The Great Blizzard Is Here: Giant Winter System Brings Snow, Ice, Tornadoes Across Country

It didn't sound good, so I started getting ready a few days ago. Here in Philadelphia, this is an ice event, so the biggest threat is losing power. Fortunately, my apartment has a gas stove, so I can cook no matter what. (Unfortunately, my phone is

It didn't sound good, so I started getting ready a few days ago. Here in Philadelphia, this is an ice event, so the biggest threat is losing power. Fortunately, my apartment has a gas stove, so I can cook no matter what. (Unfortunately, my phone is Comcast -- so if they go down, I have no reliable landline.) So I stocked up on matches and candles, and dragged my sub-zero sleeping bag out of the closet in case we lose power. (I need to charge up my laptop soon. Arghh.)

Are you getting hit? What are you doing to prepare?

Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground has the big picture:

The Great Blizzard of February 1 - 2, 2011 is here. Oklahoma City is experiencing whiteout conditions, with heavy snow of 2 inches per hour being driven by ferocious winds of 36 mph, gusting to 46 mph. With a temperature of just 9°F, this is an extremely dangerous storm for the city, and all of Oklahoma has been placed under a state of emergency. Seven inches of snow had fallen in Oklahoma City as of 7am EST. Dangerous blizzard conditions extend from Oklahoma, through northwest Arkansas, southeast Kansas, and southern Missouri this morning, and blizzard conditions are expected to spread northeastward into eastern Iowa, southern Wisconsin, most of Illinois, southern Michigan, northern Indians, and northwest Ohio later today.

Cold air is being driven southwards out of Canada by a high pressure system over Montana that is at near-record strength. Pressures at Glasgow, Montana this morning were 1054 mb, close to the all-time U.S. high pressure record of 1064 mb set in Montana in 1983. Copious moisture is streaming northwards from the Gulf of Mexico to fuel the blizzard, and snowfall amounts will likely approach two feet across portions of Iowa and Illinois today, making it one of the top-ten snowstorms in history for the region. The storm will probably be Chicago's biggest blizzard since January 2 - 4 1999, when a storm dumped 21.6" of snow.

With today's snowstorm expected to have very unstable air aloft, "thundersnow" with snowfall rates of 4 inches/hour is possible, and there is a chance today's blizzard could rival Chicago's greatest snow storm of all time, the blizzard of January 26 - 27, 1967. That immense storm dumped 23 inches of snow on Chicago, stranding thousands of people and leaving an estimated 800 Chicago Transit Authority buses and 50,000 automobiles abandoned on the city streets and expressways. Twenty six Chicagoans died in the blizzard, mostly due to heart attacks from shoveling snow. Strong winds in Chicago today are expected to generate 14 - 18 feet waves on Lake Michigan, with occasional waves up to 25 feet. A significant coastal flooding event is possible for the city, with beach erosion and flooding along Lake Shore Drive.

Many major cities will likely receive over 12 inches of snow from the Great Blizzard of February 2011, including Kansas City, St. Louis, Detroit, and Boston. Perhaps of greater concern is the potential for a major ice storm along a swath from Northwest Oklahoma to Massachusetts. Widespread freezing rain is expected to bring over 1/4" of ice to many major cities, including Indianapolis, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and New York City. Some regions could see up to an inch of ice, and widespread power outages due to toppled power lines are likely for millions of people. Damages exceeding $1 billions are possible from this ice storm. In addition, the storm's powerful cold front brought severe thunderstorms to eastern Texas this morning, and severe thunderstorms will affect Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama today as the cold front moves east. NOAA's Storm Prediction Center has placed the region under its "slight risk" threat area for severe weather today, and a few isolated tornadoes may develop this afternoon in some of the heaviest thunderstorms.

And as Megyn Kelly reported in her coverage this morning on Fox, massive waves of 14 to 24 feet are expected to hit Lake Shore Drive in Chicago and flooding is a possibility.

Also, FEMA is being mobilized.

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