|January 07 2022
Tennessee/Ohio Valley to Northeast Winter Storm: (1/6 - 1/7)
By: Zack Taylor, WPC Meteorologist
A significant winter storm produced heavy snow across portions of the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys to the Northeast and New England regions January 6-7, 2022.
Leading up to the winter storm, much of the central and eastern United States was under the presence of a longwave mid level trough. A potent shortwave trough digging through the flow sharpened as it approached the lower Ohio Valley on Thursday January 6. At the surface, an expansive high pressure centered over the northern Plains was the source of very cold temperatures ahead of the system and a residual Arctic boundary draped across portions of the Deep South through the central Appalachians was the focus for developing low pressure.
The approaching shortwave trough and impressive 300 mb jet divergence led to a broad area of favorable forcing for ascent across the region on January 6. Low pressure strengthened along the aforementioned boundary, advected Gulf moisture northward and by Thursday afternoon into the evening, an impressive zone of 850-700 mb frontogenesis set up across portions of Tennessee and Kentucky. This led to widespread snow with embedded bands of heavy snow where the overlap of maximum lift coincided within the preferred Dendritic Growth Zone (DGZ) across north-central Tennessee and much of central and eastern Kentucky. Light, fluffy snow quickly accumulated and snow rates exceeded 1"/hr at times during the height of the storm. This resulted in a swath of 6" to locally 10" of accumulation. Snow-to-liquid ratios ranged from 12 to 15:1, which was slightly higher than the climatological average for the area and time of year. The 9.9" snow total at Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, Kentucky was a daily record for January 6.
The storm track through the southern/central Appalachians to off the Mid-Atlantic then brought heavy snow to much of West Virginia and northwest portions of the Washington DC/Baltimore region into south-central Pennsylvania. The 10.5" recorded at the NWS office in Charleston, West Virginia was the highest snow storm total since January 2016 when 18.6" fell over 2 days. By early Friday, January 7, the 500 mb trough became negatively tilted and the low pressure tracking offshore the Northeast rapidly intensified to sub 980 mb by Friday evening off the coast of Maine. A swath of heavy snow fell from the New York City metro through southern New England to Boston where totals ranged from around 6" in the New York City metro to locally 12-15" across Connecticut, Rhode Island, and eastern Massachusetts. Boston officially measured 11.7" on Friday January 7 which was the second highest snow total for the date on record.
The widespread heavy snow led to significant travel disruptions and dangerous road conditions across the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys Thursday into Thursday night. Numerous accidents were a result of the road conditions and severely reduced visibility. A 50 to 75 vehicle pileup occurred on Interstate 64 in eastern Kentucky and many roads were closed or impassable across south-central to eastern Kentucky during the worst of the storm. Slippery and snow covered roads impacted travel conditions across the Mid-Atlantic region. As the storm intensified off the Northeast coast, heavy snow rates approaching 2"/hr at times led to numerous airport delays and cancellations along with hazardous to difficult driving conditions and vehicle accidents.