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Christmas weather forecast

It is looking like Christmas this year is going to be pretty much par for the course. With GFS and ECMWF both showing cold temperatures and no major storms in the area, the holiday doesn't look to be affected by nasty weather. Save for the stray clipper that may streak in from the north with a light dusting of snow, I don't see any weather really coming our way for the 25th. It looks to be seasonably cold with only a small chance of snow in the air ... a typical Christmas in Kentucky.
The bigger story looks to be what happens between now and then. After a mostly dry week this week and moderating temperatures, the weekend will turn very soggy. Both major computer models are in step with one another showing a frontal zone setting up near the Ohio River this weekend. Lots of Gulf moisture will spread northward and Kentucky will be in the prime area just south of the front to see the rainfall. Areas of low pressure will develop along the front and move northeastward into Kentucky enhancing the rainfall throughout the weekend. Right now it appears that we will stay on the warm side of the front, so all of the precipitation here should fall as rain. However, just to our north a major snowstorm will be possible once again. Some of the model data is showing 4-6" of rainfall, especially across western Kentucky. This axis of heaviest rainfall may set up farther east or west ... it just depends on the exact position of the front. Regardless, Kentucky is in for a very wet weekend and flooding may be the big weather story.  

In addition, there is a small chance of strong thunderstorms developing and moving through this area also. You can see the conveyor belt of the waves of rain coming northeastward toward Kentucky in the ECMWF model data from today (attached). We just passed the 35th anniversary of the great flood of 1978, in which the Kentucky river and others came out of their banks and caused enormous amounts of damage. In fact, the river level set during that flood at Frankfort is still the all time record. If you look at the data, our area only received between three and four inches of rain during that week, with higher amounts upstream. While I do not expect a major flood on the Kentucky river next week, I do think that people living near any rivers and streams need to plan for the possibility of flooding. Water levels will almost certainly be running high in and around Lawrenceburg next week.

In addition to all this, the storm could end up becoming a travel nightmare for people looking to fly out of airports in the eastern U.S. to visit family for the holidays. I expect that delays and cancelled flights will be a common occurrence this weekend and into early next week. Heavy rain and storms in the warm sector of the storm system and heavy snow, possibly blizzard-like at times, on the north side of the storm may cripple airports for a while. If you're planning to travel for Christmas I'd keep an eye on the weather conditions where you are planning to go.

So to recap, it looks like a monster storm will come through just before Christmas, and then we go relatively calm and colder for Christmas day. Beyond that I expect the weather to stay active for the foreseeable future and into the new year. It is not yet officially winter, so after the holidays I'll write a little bit about what January-March could hold for us this year. I do think it's going to be interesting. For now, enjoy these next few days, because it's about to get wet!

-Shawn