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Eye to the Sky: Is it too early to mention the ‘S’ word?

Snow? In early November?

It’s not an every year occurrence, by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s also not altogether uncommon. And it’s beginning to look like some of us could see the first flakes of the season flying by the end of next week.

Now, before we get too carried away, understand that we aren’t talking about a snowstorm here. Don’t go running to the co-op in search of a sled. We’re talking about the kind of snowflakes that flitter around on the air, then melt upon contact, and amount to a whole lot of nothing.

But, still, we could see some of those by this time next week. And, of course, if there’s a small chance of snow that means it has to be cold, right? Right. And that’s the biggest story: We’re continuing our step-down from summer into winter, and the coldest air of the fall season is headed our way.

It’s looking increasingly likely that we’ll see our first freeze of autumn — and the official end of the growing season — by the time we get to the end of next weekend. We’re a little behind schedule in that regard; our coldest temperature in October has been 34°, making this only the third year on record in Oneida where we haven’t seen our first freeze by the end of October.

But the cold air is lurking, and a series of cold fronts is going to usher it in here late next week.

The big picture is below-average temperatures for the first half of November. The NWS’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting below-average temperatures through November 12 for most of the eastern United States, then a flip to above-average temperatures for the second half of the month.

We’re certainly already seeing that here in East Tennessee. As recently as earlier this week we were seeing temperatures well into the 70s, but all of a sudden the 70s have become a memory. The NWS forecast for Oneida has us topping out no warmer than the 50s for the foreseeable future (although we’ll be close to 60° with lots of sunshine Sunday and Monday).

Then the first of two cold fronts heads our way by the middle of next week. Exactly how far southward this cold front penetrates remains to be seen. As of now, the best-guess weather forecast for Oneida for the middle and latter part of next week is for temps in the 40s during the day, and in the 30s at night, with more rain chances.

It’s towards the end of the week that the even colder temperatures start trying to penetrate our region. For now, the GFS model keeps us above freezing heading into the weekend, while the ECMWF model drops us below freezing beginning Friday morning and continuing through the weekend.

Even the warmer GFS model has below-freezing temperatures filtering in by next Sunday; it’s just a little slower getting the colder weather here than the ECMWF. The GFS moves in the colder air behind a second cold front that will be expected to result from a storm system that will develop over the middle of the country late next week.

That prompts the NWS office in Nashville to include this statement in this morning’s forecast discussion: “Right now a light wintry mix over parts of the area possible but
it is still in wait and see mode.”

Keep in mind that the GFS, one of the most powerful and reliable weather models in the world, keeps the coldest air to our north late next week, and doesn’t bring it on into our neck of the woods until the end of the weekend. If that proves correct, not only will we not see our first freeze of the season until at least the end of the weekend, but we’ll also not see the “light wintry mix” that NWS-Nashville mentions, as it will be much too warm for that.

Also keep in mind that “light wintry mix” means exactly that: those flakes fluttering harmlessly in the air and melting on contact. We aren’t talking about any potential for an accumulating snow.

Just for fun, the last time we saw measurable snowfall in Oneida during the month of November was 1996, when a trace of snow fell. The most snow we’ve ever seen in November in Oneida was back in 1966, when 6″ of snow fell on Nov. 3. It was 71° just two days before that, but a major cold front moved through, with half a foot of snow followed by temperatures bottoming out at 13°. Then it swiftly warmed back up, and temps were well into the 60s for most of the rest of that month.

Eye to the Sky is a weather blog of the Independent Herald, written primarily by IH publisher Ben Garrett. Views expressed here are those of the authors and should not be considered substitute for official advisories, watches or warnings from the National Weather Service. For the latest, most up-to-date forecast information, see weather.gov/mrx.
Ben Garrett
Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at bgarrett@ihoneida.com. Follow him on Twitter, @benwgarrett.

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