National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Storm Moving through the South; Pacific Storm to Impact the West this Weekend

A storm is expected to develop over the southern High Plains today and track to the Mid-Atlantic through Friday with showers and thunderstorms. On the northern edge, snow, ice, and/or a wintry mix is possible over the central Plains. A significant storm is expected to arrive late Friday through the weekend with rain, heavy mountain snow, and gusty winds for much of the West. Read More >

Valentines Day Blizzard of 2015

Sat-Sun February 14-15, 2015

 

 

Overview Max. Wind Gusts

Wind Chills on 2/15

Storm Total Snow and Observations

Meteorological Setup

Pictures

 

Overview

An Arctic cold front brought strong winds, snow, and cold air into the Great Lakes region for Valentines Day weekend 2015. Much of the area experienced blizzard or near blizzard conditions Saturday and Saturday night from the combination of moderate to heavy snow and strong winds. Despite snow totals ranging from as little as 0.5" to 5 inches, extensive blowing and drifting of the snow caused rapidly changing visibilities and white out conditions. This led to several multi-car pileups on the Indiana Toll Road and other major roadways, and countless smaller accidents. On Sunday morning, the area saw low temperatures ranging from the single digits below zero to the single digits above zero. Wind chill values ranged from -15 to -30 degrees.

 

Meteorological Setup

 

Weather Pattern

A surface low pressure system moved from northern Ontario on Friday afternoon to the New England States by late Saturday afternoon In it's wake, high pressure building over the Canadian Prairies expanded southward into the Great Lakes region. This brought an Arctic front through Indiana and the Ohio Valley Saturday morning (Figure 1: Surface weather map from 8 pm 2/13 to 8 am 2/15).

 

Figure 1. Surface analysis maps from the Weather Prediction Center.Time: From 8 pm 2/13-8 am 2/15 2015.

 

Strong Winds

The strong pressure gradient between the exiting low pressure system and high pressure building in led to sustained winds around 30 mph. Cold air aloft associated with the frontal boundary created ample instability, allowing the atmosphere to mix down wind gusts as high as 45-55 mph. Figure 2 shows the drop in temperature and increase in wind speeds as the front passed in the morning. Also note the pressure rise (from the incoming high) and the shift in wind direction from west to north.

 

Daily Weather History Graph

Figure 2. Weather history graphs from wunderground.com showing the rising pressure (from incoming high), increase in wind speeds, dropping temperatures, and wind shift at Michigan City, IN. Gusts of 55 mph were recorded at this station, though they are not captured here due to the hourly temporal scale. Time is from midnight on 2/13-midnight 2/14.

 

Maximum Wind Reports from 8 am EST 2/14/15 to 8 am EST 2/15/2015

Storm Total Snow and Observations

 

Radar and Observations

The morning started out with light snow, and even some patches of freezing drizzle observed ahead of the cold front between 5-6 am EST. By 8:30 am however, more intense snow bands started to develop both along and behind the Arctic front. By this time, winds near the lake shore were starting to gust to 35-40 mph, and up to 25-30 mph inland. Visibilities within the heaviest bands were reported to be less than 1/4 mile or a complete white-out because of the combination of falling and blowing snow. After 10 am bands started to become more lake-enhanced as cold air infiltrated the region. They gradually shifted to the western half of the forecast area, mainly over northwest-north central Indiana and southwestern Lower Michigan. By the afternoon, two of the lake effect snow bands became more dominant. Areas that were under these snow bands saw some of the highest accumulations. Snow showers continued overnight in the areas, and winds gradually subsided. By early Sunday morning, wind convergence had consolidated the snow into a single band over LaPorte and Porter Counties. Though the eastern half of the forecast area (northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio) saw very little additional snow accumulation beyond the early afternoon, wind gusts to 40-55 mph made travel conditions hazardous, with snow blowing and drifting over the roadways.

 

Figure 3. Annotated radar images from the event.

 

Snow Totals

Storm total snow with this event was on the lower end of expectations across the area, and varied greatly depending on whether or not a location was underneath the heavier snow bands that developed. The highest amounts were located west of a line extending from St. Joseph County, MI southeastward to Allen, IN. These areas received 2 to 5 inches as the snow bands gradually shifted westward throughout the day. Areas east of the line and further south generally saw between 1-2 inches, with a few expections as the snow was confined to the cold front and light afternoon showers. Reports for this event were limited, as many observers had difficulty accurately measuring the snow because of the extensive blowing and drifting.

 

high resolution snowfall map

Figure 4. Storm total snowfall from 9 am 2/14 to 9 am 2/15 2015. Highest amounts were in the west.

 

Wind Chills

Pictures

Several pictures were submitted to our office as well as local media of the conditions being seen by many people across the area. Conditions varied greatly from location to location ranging from zero visibility to no significant issues. Here are some of the pictures.

 

blizzardAllen county Ohio blizzard. Photo courtesy of Keith Rockhill blizzardWhiteout in Elkhart. Photo courtesy of Evan Bentley
blizzardWhiteout in LaPorte county. Photo courtesy of Crystal Kidder blizzardWhiteout in Columbus Grove. Photo courtesy of Geddy Davis
blizzardConvective lake effect snow showers. Photo courtesy of Derron Hess blizzardMonticello, IN photo courtesy of KC9DHR
blizzardGround blizzard in Huntington. Photo courtesy of Huntington EM blizzardGrant county. Photo courtesy of Barb Kitts
blizzardBlizzard on the farm. Photo courtesy of Barb Langston blizzardI can barely see the house - Coldwater. Photo courtesy of Kevin Barker
blizzardWhite out in Niles. Photo courtesy of Kelli Stopczynski blizzardA view from the parking lot of ABC 57. Photo courtesy of Emily Kinzer
blizzardWhiteout in St Joseph. Photo courtesy of Robert Franklin blizzardGhost Tree - Warsaw.
blizzardDriving blind on SR19. Photo courtesy of Scott Low blizzardField of white. Photo courtesy of Logan Gonya
blizzardWhere is the road?. Photo courtesy of Ray Heater blizzardHighway 32 near Union City. Photo courtesy of Jason Burton