A potent storm system seems poised to impact the nation's mid-section early next week. The most likely time for central Illinois to see active weather from this storm will be on Tuesday, February 2nd - though the full extent of the impacts that we see is not clear yet, as the storm is still 4 days out.
It does seem fairly clear at this point that the snow will be steering off to our north. Portions of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could see a big dose of accumulating snow combined with strong winds creating blizzard conditions in some areas. While there is still some time for the exact track of the storm system to shift around north/south, I think it is reasonable to say that the chances for snow on Tuesday are very slim in C-U. Now, some light snow on the back side of the storm on Wednesday is certainly something we'll be watching.
But for us, and much of surrounding Illinois, the story will be rain, and the potential for thunderstorms. Perhaps even strong/severe thunderstorms. Me talking to you about the potential for severe weather at four days out in late January/early February is probably about as wise as promising a foot of snow with the same amount of advanced notice. But with that being said - the potential seems to be there, and not only that, it has been quite consistent.
As it stands now - AT FOUR DAYS OUT WITH ALMOST CERTAIN CHANGES TO BE MADE - a powerful upper level jet streak will exit the Rockies and surge into the Midwest. A deepening low pressure center will sweep into Illinois by Tuesday afternoon sweeping a warm front across the region during the morning. Areas south of this warm front (which may or may not include Champaign-Urbana) will warm into the 50s/60s with plenty of moisture for heavy rain and thunderstorms.
At the moment, four days out, the dynamic nature of this storm systems wind fields seem to resemble that of a fairly classic severe weather setup. The obviously question is, in Illinois, in February, how difficult will it be to get the instability needed for severe thunderstorms in the warm sector, south of the warm front. Do we see a warm rain, or do we see some sunshine early in the day on Tuesday that allows for temperatures to really surge and create the volatile combination of powerful upper level winds and an unseasonably warm and unstable atmosphere?
So - the point of writing about the storm four days in advance is not to start making you promises or to mislead you into thinking anything is even close to set in stone at this point - but rather to get you thinking. It's a little bit early in the year to be thinking about severe weather - but this system seems to bare watching - and I'd rather get the word out there that *something* may be brewing now than drop it into your laps the morning of.