Jesse Ferrell

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Pre-Valentine's Storm Will Be Biggest of Season

February 11, 2014; 12:29 PM ET

UPDATE 10 AM 2/12: Our ice accumulation map has changed to show a large area of over 1 inch of ice (mostly freezing rain) in South Carolina and Georgia, with some areas getting over 1.5 inches:

ORIGINAL BLOG 2/11: If you haven't heard already: There's a storm comin'. And this one is likely to be the biggest storm of the season (by population, if not area or high snow amounts). The storm is being covered well by AccuWeather.com (Northeast | Southeast | LIVE Southeast) and I won't say much more about the forecast here. What I will do is bust a little on Capital Weather Gang's hypocrisy (c'mon, you know I'm the media fairness guy) and remind folks of some similar historic storms. You may recall the Valentine's Day Storm of 2007, which had heavy snow from Pennsylvania into New England. There was also 1983:

The 1983 storm's heaviest snow was centered more eastward than this one is expected to be -- over the major cities. Still, this storm may make up for that by centering its ice over the major southern cities. It really couldn't be much worse, hitting every major airport in the Southeast and East Coast:

I mean, Holy Cow. Baltimore and Raleigh are in there, too; we just didn't put them on the map. You couldn't draw a worse track for a winter storm. Our Mark Mancuso is saying there is the "potential for an historic ice storm from N. Georgia to the central Carolinas Tuesday - Wednesday." NOAA's WPC calls it "A PARALYZING ICE STORM.... THE ICE ACCUMULATIONS REMAIN MIND-BOGGLING IF NOT HISTORICAL." They also call it a "A HIGH SOCIETAL IMPACT WINTER STORM" overall.

The SPIA Ice Index says that 3/4 to 1" of freezing rain will combine with higher winds in western South Carolina, where the worst conditions will be. Atlanta's not out of the danger area either; schools have already been cancelled for today and tomorrow because of last month's debacle.

If the amount of ice predicted below by AccuWeather (above) or NWS (below) turns out to be true, it would be the worst storm that central South Carolina has seen in over 10 years.* The storm last month "only" dropped 0.75" of ice, as did the January 2011 event, while we're predicting over 2.5" this time. The big question is, will it be freezing rain or sleet (the GFS model currently says 2.75" of freezing rain). Sleet arguably makes (treated) roads and sidewalks worse, but the freezing rain will make for more power outages and downed trees (this area is mostly evergreen pine trees).

Blog reader Denver Murray is in the path of the storm in Columbia, S.C. He says people are taking the storm very seriously, and schools are closing early today, which is great.

Even in Atlanta, the government is and schools are expected to close, which should keep them from having a repeat of the last storm's problems there.

A little farther east, my college buddy Tim Armstrong from NWS-Wilmington, N.C., says there have only been a handful of seasons that have caused three winter storms in their area, but 2010-11 was the most recent. Cape Hatteras, N.C., has had six days with snow this year, according to our records. I can't say how unusual that is, but it has to be a record.

*Denver passed along this historical info from the NWS in Columbia: "The following are the most significant ice events in the last 35 years. In 1979, there was an ice storm which caused power outages, on Dec. 4, 2002, up to an inch of ice accumulated, on Feb. 16-17, 2003, 1/2 inch to 1 inch fell across the area, Jan. 25-26, 2004, was mainly 1/4-1/2 inch with a few reports of an inch, on Dec. 12, 2004, 1/2-3/4 accumulated with a few reports on one inch, as well as Jan. 29, 2005. with up to 1/2 inch and then on Jan. 30, 2010, 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice accumulated north."

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Jesse Ferrell
Jesse Ferrell's WeatherMatrix blog covers extreme weather worldwide with a concentration on weather photos and Social Media.