Winter weather outlook slightly warmer, wetter for Owensboro

December 2, 2020 | 12:11 am

Updated December 1, 2020 | 10:47 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts a 33-percent chance for both above-average temperatures and precipitation in Owensboro during December, January and February. Thunderstorms, tornadoes and cold air outbreaks could impact the area this winter.  

“The concern for severe weather patterns this winter is a little bit greater,” said Dan Spaeth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Paducah. 

That’s in part thanks to La Nina, a weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean that can cause above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in the southern U.S, according to NWS. 

“But it’s not a guarantee. It’s just the average,” explained Kentucky Mesonet director and state climatologist Stuart Foster. “The effect of La Nina is typically most evident in the winter months. Storms can be more intense during a La Nina period.” 

Rick Shanklin, a meteorologist at NWS in Paducah, echoed this sentiment during a livestream event Tuesday evening that was hosted by Daviess County Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with several state and local organizations.

Shanklin pointed specifically to the greater risk for tornadoes, referencing the F-3 tornado that ripped through Owensboro during a La Nina winter in 2000. 

“The chances are it’s going to be a more active winter,” Shanklin said, along with a chance for cold air outbreaks despite forecasts for a warmer winter overall. 

Any severe weather this winter would follow what has been a relatively mild year of local weather. While the Western U.S. continues to experience drought conditions, Kentucky and much of the Southeast has only experienced short-term subnormal precipitation recently. 

NWS recorded 7 out of 10 months with above-normal precipitation in Owensboro. In October, 

Owensboro received 6 inches — about 2.6 inches above average. 

In November, the region felt a brief dry period. Owensboro received 2.19 inches, which is nearly two inches below the precipitation average. (NWS briefly placed Daviess County on alert for wildfire potential the week of Nov. 19 due to high winds and low humidity.) 

But the recent rain eased any concerns for drought. And even with a subnormal month, Owensboro’s annual precipitation sits more than six inches above average. 

“Since the flash drought last September, every single month has been above-normal statewide,” Foster said. “We continue to be in the midst of a historic wet period that’s lasted now a decade.” 

As for Dec. 25, there isn’t a high probability for the desired precipitation. 

“The chance of a white Christmas does not look real good,” Shanklin said.  

But he added that a weather pattern could always shift that probability in coming weeks. 

Also participating during Tuesday’s livestream event were Andy Ball (DCEMA director), Kenny Garrett, Henderson Office of Emergency Management, Keith Todd (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet) and Leslie Barr (Kenergy).

Barr warned that a low level of ice can cause significant damage to power lines during the winter — though wind remains one of the biggest causes of winter outages. 

Todd recommended checking vehicles before driving this winter and traveling with water, food and blankets.

December 2, 2020 | 12:11 am

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