PA. The snow became fluffier into Monday morning, with winds turning gusty into Monday and causing blowing and drifting. Where lake enhanced snow continued well into Monday in the Snowbelt, totals of over 2 feet occurred. Totals into the Cleveland, Akron, and Youngstown areas were commonly 12-18”, with a fairly sharp drop off occurring from Lorain, Medina, Wayne and Holmes Counties points west.

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A 48-hour storm total snowfall map from 7 AM EST Jan 16 to 7 AM EST Jan 18, 2022, generated from NOHRSC. 

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Mid-level water vapor loop from 8 PM EST Jan 16 to 7 PM EST Jan 17.

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