A winter storm warning is in effect 1 a.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday for all of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky as a powerful arctic system pushes into the region, bringing the season’s first big measurable snowfall, followed by frigid temperatures.
The advisory covers several counties in Ohio: Butler, Brown, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren counties; and Boone, Campbell, Kenton, Gallatin and Carroll counties in Northern Kentucky. It also includes southeastern Indiana: Franklin, Ripley, Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland counties.
Accumulations of snow will range from 3 to 6 inches with light ice accumulations, a tenth of an inch or less, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
The most snow is expected to pile up north and west of downtown Cincinnati, said meteorologist Steve Rhebenach.
Dangerous travel conditions are expected as the snow falls, reducing visibility, and some icy patches may develop on roads.
The storm will start as rain late this afternoon as temperatures free fall. It’s an unusually mild 55 degrees now at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, but we’ll fall into the 50s by lunchtime and slip to 46 degrees with wind chills in the 30s by 5 p.m.
The rain will continue tonight and change into a wintry mix of rain and sleet around 11 p.m. Areas north of the city will see the wintry mix change to snow sooner than areas closer to the city, Rhebenach noted.
The overnight low will fall to 32 degrees.
Before daybreak Friday, the wintry mix will continue before changing over to rain, sleet and snow and then all snow sometime late morning or early afternoon. That’s when we’ll see the heaviest snow with this storm: around 1 p.m. until nightfall Friday, when it should taper off.
Friday’s temperature will hover around the freezing mark most of the day.
Road crews across the region will be gassing up snow plows and closely monitoring weather reports today.
“Right now we are thinking about having our crews in by midnight,” said Nancy Wood, spokeswoman for Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which clears state routes and highways including the Cut-in-the-Hill on Interstate 71/75. “We’ll have everybody in place we have 123 trucks out in 11 Northern Kentucky counties, 61 alone in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties.”
The agency has 30,000 tons of salt – their entire supply – on hand, she said.
Crews also will prepare chainsaws so they are ready to clear fallen tree limbs.
This storm presents a bit of a quandary for road crews, she noted.
Pre-treating streets with salt or brine is useless because the rain will wash it away before the sleet and snow hit, Wood said.
However, warm air and ground temperatures this week are a huge factor in their favor.
“Right now it’s 62 degrees, so we have warm pavements. That is better than pre-treating any day,” Wood said. “It will take the sleet and snow longer to stick. Sleet coming down at 32 degrees and hitting pavement that was 62 degrees, it will melt.”
This will be our first major snowfall so far this winter season. To date, a total of 2.4 inches of snow has fallen, spread out in small amounts on Nov. 21, 25 and 27, Rhebenach said.
In a typical winter, 22.1 inches of snow are recorded at CVG. Last winter saw 25.2 inches. The unusually mild winter in 2011-12 brought just 5.6 inches.
Once the snow stops Friday, arctic air from Canada will filter in, throwing our region into the deep freeze over the next several days.
The low Friday night into Saturday morning will plummet to 18 degrees with wind chills in the single digits.
Saturday will be mostly sunny – but cold with the high only reaching 26. Wind chills will be in the teens.
Temperatures Saturday night will fall to 16 degrees with more single digit wind chills.
Another round of snow and freezing rain is expected before 2 p.m. Sunday. The mercury will make it up to 33 degrees before falling back into the 20s overnight.
The weather service is unsure how much snow or ice could accumulate with that system, Rhebenach said.
But one thing is definite: the arctic air will stick around through at least early next week.
Daytime highs will be in the low 30s with overnight lows in the 20s and teens. Wind chills will remain in the single digits.