Saturday, December 22, 2012

TOP STORY >> Slight chance of snow

Leader staff writer

With the Midwest recovering from an onslaught of heavy snows, what are the chances that it will be a white Christmas this year in Arkansas?

Weather statisticians give us a three percent chance of receiving up to an inch of snow — better odds than we’ve seen in the past few years.

Current weather models do show that parts of the state will get at least a dusting of snow. But it will come after midnight on Christmas and won’t count as a white Christmas. That storm, still forming way out west, could come in early though and surprise us with some white stuff.

On average, it happens about every 14 years.

Right now, the National Weather Service is calling for Christmas Day weather to be cold and cloudy with a chance of rain. Highs are expected to be in the high 40s to low 50s with a 30 percent chance of precipitation. A chance of light snow enters the picture after midnight as precipitation chances increase to 40 percent.

The greatest probabilities for a white Christmas are across the northern U.S. and in mountainous areas. Assuming a “white Christmas” is having at least one inch of snow on the ground on Dec. 25, the chances are 60 percent or better over an area including much of the northern Rockies, the northern Great Plains, the Great Lakes area and most of New England.

The chances are less than 20 percent over most of the southern third of the country.

According to Little Rock Air Force Base weather records, it has snowed in Jacksonville on Christmas just twice since 1956. The area was hit with an inch in 1975 and saw just a trace in 2009. In 1983, it snowed on the 19th and on the 27th, but the ground was clear on Christmas Day.

National Weather Service records show that central Arkansas saw Christmas snow in 1887, 1914, 1918, 1935 and 1939, with no accumulation.

In 1962, more than an inch of snow fell on Christmas Eve day, but it mostly melted during the night, leaving just a few patches for Christmas revelers to see.

In 1897, an inch of snow fell Christmas morning, but it was mostly gone by that evening. The same thing happened in 1913 when 1.5 inches of snow fell all through the night and into the morning, but a sunny afternoon of 40 degrees melted most of it away by the end of Christmas Day.

In 1926, Christmas morning started off with sleet that changed over to snow. About 2.5 inches dropped by mid-afternoon.

In 1963, four inches of snow was on the ground Christmas Day, the remains of a 9.8-inch snowstorm that hit the area on Dec. 22.

In 1975, snow came in on Christmas afternoon and piled up two inches on hilly areas and places with higher elevations, but most of central Arkansas saw a rain/snow mix that didn’t stick around long.

In 1983, there was about an inch of ice and snow on the ground Christmas Day, the remains of a storm that blew in earlier that week.

More than two inches of snow hit the area Dec.22-23, 1990, and some of it remained as a Christmas gift.

In 2004, about three inches of snow fell in the area on Dec. 22, and most of it was still on the ground come Christmas. In 2009, a trace of snowflakes flittered to the ground Christmas Day.

If it usually doesn’t snow much on Christmas Day here, when does it snow?

The earliest it has ever snowed in central Arkansas, according to the weather service, is the end of October (Oct. 28, 1925) and the latest snow has come in April (April 19, 1983).

The heaviest snows tend to hit from mid January to late February.