Winter storm threatens to bring 10-20 inches of snow to Nebraska panhandle

Dec. 12, 2022, 3:08 p.m. ·

A Winter Storm Forms over the Midwest
A Winter Storm Brews Over the Western United States. Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service

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A winter storm will envelop much of Nebraska over the next few days in what is expected to be a significant weather event. To learn more about the storm's expected impact, Nebraska Public Media News Reporter William Padmore spoke to National Weather Service Meteorologist Michael Charnick

William Padmore: Okay, so give me the stats, how bad is this thing expected to be for Nebraska, and which part of the state will be the most impacted?

Michael Charnick: Well, this is going to be quite a winter storm. Pretty much every portion of Nebraska is going to see some form of impact from this event. However, the area that's going to see the most severe and intense impacts is most certainly going to be western Nebraska, especially the panhandle. There's going to be extremely heavy snow falling, some pretty impressive snow totals coming, and that snow is going to be accompanied by high winds and very cold temperatures, creating blizzard conditions, and extremely cold wind chills.

Padmore: So when we talk about danger on a scale of one to 10, if you had to place it, where would you put it?

Charnick: This is definitely at the higher end of that scale, definitely in sort of the eight, nine, and 10 range depending on where you're at. You know, especially on Tuesday during the morning, really through the entire afternoon and evening. If you're out and about traveling in western Nebraska, the impacts are going to be pretty severe. (You) certainly don't want to be on the roads during that timeframe. You're going to see blinding snow, extremely high winds, creating near zero visibility, as well as those dangerous wind chills.

Michael Charnick smiles while hiking in the mountains
National Weather Service Meteorologist Michael Charnick. Photo Courtesy of Michael Charnick

Padmore: And what do people need to do to prepare, and I'd ask you to split that advice into rural communities, urban communities, and then general advice for both.

Charnick: With urban communities, if you're in a town or a city, obviously you want to make sure you have plenty of supplies, all your typical food and, and drink that you would need. Definitely stay off the roads, if you can help it. Let those cleaning crews, plows, truck drivers have the ability to clean the snow off throughout the day on Tuesday and even Wednesday and Thursday after the storm is over. And if you're living in more of a rural community, you know, take precautions to protect livestock from cold weather, from extremely large snow totals. There's going to be a lot of drifting that's going to be occurring with this event as well. So, take all those necessary precautions to make sure you're prepared to ride this one out for a couple of days. And blowing snow is going to linger through Wednesday and even Thursday. Wind chills are going to be running anywhere from -10 to -20 during the coldest portions of the night, both on Tuesday night, Wednesday night, and even Thursday night after the storm is over.

Padmore: Much of our state is in a drought right now and Colorado is set to get walloped by the storm. There has been chatter about how much this may or may not go toward relieving drought and replenishing some of those natural water supplies. How true is that if at all?

Charnick: Well, you're right, there's going to be a lot of snow and a lot of moisture in that snow falling from the sky. However, usually with winter weather, we don't really see the benefits of that melting snow until the spring — until that runoff really starts to flow out of the mountains and into the rivers to raise those river levels back up. So, the long-term drought still is still favoring dry weather in the soil moisture. However, as we go through the cycles of warm and cold over the winter, and as some of this snow melts, it will seep into the soil and it will help a little bit with the drought relief. But, again, we certainly need more repeated events of snowfall and then rainfall come spring. The drought is very, very intense. So it will take a lot more than just one storm to get rid of the drought entirely.

Padmore: This next one's more of an industry question. Scientists predict climate change will make precipitation events fewer and far between but when they do come, they're expected to be short and more intense and deposit week’s worth in days. Is this an example of that do you think?

Charnick: Well, no one storm can be completely tied to large-term climate change. However, the trend for droughts to emerge more frequently, especially in the West, is one condition that has become more frequent due to global climate change. So, while no one storm and the impacts from one storm are completely tied to an event, the frequency of drought and more extreme weather is certainly one of those effects.

This conversation has been edited for time and length.