One storm system could bring a few storms and some snow in spots
This winter has been odd, to say the least. We get these cold air outbreaks that last a day or two, and then we start talking about spring-like warmth. On Tuesday, we shattered a record high by topping out at 72° in the Tri-Cities. Wednesday evening, we're talking about the potential for storms. By Thursday morning, we're talking about scattered snow showers. Never a dull moment, right?
1. Wednesday evening storms
The potential for severe weather largely depends on how much 'instability' there is in the atmosphere. The atmosphere becomes unstable, most times, when you have a layer of cold air on top of a layer of warm air. If the air stays warm up top, the atmosphere stays stable and the potential for thunderstorms goes down. However, any break in the overcast will help make things more unstable and give thunderstorms more juice to feed off of.
This is something we need to watch throughout the day Wednesday.
There's plenty of wind shear (wind changes with altitude) and plenty of energy to lift the air, so there will be some showers and gusty winds. Whether or not we see severe weather, though, all depends on that instability factor.
As a precautionary measure, the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, OK has our area in a 'slight risk' of severe weather. This is basically a level 2 of 5, indicating that the threat for severe weather is scattered.
Nonetheless, the timing for rain and any potential stormy weather is shown below. As is most often the case, what we see moves from west to east after 4 p.m. Wednesday.
2. Snow my goodness!
By Thursday morning, the initial storm system passes east and colder air finally begins to pour down into the area. This changes the forecast from a wet/potentially stormy one to a snowy one...in spots!
The cold air is limited, mainly to the higher elevations north and east of the Tri-Cities. The other limiting factor, even for those areas, is how cold the ground gets. Soil temperatures are forecast to be in the 40s, which makes sense after our recent warm stretch. Plus, with the ground being a little wet after Tuesday's rain - it's hard to change the temperature of a wet ground.
Therefore, our snow forecast looks like this. Some mountaintops like High Knob, Black Mountain, Beartown Mountain, Roan Mountain and Whiteop may get up to 2". Otherwise, areas north and east of the Tri-Cities can see anything from nothing up to an inch through Thursday.