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After a roller coaster of snow predictions for weather forecasters this weekend, Mountain Home managed to beat the odds and become a winter wonderland after a full day of snow Sunday.
Altogether, Mountain Home and Baxter County saw anywhere between three to five inches of snow after it was said and done Sunday evening. Light dustings of snow continued throughout Monday despite the sun peaking through the winter-cast clouds in the morning.
While the snow was a highlight for many residents, slick roads and colder temperatures shut down much of the city on Monday as road crews with the Mountain Home Street Department continued to work to treat the roads.
Temperatures in Mountain Home continue to remain at dangerous levels, with single-digit lows and low teen highs. The windchill for the area, especially at night, is expected to bring about negative temperatures for the next few days.
Residents are encouraged to bundle up and stay indoors if possible.
Businesses and some healthcare services also took portions of the day off to allow roads to clear. Many stay closed for the entire day. Both ASU Mountain Home and Mountain Home Public Schools were closed in honor of Martin Luther King Day.
Cotter School District and Norfork School District took a snow day due to winter weather.
A flurry of predictions
The first snowstorm in Arkansas this year left some residents with whiplash as weather forecasts rapidly changed in the lead-up to Sunday’s snow.
The first round of predictions showed Northern Arkansas receiving anywhere between six to eight inches of snow, prompting residents to begin preparing to stay indoors for several days in a row. Those predictions quickly changed with forecasts lowering to three to six inches as the weekend approached.
A round of thunderstorms throughout the state on Friday, and one tornado, turned weather casters’ attention from snow models to severe weather models.
The biggest swing in snow predictions came on Saturday, with multiple forecasters predicting different outcomes throughout the state. Some models, such as the North American Mesoscale Forecast System continued to predict heavy snowfall, while others like the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh showed only light levels of snow reaching some portions of the state.
At one point, Little Rock and Pine Bluff were expected to get anywhere between six to eight inches of snow.
The ECMWF model, or Euro model, also showed a lack of snow due to a large bout of dry air over the state. The ECMWF is typically the most accurate weather model for the East Coast and the South in Northern America.
Arkansas Weather Watchers held that snow would be moderate across the state, with Mountain Home receiving two to four inches of snow, and Central Arkansas receiving four to six.
Predictions changed again in Northern Arkansas on Sunday morning, with the forecasters lowering predicted amounts one last time before the winter storm arrived. And those predictions of low snowfall appeared to be correct during the morning hours, with a portion of the storm passing without any snowfall due to dry air preventing upper atmosphere precipitation from falling to the ground.
The snow eventually broke after a surge of humid Oklahoma air reached Arkansas, allowing snow to reach the ground.
Arkansas Weather Watchers’ more moderate prediction held true for most of the state. Mountain Home and Northern Arkansas snowfall ultimately outperformed most predictions.
Why is snowfall so hard to predict?
Predicting snowfall is one of the hardest things for professional weather forecasters to do, with many forecasts and predictions falling apart one day ahead of actual snowfall.
Predicting snowfall involves a multitude of calculations, including various temperature levels in different parts of the atmosphere, geographical location, humidity, and wind.
Air temperature is the most crucial aspect when looking at a snow forecast. Generally, when temperatures drop below 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit, snow becomes possible, with temperatures lower than freezing bringing in more dry and powdery snow due to a lower moisture content.
While this sounds simple, whether the snow hits the ground also depends on the temperature of the air it’s falling through. If the air temperature is low enough throughout the atmosphere, then the falling flakes are more likely to remain as snow.
However, if the snow travels through a patch of warm air, it will melt and turn into rain or sleet. This was seen in Southern Arkansas on Sunday, where the winter weather turned to sleet instead of snow despite the freezing temperatures on the ground.
Altitude is another important aspect of snowfall. For every 100 meters in altitude, temperatures typically fall by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. This is why mountaintops and higher elevated areas see more snow during the autumn and winter when compared to their lower-level counterparts.
Thirdly, location also determines if snow will make landfall, as coastal areas and cities are more likely to be warmer than more rural and inland areas.
Lastly, wind is a big factor in determining if an area will experience snowfall. A sudden change in wind direction can mean the difference between rain and snow. Warmer wind blowing into the air typically means less chance of snow, while cooler air blowing in can elevate snowfall chances. However, warmer/humid wind can also be the difference between no snow and a fair amount of snowfall as seen in Northern Arkansas with warmer pockets of Oklahoma air bringing in the moisture needed to allow snowfall.
This weekend’s snow is expected to linger throughout Wednesday before clearing up at the end of the week. Roads should begin to clear today as temperatures rise to the 20s with sunshine in the afternoon. The high today will be about 22 degrees Fahrenheit.
There is a slight possibility of rain and some winter mix on Thursday, though most models have Mountain Home being chilly and cloudy. Temperatures will plunge below freezing again on Friday and Saturday. The sun is expected to be out on Saturday.
Temperatures will climb back into the 40’s next week. Residents can expect occasional rainstorms throughout much of the week. There is a slight chance of sleet on Monday. Temperatures should be high enough that sleet should not stick to the roads.
Many local and rural roads will remain slick throughout today, and caution should be taken while driving. Mountain Home street crews should have the major roads in the city mostly clear for travel today.
This story will be updated if any new winter weather makes its way to the area.